By Emily Malloy
As Advent makes its way to a close, the air is teeming with anticipation. Touches of purple and rose are replaced by the festive red and green, as old boxes come out of the attic filled with decorations collected over the years.
Smell is strongly linked to memory, and for many, the smell of freshly cut evergreen is inextricably coupled with Christmas. The Christmas tree is the main feature of yuletide decorations of the home, but the other festive touches of garlands, wreaths, and swags also communicate the joy of the season.
A beloved pastime of mine is foraging nature's bounty to bring the beauty inside my home—a hobby most obvious at Christmastime. While it is invigorating to stroll outside to hunt for blooms and greens, I also love the frugality. Moreover, items harvested from the wild tend to have more personality than what can be found in a store and are more interesting to use in floral design. Lastly, the greens will have more longevity freshly cut than purchased.
Foraging for Christmas greens is tremendously straightforward. Come December, most green items can be cut and used to deck the halls. While pine is the most commonly used evergreen for Christmas garlands, other options are numerous.
Where you call home plays a large role in the types of greens available. Many forms of greenery are festive. Using what is readily available in your region helps to make your particular design unique.
The biggest concern many have about foraging is dealing with pesky bugs. After foraging, a good shake of the bundle and letting the greens sit for a bit before arranging encourages any pests to wander off.
If you don't have access to a place where you can snip greens on either your own or a friend's property, head to a Christmas tree farm or lot! They often have discarded trimmings that are given away or sold at a steep discount.
Pine and fir first come to mind when discussing fresh greens. But, there are so many great options that can be used: boxwood, pittosporum, magnolia, cedar, cypress, and the list goes on. A great deal of shrubs have red berries that give a wonderfully merry touch.
When I trim clippings, I often spread out where I cut throughout different parts of the shrub or tree, that way nothing is over pruned, and potentially unusable in the future.
If you have any anxiety about accidentally harvesting unsafe plants, I highly recommend downloading a plant identifying app (like Seek by iNaturalist) to ensure you aren't going to cut something undesirable like poison ivy!
Typically what is clipped in harvesting can be split into multiple snips. This not only helps stretch what has been gathered, but also enables a fuller look with shorter pieces in the design as opposed to longer, wispy clippings.
All that you need for the majority of arranging fresh greens are: snips/pruners, floral wire, wire cutters (in case the wire is too thick for your pruners), and, if making a wreath, I highly recommend getting a grapevine wreath to cut the time of assembly in half.
Fresh green decorations are almost effortless to create, and moreover, they are a joy.
Let us begin with the simplest way to use festive greens: the window swag. All that is required are a few snips of greenery, floral wire, and 5 minutes (per swag). Most often placed upon the center of an outside window ledge, swags add an understated, timeless touch of charm to any home.
A Christmas wreath seems to be a foregone conclusion in festive decorating. They create a warm welcome to all. Like a swag, a wreath is a wonderfully impactful way to deck the halls. They can be hung on a door, an interior or exterior wall, over a mantle, on a mirror. The possibilities are endless.
There are many ways to construct a wreath, but my go-to method is utilizing a grapevine wreath base. It cuts down a lot of time in the design process and holds the clippings in place very well. When placed on a door, I don't add any wire reinforcements to keep the greenery in place. If it is located on a part of the home that is prone to higher wind gusts, then wrapping wire around as construction takes place is a way to ensure no pieces blow away.
Once the wreath is completed, embellishments can be added to give it personality. The most common additions are bows, bells, pinecones, or for a more traditional look: fruit.
Garlands make an impression unrivaled by other greenery designs. Even though they require more time than a swag to execute, they aren't difficult to create. While accentuating the lines and structure of the house, garlands are also wonderfully versatile. Whether hung over an inside doorway, window frame, or along an exterior railing (and even placed along the center of a table), it is always striking wherever it’s placed.
Fresh greens add a flair of timeless elegance with their beauty and ambient fragrance. They heighten the Christmas spirit and aid in creating a celebratory atmosphere for the joyful celebration of Our Savior's birth.