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Homemade wreaths welcome holiday guests
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
To be perfectly honest, decorating for Christmas has never been high on my list. I know my family would like me to have a session with Dr. Laura, but then all of you would recognize my voice, which the TV crew already says is an embarrassment.
Even a curmudgeon like me can get in the holiday spirit by heading to the outdoors and collecting things for an old-fashioned wreath. Take your pruners and harvest sprigs of greenery from an eastern red cedar or leyland cypress. Look for tallow tree seed clusters, magnolia leaves with fruit pods, pine cones, and holly and nandina berries.
To make a holiday wreath, get a 16-inch grapevine wreath that will be the basis for your natural holiday project. If you are the industrious type, you can harvest your own grapevine from the wild or from a small muscadine planting.
These grapevine wreaths are a lot easier to work with than you might imagine. Push the foliage-free ends through the wreath until they are secure. Progress clockwise around the circle creating fullness in the outside and inside edges. Strive for a plump appearance.
Additional options for this f iller material include magnolias, hollies like the Mary Nell, all kinds of junipers and tallow trees, which in Mississippi often are called popcorn trees. Pine trees also yield great greenery. You will be pleasantly surprised how long much of the foliage retains its color.
Using florist wire, fasten pinecones in clusters of two or three at the 12 o'clock or 6 o'clock position on the wreath. Another option that looks great is to position them equal distances apart at about three locations on the wreath.
Then add clusters of tallow, holly or nandina berries to fill in empty areas and to create a balanced look. Many people overlook the white tallow tree seeds as a source of color. My wife, Jan, helped me make wreaths for a Southern Gardening television segment, and I can say emphatically that the old-fashioned nandina berries really create a visual holiday impact when cascading downward in the center hole of the wreath.
The burr oak produces absolutely gigantic acorns that also are perfect for the wreath. These acorns are so large that people often bring them in wondering what kind of oak they come from.
The sweet gum balls, which cause so much consternation from the barefooted public, look great spray-painted with 24-karat gold paint. Place these all around the wreath.
Another neat idea, especially if you want to show off your gardening skills, is to add a little feature like a small clay pot or hand trowel.
Finish the wreath by adding a decorative bow. The finished product measures 24 inches in diameter and will be a sign of welcome to your family and friends over the holidays.
All of the items work perfectly to create not only a wreath, but also a swag that could be placed above a door or window. It also could add an outdoor touch inside over the mantle.
There are many materials perfect for a wreath, and even a beginner can easily complete the project. Take a walk in the woods and start collecting. Happy holidays!