Make a Wreath from your Landscape

Happy Thanksgiving blog

Happy Thanksgiving! With the passing of Thanksgiving means the full wave of Christmas preparations. Many of us like to shop for our Christmas trees and put out all of our holiday decorations through our homes within the week of Thanksgiving. For Christmas trees and other holiday traditions, we often use artificial replicas of real plant material for our decorations. However, if you choose to use real trees and use real branches in your wreaths, the smell is a wonderful alternative to any artificial selection.

Wreaths are a great decoration for the Christmas season. Wreaths have been used for centuries to decorate for the holidays. According to North Carolina Extension, using evergreens in holiday celebrations comes from the middle ages when people viewed evergreen trees to be very special, representing life and growth to come. This can be especially important to us during long, cold winters.

Plant Selection for Wreaths

Plant material used for Christmas decorations can come from your own landscape. Many of our tree and shrub species make great wreaths, swags, and garland for use during the holiday season. White Pine has long, soft needles that can be used in these decorations, but it needs to be kept moist and needs to be layered to look full. Junipers are often used in decorations as well for good fragrance, but they can be messy. Firs have a great scent that can fill a room with a fragrance reminiscent of the holidays. They hold their short needles well and will tolerate indoor conditions. Spruces can be used as well, but be careful with these, the needles are short and sharp. It might be best to wear gloves when handling spruce to avoid injuring your hands. You can also add in accents from other plants such as berries from Ivy, unique leaves and berries from holly, and pinecones. Just stroll through your landscape and gather some materials from whatever is green and catches your eye.

Making your own Wreath

DSCN5798If you are making your own wreath from your landscape materials, walk around to find the best quality materials to use. Small amounts of pruning from your landscape for your wreath will not be harmful to your plants. Make sure you still make a good pruning cut and remove small branches back to a larger branch and do not leave a stump behind. Once back inside with your branch materials, cut them into 6-8 inch sections and overlap them along the frame as you wrap them with wire to hold them in place. If done correctly, the overlapping of plant material will cover up the wire as you build the wreath. Build your wreath as full or thin as you choose. When finished with the base of the wreath, you can add berries, other leaves, and pinecones that you find in your landscape as well.

Maintaining Freshness in your Wreath

Wreaths made from live material has a shelf life, they will not remain green and full of fragrance long term. Given good conditions, however, they should remain green and full of scent for the holiday season. If the wreath is kept indoors, it will only last for a week to 10 days. If the wreath is hung outdoors, it can remain fresh for 3-4 weeks. However, if hung on a front door in full sun behind a glass door, it will not last this long. It would be best to store the wreath in a cool, damp location where it is sheltered from the wind, rain, and sun but has good ventilation. A door on the north side of a building would be best. It will also help with longevity of your wreath if you spray the wreath with water often to maintain moisture to the plant materials. If a floral foam is used, it can be watered down every 2-3 days to ensure the plant material stays hydrated to last longer.

Protect Plants from Winter Problems

Now that November is here, we can begin to prepare our plants for the winter conditions. Some of those preparations are to get plants ready for cold weather and some are to protect them from wildlife.

My beautiful picture

Wildlife Damage

During the winter months we can see plant damage from deer, rabbits, and voles. Deer can chew off the ends of small twigs and bucks can rub their antlers on the trunk of smaller trees. Rabbits can also chew on smaller plants, sometimes chewing small plants off at ground level. Rabbits and voles can also gnaw on the thin bark of our young trees to feed on the green, inner bark areas. There is no cure once it happens, so it is best to protect our plants prior to damage.

Rabbit Protection, Lancaster Co. Ext
Rabbit Protection Fence, Photo from Lancaster County Extension

Exclusion is the best defense but is sometimes a difficult task. There are fences that can be utilized but they need to be at least 8 feet tall for deer damage. Rabbits can be managed with a fence that is 2 feet tall. Voles can be controlled by removing tall grass and weeds from around the trunk of trees and by avoiding mulch layers deeper than three inches around trees. Placing hardware cloth around tree trunks will also prevent vole feeding. The commercial spray repellants available for deer or rabbits are not very effective and would need to be reapplied often.

Winter Mulch

Winter mulch can be applied now, or within a few weeks when temperatures are consistently dropping down to the twenties each night. Winter mulch is the heavier layer of mulch we apply to herbaceous perennial plants and strawberries to keep them from having temperature fluxes throughout the winter. Any plant that may be prone to frost heaving, the plant being pushed up out of the soil by a constant freeze and thaw condition, or plants that were just planted this fall could also benefit from winter mulching. This mulch can be up to four inches deep, which is deeper than we usually advise but is needed for winter protection. It is better to use coarse wood chips or leaves for winter mulch rather than grass.

Winter Watering

Winter watering is essential in dry winter years. Winter desiccation commonly occurs on evergreen types of trees and shrubs. All trees are still transpiring, or losing water, throughout the winter months, evergreen trees are transpiring at a higher rate than deciduous trees. Winter desiccation occurs when the amount of water lost is greater than the amount of water the evergreen takes in throughout the winter months. The damage from winter desiccation is brown needles out on the ends of branches. However, the damage from winter desiccation will not usually show up in our trees until early spring, so they will stay green through the winter. Drought effects can damage deciduous trees as well. Especially newly planted deciduous trees. All of our trees may need to be watered throughout the winter months if natural precipitation or snow cover is absent.

Winter watering should occur during the day on days when the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or above and is only necessary 1-2 times per month until spring. It is a good idea to test for soil moisture with a long screwdriver or soil probe prior to watering to determine if watering is necessary. If the screwdriver goes into the soil easily up to 18 inches, watering is not necessary. However, if pushing the screwdriver into the soil is very difficult, watering would be necessary.