Floridata Article

The Recycled Christmas Wreath

This year's wreath. Photo by Ginny Stibolt
This year's wreath.

For the past two years UPS has delivered a new Christmas wreath-a gift from my daughter. When my new wreath came this year, I decided to create an approximate match using the metal frame and trimmings I'd saved from last year's wreath.

Last January I pulled the faded greens from the wreath and used them as path mulch. The balsam fir has a lasting fragrance and for months whenever I walked over that section of the path, I was reminded of Christmas and my daughter's thoughtfulness.

The other day I took my wheelbarrow, loppers, and clippers on a collecting trip around the yard. I'd been planning this, so I'd purposely let some pine seedlings grow in the front meadow. I'd also left some of the of the sweet bay magnolia suckers and crossing branches of the southern magnolias to harvest for the wreath. I trimmed back some wax myrtle branches-we have it growing in a number of areas around our lot and it grows quickly so there was no need for planning. I picked up a large clump of mistletoe that had come down in the high winds as a storm front passed over and then collected some grasses and spent flowers.

As I rambled through the meadows, I was reminded of a Bill Geist piece on CBS's Sunday Morning program a few years ago when he took the advice of Martha Stewart to collect makings for a wreath from your yard. He ended up with sticks, various pieces of litter, a tree-shaped, pine-scented car freshener, and other assorted junk to use for his wreath. Remembering this made me smile as I collected my more traditional wreath materials.

Wreath-making materials gathered from the yard. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
Wreath-making materials gathered from the yard.

A wheelbarrow full of wreath-making materials including mistletoe(Phoradendron leucarpum), sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), southern magnolia (M. grandiflora), wax myrtles (aka southern bayberry) (Myrica cerifera), loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) both branches and seedlings, unidentified composite flowers (aka dyc's or darn yellow composites), and several types of grass stalks. This may look like too much to populate one wreath, but I actually had to go back out and collect more pine and wax myrtle. I didn't use the mistletoe or the southern magnolia for the wreath, but they'll wind up as inside holiday decor.


The wreath frame from the previous year. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
The wreath frame from the previous year.

I brought my collected greens into the garage, cleared off my work table, and laid out the wire wreath frame. I removed the bow and the lichen, which was totally dead and powdery after a year in the garage. Okay, ready to start.


Gathering several twigs of pine and wax myrtles into a bunch. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
Gathering several twigs of pine and wax myrtles into a bunch.

I then gathered small bunches of pine and wax myrtle branches to thread through two of the openings where the bent wires attach to the frame. The branches all go in the same direction, and when I completed the circle the stems were covered as they overlapped the previous branches. I held the wreath up to the light and filled in the thin spots.


The bottoms of the twigs were slid into two slots for the best stability. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
The bottoms of the twigs were slid into two slots for the best stability.

After the basic greens were done, I inserted the sweet bay magnolia suckers around the inside of the wreath and stuck in several bunches of grass stalks with star-like spiky bracts.


A newly re-greened Christmas wreath. Photo by Ginny Stibolt.
A newly re-greened Christmas wreath.

Then I bent the wires holding the pine cones and fake berries, which were still attached to the frame, on top of the greens, reattached the bow at the top, and hung it on the window frame next to the front door. I think it looks pretty good. What do you think?

In looking at this year's wreath, I'll add some more pine cones and berries to fill it out when I recycle it next year. Actually, I think I'll dress it up this year because my recycled wreath is so much more interesting. (Update: In later years, I replaced the red plastic berries with cranberry chains, holly berries or other real berries, because the birds were attracted to those plastic ones. It's not nice to fool Mother Nature or her creatures.)

I wish you and your family a merry Christmas and a green new year.

For more information on the history of wreaths and more, see an article I wrote called, The Myths of Mistletoe and Magnolia.

Ginny Stibolt moved to northeastern Florida in 2004 and even though she's a botanist and lifelong gardener, Florida gardening was a shock. She started writing The Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns for the Times Union newspaper in Jacksonville. This is one of those columns archived here on Floridata.com for your enjoyment. Now she's written three Florida garden books published by University Press of Florida: Sustainable Gardening for Florida, 2009; Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in Florida with Melissa Contreras, 2013, and The Art of Maintaining a Florida Native Landscape, 2015. Check out her blog for the latest news and articles: www.GreenGardeningMatters.com

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