Fancy a little project that takes you outside into nature, then back into the warm and cosy house?
Read on to learn from an experienced expert how to make traditional garlands from garden and foraged materials.
The great thing about this project is that once you have mastered the principle its really easy to adapt the techniques to make other natural decorations; table centre pieces, wreaths and candle rings being especially good at this time of year. And, because you are sourcing all the natural materials yourself you are minimising your carbon footprint, using no plastic and saving ££££’s – whats not to love.
I say an experienced expert because this guide is not by me! It has been put together by a very special guest, who has been making christmas wreaths, garlands and flower arrangments for over 50 years – my mum! Carol Leigh has made arrangements for local groups, village displays, my wedding (and possibly her own too) and every year creates the most beautiful decorations for our family. In this post, I will share her techniques, originally learned at night school, and honed over many seasons of trial, error and experience, so that you too can creating these beautiful winter decorations.
To keep this project as sustainable as possible, please forage responsibly. Take only what you need, leave plenty for the birds and other wildlife that rely on berries and greenery over the winter. There are many useful guides on ethical and safe foraging online if you need any pointers. Spagnum moss – please do not forage for this material – instead purchase it from a reputable florist where it has been sustainably sourced – spagnum moss is what peat is made from, and the peat bogs, up on the moors are both a threatened ecosystem and an essential natural defence against flooding in lower regions.
What you will need;
- Rope – length as needed for your garland, and aproximately 1cm in diameter.
- Wire – flexible wire which can be bended and moulded, you can usually buy this from your local florist or craft shop. You could use hair pins if you are making a smaller item.
- Spagnum Moss – you will need a carrier bag sized amount of moss for a 1 meter length – again your local florist will be able to advise you on exactly how much to order for your length of garland. You may need to order this in advance, so its worth ringing up to check.
- Natural materials – gather a selection of greenery from the garden or local green spaces. Choose a selection of leaf shapes and colours, varigated leaves work well to add interest, and conifer tips are useful as background material. Interesting colours and shapes like holly leaves and berrys will give a seasonal feel to your garland. You can add whatever interesting bits you like.
- Optional Extras – pine cones, cinnamon sticks, ribbon etc
How to make the Garland.
Lay the rope out on a table, and starting from one end, cover the rope with sphagnum moss, using the wire to attach it firmly in place. Wrapping the wire around in a spiral works well.
Evenually you will make a long sausage shape, increasing the diameter of the rope to 3 or 4 cm if using 1 cm diameter rope.
Make individual bunches of greenery, securing each one with florest wire.
Depending on the effect you want, group together contrasting shapes of foliage in each bunch and secure them with wire.
To cover a 1m length of garland, you will need around 35 small bunches.
Attach the bunches to the sphagnum sausage, binding on with the wire.
Build up from one end of the rope, each time making sure you overlap to cover the fastening from the previous bunch.
Other fancy bits like pine cones, fruits etc can be added to finish. Each thing would be twisted into wire, then the wire wrapped into the garland.
Once the season is over and the garland is no longer needed, take it down and dismantle it. The fresh items can go on the compost heap, the wire can reused in your next project, and the rope can be saved for next year and re-used as well.
Some other ideas
Once you have mastered the bunching technique its easy to transfer this into different uses, make a chicken wire ring as a base for a wreath or candle ring, or use a shorter piece of rope and place it on a tray or serving dish to make a table centre piece.
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