Making a Wreath from Your Landscape

DSCN5867The holiday season is so enjoyable.  One of my favorite things to do for Christmas is to decorate my home.  One thing that we can make ourselves from our own landscapes, is a wreath using the items we find in outside.

There are many choices for plants you can trim to use to make a holiday wreath.  Many good choices include: Douglas fir, Austrian pine, white pine, yew, red cedar, and juniper.  Spruces and hemlock are not good choices to use for wreaths because they tend to lose their needles quickly.  You can also use many plants with berries on them for accent including bittersweet, snowberry, coralberry or holly.  For other accents on the wreath you may choose to use pinecones, poinsettia bracts, bows, ornaments, or other trinkets.

DSCN5798 You do need to be cautious when trimming your plants for use in your wreath so you do not damage the plant itself so that it can be aesthetically pleasing in the spring and in future years.  Make sure to cut back to a larger branch.  Don’t leave stubs of branches with no needles on them.  Try to cut back into the plant so the cuts are hidden by other branches.  Don’t take all of your sprigs from the same location on the same plant so you do not leave a bare spot in the plant.  If you are careful with your trimming, you will do no damage to the plants and get a nice wreath out of it.

For the base of the wreath, you need to purchase or create your own frame.  The frame can be a pre-made commercial wreath frame for a quicker finished product.  To make your own frame, use a heavy-duty wire, such as No. 9 wire or an old wire coat hanger, to make a circle.  The ends should be intertwined to make a circle.  You can also make the frame from slender branches of plants such as wisteria, willow, or grapes.  A frame with a diameter of 10-15 inches makes an average sized wreath.

DSCN5830To attach the plant material to the wreath, use No 22 or 24 floral wire.  The sprigs should only be 4-6 inches long.  If you make the sprigs longer, they will not be held to the frame and will droop off the frame.  First, attach the binding wire to the wreath frame.  Then, add 3-4 sprigs at a time and run the wire around the frame and the cut end of the sprigs 2 or 3 times for each section of greenery.  The ends of each sprig of greenery should be cleared back an inch or so from the cut end of the sprig to allow for wiring to the frame.  Add each new set of sprigs over the cut end of the sprigs you already attached to the frame so that it covers the wire and the cut ends.  Continue this all the way around the frame of the wreath.  More sprigs of greenery can be added throughout to help the wreath look fuller.

Complete the wreath by attaching other items to the wreath that will help make the wreath more intriguing and your own, these should be items that you enjoy for the holiday season.  These accents should be attached to the wreath frame using the same wire that was used to attach the greenery.  The best thing about making your own wreath for the holidays is that it can be exactly what you want it to be.

This wreath can then be hung up by the wire frame onto a door or wall to enjoy throughout the holiday season.  To see a video on how to make a wreath from your landscape, visit the UNL Acreage Insights website, in December or after, at


Twig Girdler & Twig Pruner Insect

Leaves on the ground in the FallIt’s fall now, so we are seeing all of the leaves fall to the ground off of our deciduous trees.  However, be alert as some of these leaves may be a portion of your branch that was removed from the tree by an insect.  Fall is the time of the year when we tend to see the damage from twig girdler and twig pruner insect.  I found the damage from twig girdler in in my yard when I went to look closer at all of the leaves on the ground around my cottonwood trees.  Many of the leaves I found were actually branches that looked like they had been pruned off my tree.

Twig girdler and twig pruners are two insects that tend to do similar types of damage to the tree.  Most of the time they work through “pruning” the tree during the late summer, but the damage isn’t seen until the fall when the branches fall out of the tree due to wind.

Twig Girdler InsectTwig girdler is a cerambycid beetle, or longhorned beetle.  This insect will chew a v-shaped groove in a circle all the way around the twig, girdling it.  Often times, the center of the twig will be jagged while the outer edge is smooth.  These will feed from August through October allowing the branches to fall over that time or shortly after due to wind.  After creating the groove in the wood, the female will lay an egg in the portion of the branch that eventually falls to the ground.  The larvae cannot feed on healthy wood, so it is able to feed on the dead branch after it falls to the ground.  These larvae will then overwinter in the dead branch on the ground.  In the spring they will pupate in that branch and develop into adults to start the process over again.

Twig pruner is another type of cerambycid beetle, or longhorned beetle.  The lifecycle of the twig pruner is very similar to that of the twig girdler; however they will usually chew on the small branches from the inside out.  Twig girdler insects will drill a small hole into the branches in the spring and then grow throughout the summer.  In the late summer, the full grown larvae will chew rings through the branch until they have made it through the whole branch, except for the bark layer.  The larvae then move into the portion of the branch that eventually falls to the ground or hangs in the tree, dead.  The pupae overwinter in the dead portion of the branch and emerge the next year to start the process over again.


The damage from twig girdler and twig pruner is not very damaging to the tree itself, but mainly looks unsightly for the homeowner, and makes for a large mess in yards that we have to clean up.  Control for both of these insects is very easy.  The best control method would be to pick up the fallen branches and destroy them by burning them prior to emergence of the insects in the spring.  Any broken branches should also be removed before the spring in case they are infested.  Chemicals are not usually necessary or recommended.

Landscape Winter Watering

Magnolia Tree in Winter 2With October over now, we look toward November and December and the snowy, cold, icy weather that comes with it.  Most people believe that once winter weather begins, our plants no longer need any watering.  However, if we are not receiving much natural precipitation and the weather is warm enough to thaw the ground during the day, we do need to supplement water to our plants.

If we consistently have snow cover on our lawns throughout the winter, there is no need to worry about watering our plants.  However, if we don’t see much snow throughout the winter, we need to water our plants.  Some of the plants that are most affected by winter desiccation include maples, lindens, dogwoods, willows, and paper birches.  It is most important to water newly planted trees and shrubs throughout the winter, versus watering all of your older, more established plants.  However, if it is a very dry winter, all of your trees and shrubs would benefit from a watering at least once a month throughout the late fall and winter months.

Tips for Watering in the Winter Months:

  • Water only when the temperatures reach 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above
  • Water during the middle of the day to allow all of the water to soak in prior to freezing at night
  • Water with a hose or a watering can or bucket, do not use your irrigation system in the winter or you will have to drain the pipes again and you have more of a chance to break the pipes due to freezing.

We also need to do other things to protect our plants during the winter.  We need to make sure we cover around the base of our trees and shrubs with a layer of mulch.  This layer should only be 3 inches deep, any deeper than that and you can acquire problems with mice and voles getting into that layer and causing damage to your trees and shrubs.  Remember that plants with a hollow stem should not be pruned back until the early spring rather than in the fall.  This includes butterfly bush and many of our roses.  If these are pruned back in the fall, they could get moisture into those hollow stems and freeze and thaw throughout the winter which could crack the crown and kill the plant.

tree wrappingYou may also want to wrap the trunk of young, thin barked trees.  Sunscald is a problem that occurs when the tree gets too warm on the south and west sides of the trunk in the winter.  The cells on the sunny side of the trunk warm up and begin to become active in the winter and then freeze in the evening.  This problem can cause a canker to develop on the trunk of the tree.  Sunscald can easily be prevented by wrapping those thin barked, young trees during the winter with the white tree wrap to keep it cooler and shaded on those warmer, sunny days in the winter.

Photo by Sarah Browning, Lancaster County Extension