Sprucing up a wreath

Spouses will appreciate festive ornament made from yard plants

GO decorate


Make a wreath, and maybe save your marriage.

Sure, it's just a bunch of twigs and pods looped together and hung on the front door or in the entry hall. But the seasonal wreath can do more for a relationship in 15 minutes than Dr. Phil can do in, well, 16 minutes.

See if you recognize this holiday scenario: People are coming to your house. After 96 hours of scrubbing and straightening, you, the gardener, have finished your duties. The chef, however, is still elbow-deep in cranberry stuffing.

Turn on the pregame show and you might as well book an appointment with a counselor. But if you announce, "Honey, I am going to make a wreath now," you will be released with an appreciative grin.

Outside, with clippers in hand, this is what you do:

Casually snip off sunset-red rose hips from over the fence. Gather long stems of aromatic rosemary. Harvest silvery eucalyptus leaves, emerald evergreen branches or whatever tree boughs you have. Take the cuttings to the porch, where you'll secure them to a wire frame (available at craft or home stores) with thin, 24-gauge steel or copper wire. Arrange everything just so, and after about 15 minutes your basic wreath will be good as gravy.

Of course, you can make this project more complicated.

"Any dried seed heads such as yarrow and eucalyptus, pepper, privet or juniper berries all make great ornaments for your wreath," says Scott Daigre of Powerplant Garden Design. "Make little handful-sized bouquets, bind them together and then shingle these bouquets all around the wreath form.

"For the base foundation of the wreath, look for boxwood branches or olive or bay." Leptospermum, westringia, pine or juniper all work nicely as well.

Brian Sullivan, a Los Angeles horticultural supervisor, points out that even the wreath's frame can be made of cuttings.

"Those long whip canes from the Lady Banks' Rose are perfect," he says. "Gaura `Siskiyou' is another great plant." He, too, recommends using seedpods from trees such as liquidambar, cassia and tabebuia.

Succulents such as Senecio serpens make fine living wreaths, though they require a special frame in which to "plant" cuttings.

John Trager, desert collections curator at the Huntington gardens in California, likes to use showy succulents including Sedum rubrotinctum, better known as Pork and Beans, and Echeveria "Pulv-Oliver," with its fuzzy leaves and red blush. "We use any small, colorful, rosette-forming succulent in our wreaths," Trager says.

For those who prefer using garden clippings, remember Sullivan's most important tip: Plan for the greenery to shrink.

"You'll wire your material down tight, and a week later it's loose and falling apart," he says. "If you can, let it dry first before tying it to the frame."

Consider shrinkage a bonus: It gives you an excuse to revisit the wreath and spruce it up the next time you need to escape the house.

Tony Kienitz is the author of "The Year I Ate My Yard." He wrote this article for the Los Angeles Times.

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