Christmas wreath by Jean Vernon

How to make an all natural, plastic-free festive wreath

Don’t buy an artificial festive wreath for your door. You can make a plastic-free version really easily from things in your garden. And you don’t need wire, plastic or anything that won’t compost and weather back to nature when it’s done its time. All it costs is a little effort, lots of creativity and your time. But what’s great is that they make lovely gifts for friends and neighbours without breaking the bank. 

There are lots of ways to make a wreath, you can even buy a kit to make your own. But all you need are some long, thin pliable stems. I’ve used the amazing red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’) but you could also use willow or hazel or stems that are long, pliable and not brittle. You need lengths of about 3-4 ft (90-120cm), I never measure them. I use three stems per wreath, but you could use more.

I find it best to cut them the day you want to use them as otherwise they can dry out and snap.

How to make a circlet of stems

Make a circle with one stem and hold it tight, now start another circlet along side the first wrapping the stems over each other. It’s a good idea to start the second circle about a third of the way round to strengthen the ring. Now hold them both tight and start the third circle about a third of the way round, weaving the stems over each other. You should find that they now hold together. This is the most difficult bit and you may need to practice, but once you’ve mastered the technique you will be ready to go.

Making a festive wreath
Make a circlet of stems. Image: Jean Vernon

Strengthen the circlet with ivy

Wrap lengths of wild ivy around the circlet, this adds some background foliage, but also helps to keep the circle from unraveling and provides even more layers to weave other stems into. 

How to make a festive wreath
Strengthen the circlet with ivy. Image: Jean Vernon

Add some greenery

Find some evergreens in and around your garden. It could be anything like box, yew, or conifer sprigs. I’ve used some offcuts from a Christmas tree. Weave the stems into the circlet, pushing them so that they follow the shape of the circle and tucking side shoots in between the woven stems. They will hold it in place. The foliage acts as a foil to the rest of the design. 

How to make a festive wreath
Add some greenery. Image: Jean Vernon

Add some decorative foliage

Now start to build up the design by adding something striking like sprigs of variegated holly. Be careful of the prickles. Remove leaves from the end of the stems and weave the holly stems through the circlet stems until they are held in place where you want them, secure by tucking the ends of the stem beneath another.

How to make a festive wreath
Add some decorative foliage. Image: Jean Vernon

Decorate with flowers and berries

Now finish with some ivy flowers and some berries. Our ancestors used to balance the amount of holly and ivy in their evergreen displays because they believed that the holly represented the male energy and the ivy represented the female. 

The berries add some colour and vibrancy. They don’t have to be holly berries, look and see what’s in your garden. You could use rosehips, or haws, or even pyracantha berries. 

How to make a festive wreath
Decorate with flowers and berries. Image: Jean Vernon

Hang with raffia or Twool

Hang your wreath using a biodegradable material such as raffia or Twool. It should last for several weeks outside. You could mist it occasionally. When you are ready to take it down, hang it in a tree and let the birds eat the berries. As it is free of plastic and artificial material it will weather and degrade back to nature leaving just the circlet behind. If you want to you can refresh the circlet with spring foliage and use it again until it eventually breaks up.

How to make a festive wreath
Hang with raffia or Twool. Image: Jean Vernon

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