Making a Christmas Wreath: A How-to Guide from Woolley Grange
Creating your own wreath is a lovely way to kick off the festive season and the finished product is sure to be the centrepiece of your Christmas decorations. It's also a great activity for kids to get involved with, from finding the bits and bobs you need to designing how it will look and putting it all together.
In our new video, Eliza, our head gardener at Woolley Grange in Wiltshire, shows you how to make a gorgeous Christmas wreath using natural elements entirely from the hotel gardens (you can buy anything you can’t find from florists or online).
Florists’ wire (available from florists, hardware shops or online)
How to make the base:
You need young flexible branches – hazel whips (the young new branches that spring up from the base of a tree if it's been coppiced) are great. Cornus also works well and is a lovely bright red colour. Eliza used willow, from the weeping willow trees in Woolley Grange’s front gardens.
Cut down the long flexible branches and just pull off the leaves if the tree is still in leaf. If you’d rather not remove the leaves, leave the cut branches out for a few days and the leaves will just fall off (don’t leave them much longer than this though, or the branches will lose their flexibility).
Use about 10 whips for each ring. Take one and twist it into a ring, bending it round on itself to keep it in place. Then add more branches, twisting them around each other until you have a nice firm ring for the wreath base. If there are any ends poking out, just snip them off. Keep going until you have used all your whips.
You can re-use the wreath base year after year – just take off the foliage and decorations and keep in a cool dark place. If you don’t have the time (or patience!) to make the base, you can buy metal ones at florists or online.
Covering the ring:
Eliza covered the ring with moss, but this isn't essential. At Woolley Grange, the wreaths are hung on glass doors, so moss ensures the wreaths look lovely from both sides. If you're hanging the wreath on a solid door, you can skip this part.
The moss was gathered from around the grounds of Woolley. There is quite a lot of it growing on rocks under trees. You can buy moss from florists but it's nicer if you can get it for free. Do, however, bear in mind the legalities of foraging, remembering the four Fs – it's not an offence to take fruit, foliage, fungi or flowers as long as it's only for your own use (not for resale), they're not an endangered species and you’re not trespassing.
Basically, as long as you’re not uprooting a plant, it's fine, but with moss you’re uprooting the plant, so legally you need permission from the landowner beforehand. You should never take more than half of a patch of moss and ideally don’t take from the same patch within five years, to give it time to grow back. If in doubt, you can easily find bags of sphagnum moss in florists.
Just hold the moss in place then wrap the florists’ wire around and around the ring until it's nice and secure. While you’re doing this, make a little loop at the top so you can hang it when it’s finished.
Any evergreen foliage will work. Eliza used silver spruce, Atlas cedar and golden cyprus, but any other spruce, ivy, bay and holly would all look lovely. Stay clear of yew as it's toxic and you can absorb the poisonous toxins through your skin when handling it.
Take a handful of foliage at a time – a few pieces of spruce and cedar, then a few of cyprus, for example. Arrange the bunch into a little fan, with the tallest foliage at the back, then wire the bunch onto the ring, twisting the wire around firmly about four times. Then make a similar bunch, overlap it with the first and do the same thing. Carry on all the way around the ring like this until the wreath is completely covered. The last one can be a bit tricky – you just have to tuck it right in under the first bundle. Now you have the green wreath.
Once you've got all the greenery, you can have fun decorating the wreath with whatever you like. Eliza used pine cones, rosehips and old man’s beard (wild clematis). While arranging, keep in mind where the top of the wreath is and put the biggest and heaviest bits and pieces down the bottom, so it looks balanced.
Try to arrange everything naturally, as if it’s growing – don’t make anything too symmetrical. It's nice to add a splash of colour. Eliza uses rosehips, but you can also use holly berries or sometimes cotoneaster or haws (or artificial berries if you need to). Just poke them securely into the wreath.
It’s good to have a filler such as old man's beard to hide any gaps or holes and to soften the look. Ivy flowers are also good for this. You can add ribbons or festive sparkles or even spray some of the foliage with silver or gold spray, but at Woolley Grange we like to keep them the wreaths nice and natural. Once you've finished you can trim off any stray bits of foliage.
If you're keeping the wreath indoors, you need to spritz it every day because of the central heating. If you keep it on your door, spritz it every few days.
Read more about Christmas at Woolley Grange Hotel.