December 3, 2012

Hang it all – holiday wreaths

Think outside the boxwood and fir to make wreaths that are really fun and festive: Here's how.

By Meredith Goad
Staff Writer

When it comes to a certain type of Christmas wreath, Diane Walden admits she can be something of a grinch.

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A gardeners’ wreath is decorated with mini watering cans, a tiny picket fence, pinecones, berries and a burlap bow. A themed wreath can be a really fresh addition to your holiday decor.

Courtesy of Diane Walden

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Nuts and pinecones bring natural beauty to this seasonal wreath.

Courtesy of Diane Walden

Additional Photos Below


THE SIZE OF A wreath ring determines the final size of the wreath. Here are some common sizes for wreath rings, along with the size of the wreath it will make and the amount of balsam fir tips needed:

An 8-inch ring will make a 12- to 14-inch wreath and requires 1 1/2 to 2 pounds of tips.

A 10-inch ring will make a 17- to 19-inch wreath and requires 2 1/2 to 3 pounds of tips.

A 12-inch ring will make a 20- to 24-inch wreath and requires 3 1/2 to 4 pounds of tips.

A 14-inch ring will make a 25- to 27-inch wreath and requires 4 1/2 to 5 pounds of tips.

A 16-inch ring will make a 31- to 33-inch wreath and requires 5 1/2 to 6 pounds of tips.


FOR DETAILED INSTRUCTIONS from the University of Maine Cooperative Extension on how to make a balsam fir wreath, including step-by-step diagrams, go to

THE SITE INCLUDES a video on how to sustainably harvest balsam fir tips.


THERE WILL BE a wreath-decorating workshop, including a lesson in bow making, at Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport. Purchase a plain green wreath and choose from a selection of accessories. Gallery artists will be on hand to help you design your wreath.

WHEN: Noon to 2 p.m. Dec. 8

WHERE: Galleries at Morning Walk, 139 Port Road (Route 35), Kennebunkport. Less than a mile from Dock Square.

INFO: or 408-2236

Walden, a horticulturist at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, teaches classes on wreath making, and would just as soon not see any more standard balsam wreaths decorated with plastic red ribbon and three -- not two, not five, but three -- pinecones.

"I tell people, really think outside of the box a little bit," Walden said. "How many times have you seen the wreaths with the red bows, and you have pinecone, pinecone, pinecone? There is so much stuff out there and available. Actually, online you can find a lot of stuff, whether you're shopping for a specific ribbon or you want to see what certain greens look like. Just think a little bit lusher."

People are busier than ever these days, but there appear to be more wreath-making classes than ever, most of them held well before Thanksgiving or during the first week of December. They always seem to sell out. But what if you didn't want to think about wreaths at the same time you're trying to decide how to season your turkey?

Miss out on a wreath-making class? Here's advice from a couple of experts about how you can do it yourself.

Walden says there's a lot of interest in wreath making these days because people are tired of buying decorations that look like they came from some overseas factory.

"It's sort of getting away from store-bought Christmas," she said. "You don't have to buy a whole bunch of blow-up Santas or plastic stuff that's made in China. Here in Maine we have beautiful lichen, we have moss, we have berries, we have beautiful balsam."

First things first. Here are the basics you'll need to make your own wreath:

A prepared wreath ring that is crimped to hold the brush and keep it from flipping.

A spool of wire. Wire that is 22- to 24-guage is best, and green wire will blend in better with the wreath.

A good pair of clippers.

Eight pounds of greens cut 6 to 8 inches in length. A 12-inch ring and 8 pounds of greenery will make a 22-inch finished wreath.

Wreaths are put together in smaller pieces called "hands." A hand is three to five pieces of greenery held together in a fan shape. Each hand gets tied to the frame, then flip the ring frame over and tie another hand onto the back. It's OK to do just one side of the frame, but your wreath will be fuller if there are greens on both sides.

After one hand is tied to the frame, move 2 to 3 inches down and tie the next one. And so on, until your wreath frame is full.

Don't worry too much about perfection, especially if it's your first time, says Russell Bleakney, who makes wreaths at O'Donal's Nurseries in Gorham.

"Even if you're not 100 percent happy with a wreath when you get finished," he said, "you can always cover a bad spot with a bow or put in a decoration, cones, whatever, to cover up some of the bare spots."

Those are the basics. Now, let's look at what you can do to, ahem, "spruce" things up a bit.

Consider using something other than a simple ring as a frame. Garden centers like O'Donal's and wreath-making companies (check out sell forms shaped like stars, candy canes, crosses and even peace signs.

Mix up your greens and other vegetation, for both making the wreath itself and for decorating. Mixed greens add interest to all-balsam wreaths. Balsam fir is the classic choice, but you can also try a little Frasier fir, cedar, pine or juniper, says Bleakney. Go out in your own yard and tip plants that need pruning, like holly bushes.

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Additional Photos

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Greens and fresh fruit are joined by dried materials like pinecones and seed pods to make a Williamsburg wreath.

Courtesy of Diane Walden

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Larry Peterson of O’Donal’s in Scarborough arranges a fan of palm-sized pieces of balsam boughs. Other greens work, too.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Round wreaths are traditional, but yours can take other shapes, such as hearts, crosses and peace signs.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Cindy Carroll, perennial buyer, and Larry Peterson, manager of O’Donal’s in Scarborough, make wreaths for sale that will be decorated with ribbons and a variety of seasonal items.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


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