There is nothing like a Christmas wreath made from fresh plant material hanging beside the front door of your home to say "Welcome" to your guests during the holiday season.
Although there are lots of artificial wreaths available, I do not think they ever match up to the beauty and charm of one made from natural plant material.
A "real" Christmas wreath is not very hard to make and you might get into the holiday spirit if you undertake to make one yourself. Some of the garden centres offer wreath-making workshops — you pay a fee and learn how to make a natural wreath and the fee includes all the materials that you use in the workshop — so the wreath is yours to take home.
If you think you can undertake the project without assistance, you will need access to some evergreen boughs. You might procure them from some of your own trees, from a local composting depot if someone has cut down some trees and hauled the braches to the site recently, or you can purchase what are called "greens" from a garden centre.
Once you have your evergreen boughs, you will need some sort of a frame on which to fasten the boughs. I have had good luck simply cutting half a dozen willow branches from a ditch and twining them together into a circle, fastening the branches together securely with wire.
Be careful not to make the frame too large; remember that there will be a considerable amount of wreath outside the perimeter of the frame. Wire frames are available for purchase and will no doubt be the kind used in any workshop you attend.
Use a sharp pair of garden secateurs to cut the branches as required. Place the first branch on the frame and wire it firmly into place; do not use shiny wire that will be visible. Add the second branch ensuring that the top of it covers the butt end of the first branch.
Continue adding branches one at a time, fastening each one in place securely. All of the branches will point in the same direction, but allow some to point slightly inward toward the centre of the wreath and some outward toward the outside of the wreath.
Using various kinds of greens will add interest and texture to the wreath while using a single kind of evergreen will create a more formal look. Leave an opening in the centre of the wreath — a bit of judicious trimming will remove any branches that encroach on the centre space.
After you have added branches all the way around the wreath, you might need to add more auxiliary branches; the wreath should not just be a single row of perfectly aligned, overlapping branches. Aim for a nice, full effect, which is not ragged but not too "perfect" either.
Be sure that branches extend to cover the sides of the frame so that as people view the wreath from the side the frame and mechanics are not visible. Add a sturdy hanger of some kind.
Finally, add some decorative objects. If you are hanging the wreath outdoors, you might like to add more natural items like berries, cones, dried flowers, or attractive seed pods. Another approach is to use artificial objects such as Christmas balls, artificial berries, ribbon, or beads.
Most people think that a wreath is not complete without a bow to add the final touch. Place it at the top or off to the side near the bottom of the wreath. The bow can be made of ribbon, or for a more natural touch, raffia.
Although most natural wreaths are hung outdoors, they can be used indoors as well. Hang a natural wreath away from any heat source or open flame.
Postpone hanging a natural wreath indoors until a couple of weeks before Christmas as the wreath will dry out quite quickly and will probably begin to shed needles after it has been hung for three weeks.
Wherever you hang the wreath that you have made, it will surely provide a festive note to your holiday décor. It will be that much more meaningful because you created it with your own two hands.
Albert Parsons is a consultant for garden design and landscaping who lives in Minnedosa.