Daniel Gill, Merrill, Thomas A. | 11/23/2006 1:47:07 AM
By Dan Gill
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
An easy-to-make garland might be just what you need to spruce up your front entrance before your holiday company arrives, and you may be able to make one from the "trimmings" you have from pruning trees and bushes this time of year.
It just so happens that mid-December is an ideal time to prune conifers such as pines, cedars and junipers. The same is true for broadleaf evergreens such as holly, cherry laurel, ligustrum, boxwood, magnolia, yew and pittosporum.
Instead of throwing away what you prune from these plants, use them to make festive garlands. And, by all means, use the trimmings from your Christmas tree.
There are many ways to make garlands. Three techniques I have found that are not difficult and work well are wiring branches together, wiring branches to a rope or using a chicken wire base. Really, even if you are "crafts challenged" like me, these are not hard to do and look great.
Wire Branches Together
Cut branches that have lots of foliage into 12-inch to 18-inch lengths.
Lay down the first piece. Then lay down the second piece overlapping the first piece by one-third to one-half its length.
Securely wire the branches together where they overlap.
Continue to add more branches until you have the length of garland you want. Make sure you overlap the branches enough to create a full effect and that they are wired together securely. If needed, wire more branches into spots that need more fullness – and be sure to use more wire on connections that do not seem secure.
Wire Branches To Rope
Wiring branches to a rope uses the same basic procedure as wiring branches together, except you lay the branches on a rope. A black or dark green nylon rope works well and will be less noticeable than a lighter-colored rope.
When you wire the overlapped branches together, wire them to the rope at the same time.
The rope adds increased strength to the garland and can help it drape more attractively.
Make Chicken Wire Base
When using this method, you lay out a piece of chicken wire 8 inches to 12 inches wide and as long as you need the garland to be. Or, you can lay out sections that can be assembled together.
Once you have your wire, roll the chicken wire up into a fairly tight tube lengthwise.
Then cut leafy branches into 6-inch to 8-inch pieces.
Insert the ends of the branches into the rolled chicken wire. They often will hold well as is, but they should be wired to the chicken wire if they seem loose.
Be sure to overlap the branches enough to create a full effect.
Garlands made with chicken wire bases may be bent into a variety of shapes, such as curls, arches or even letters.
Now For The Garnish
If you want to add lights to your garland, it’s a good idea to do it at this point. It’s best to weave the lights into the garland before you add other decorations to it. If the garland will be displayed outside, make sure you use outdoor lights and outdoor extension cords, if needed.
Brighten your garland by wiring colorful berries into it. Good choices include red holly berries, orange pyracantha berries, white tallow tree seeds or purple American beautyberry fruit, to name a few.
Some or all of the foliage inserted into the garland could be gilded (covered with gold) before the garland is assembled. This is not at all difficult, and the results are spectacular. To gild foliage, spray it with one or two light, even coats of good quality gold spray paint – holding the can 6 inches to 8 inches away from the leaves. Wear latex gloves to keep your fingers clean, hold the branch in your hand and rotate it for even coverage.
The gilding keeps the foliage attractive throughout the holiday season and is especially recommended for garlands that will be hung indoors.
Good foliage to gild should be thick and hold its shape well, such as magnolia, holly, pine, fir, juniper, palm fronds, boxwood, live oak and others. Magnolia foliage is perhaps the most beautiful gilded plant material.
Any type of seed pod can be gilded and then wired into the garland. Look for magnolia cones and pinecones, crape myrtle seed pods, sweet gum balls, tallow tree seeds, acorns, pecans (these can be glued into clusters with other nuts) and many others you can find in your yard or along road sides. These may also be left natural.
Fruit also can be added. Simply run a 6-inch to 12-inch piece of thin wire through fruit, such as apples, oranges, lemons and pears, and wire them on. Add a bit of shine to them by polishing them with mineral oil.
Don’t forget you also can add colorful ribbons, bows and Christmas ornaments, if you like.
During cool, moist December weather, garlands made out of fresh greenery should stay attractive for a few weeks. They will last longer if they are hanging in a shady spot (direct sun warms the foliage and dries it out).
You also may mist or spray the garland every day or so to lengthen the attractive life – although this is not needed or recommended for a gilded garland.
Indoors, fresh garlands will not last as long. Locate them away from heat sources, such as fireplaces and heat vents to keep them from drying out so fast.
Get It Growing is a weekly feature on home lawn and garden topics prepared by experts in the LSU AgCenter. For more information on such topics, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit our Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com. A wide range of publications and a variety of other resources are available.