Our latest Savvy Gardening newsletter was filled with creative ways to use the garden for holiday decorations. There’s no easier way to do just that than to make a holiday swag out of items you probably have right in your own backyard.
I make several holiday swags every year, hanging them on our fence gates, front door, lamp post, mailbox, and porch light. They are so simple to make, and unless the weather is unusually warm, they stay fresh and beautiful all winter long.
Here’s how to make a holiday swag, using just five easy steps.
1. Gather your materials. To build one swag, you’ll need:
- Three evergreen branches, approximately eighteen to twenty-four inches in length, depending on how long you’d like your swag to be. I like to use Canaan fir, spruce, noble fir, concolor fir, or Frazier fir, though any evergreen will do.
- A paddle of 24-gage florist wire and three to five separate pieces of florist wire.
- A handful of accent greens. I like to use sprigs of boxwood, cedar, juniper, holly, or laurel to decorate my swags. These pieces only need to be twelve to eighteen inches long.
- Decorations. I prefer to use natural decorations, such as pinecones, magnolia seed pods, hosta seed stalks, milkweed pods, ornamental grass fronds, hibiscus seed pods, and the like.
- A bow. My favorite bows are made from wire-edged ribbon that holds its shape, even when rain and snow collect on it. I use the same bows for several years, so I don’t mind spending a little extra money to get good-quality, wire-edged ribbon. For this swag, I backed the red snowflake ribbon with silver for extra interest.
- A pair of pruning shears.
2. Build the base. To make a holiday swag, begin by laying two of the big evergreen branches down on your work surface with their cut ends together, pointing away from you. Cut the third branch into smaller pieces. Lay the smaller pieces over the cut ends of the big branches so they stick out of what will be the top of the swag. These top pieces should only be six or eight inches long, otherwise they’ll flop. Gather all the branches together in one hand, holding them where the stems of the big branches overlap with the stems of the smaller ones (in other words, at the pinch-point where the bow is in the photo below). Use your paddle of florist’s wire to wrap the branches together very tightly as you hold them. Wrap the wire around five to six times, pulling it as taunt as possible. Once they are secure, wrap the ends of the wire like a twist-tie to secure the branches together.
Related post: Make a quick boxwood wreath
3. Add your accent greens. Next, jam the stem of a few accent greens underneath the wire, using the longer accent greens on the bottom and a few small accent greens at the top. By inserting them into the gaps under the wire, they’ll sit in there nice and snug and will be less likely to pop out when the winter winds fly. You can make a holiday swag a lot more interesting by including unique accent greens with a different texture from the greens you use for the base.
4. Add your decorations. Wrap a piece of florist’s wire around each pinecone, seed pod, or other natural decoration you’re using. Fasten the wire around the object with a few twists, and then wrap the wire ends around the swag base at the pinch-point. Decorative items with stems, such as milkweed pods, hosta seed stalks, and ornamental grasses, can be tucked under the existing wire wrap in the same way the accent greens were added. You can also use shatter-proof baubles, battery-operated fairy lights, or, if it will be protected from the elements, add artificial fruit picks to make a holiday swag even more interesting. Continue adding decorations until you have as many as you like. Remember, more isn’t necessarily better!
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5. Top it off with a bow. Wrap the bow’s wire tightly around the pinch-point, hiding all the wires and bare stems gathered there. Allow the bow’s tails to hang loose; I love to cut them in a dove-tail fashion, but a clean diagonal cut works just as well. Once the bow is securely attached to the swag, use the ends of the bow’s wire to create a hanging loop on the back of the swag.
The finished swag can be hung just about anywhere. If you make a holiday swag and use it to decorate indoors, be sure to mist the evergreens a few times a day to keep them fresh, or soak the branches in a diluted anti-desicant (such as Wilt-Proof) before making the swag.
Related post: Cool crafts for the birds
Tell us how you use your garden to decorate for the holidays in the comments below.