Collecting greenery is a perfect excuse for outdoor time on dreary autumn days, and for kids who aren’t feeling so wild at this time of year it’s incentive to keep moving on a walk; they love spotting evergreens and choosing what to cut.

Evergreen for everyone

Religious or not, there’s something spiritually nourishing about bringing nature into your living space, especially evergreens and especially in winter when little else grows outside.

woman-and-child-with-candle-lit-advent-wreath-close-up

“It’s a month ’till Christmas, everybody!”

Last Friday was November 25th, knowledge that prompted some unusual occurrences in our house.

Firstly, Caroline spent bedtime (and much of the night) singing exuberantly; “It’s a month till Christmas, it’s a month till Christmas, it’s a month till Christmas everybody!!”

Secondly, it reminded me that this year the first Sunday of Advent is not the first Sunday in December; we were behind in our annual wreath preparations. Tut tut.

Between renditions of the song, we planned our evergreen collection and, thus appeased, Caroline fell contentedly asleep.

Out in the evergreens

Next day, after cutting ivy in the garden we headed to the woods for our daily dog walk complete with secateurs packed by Caroline.

girl-cutting-ivy-with-secateurs

We trawled the wood, choosing evergreen branches that wouldn’t be noticeably missed, as always paddling in the stream and additionally extracting the apparently accident prone dog from a barbed wire fence – only a grazed head this time.

Is it still scrumping if you pick greenery not fruit?!

I can’t advocate decimating every tree in sight by removing bags-full for your winter customs (I was appalled to witness a local florist doing this once) but there is little harm in carefully selecting a few hidden branches to prune without damaging the plant if you follow these guidelines: –

  • Preferably pick from your own garden only
  • Take only what you need
  • Cut small twigs and branches
  • Take only one stem per tree or bush
  • Prune the stems cleanly to ensure no damage to the plant
  • Beware of poisonous plants
  • Don’t take rare varieties

Know your greens

Holly, ivy and fir trees are easily identified, and many garden evergreens can be used for wreath-making too but be aware of and avoid poisonous trees where possible. Certainly don’t allow children to touch or eat them – the Woodland Trust’s Tree Identification App might help.

Yew (Taxus Baccata)- the ancient tree of graveyards. Its red berries look ideal for Christmas but are poisonous. Even touching the greenery makes some sensitive people ill.

Laurel (Prunus Laurocerasus) – when cut, Laurel gives off cyanide gas so is best avoided in large quantities; ask anyone who’s cut down a laurel bush and taken it to the tip in a car, you can feel quite spacey with the windows closed.

How to make a wreath

Each year we make both a tabletop wreath with candles to burn each Sunday of Advent, and a door decoration. For more Advent traditions see my post Making Advent Matter.

Tabletop Advent wreath

We use an ancient rustic wooden wreath base (possibly a hand-me-down from Wild Grandma) on a red plate, entwined with ivy and holly from the garden, creating the centrepiece with 5 candles secured in oasis. Simples!

tabletop-advent-wreath-evergreens-on-red-plate-with-candles-in-centre

Christmas door wreath

Outdoor kids love doing anything with sticks and cutting implements. Encourage their creativity but be prepared to forego any ideas of a pristine, symmetrical masterpiece.

  1. Buy a plastic-backed oasis ring, ours is 14″
  2. Immerse the ring in cold water for 20 seconds until the bubbles stop
  3. Using strong florist wire create a hanger at the top of the wreath by wrapping the twine around the plastic base so it cuts into the oasis

4. Secure at the top by twisting together into a loop
5. Decorate with evergreens
6. Start with the outer and inner edges to ensure that the oasis and plastic holder are hidden – fir cuttings are ideal for this
7. Add decorations – ribbons, pine cones, berries (ours are fake but be warned that the birds don’t know this!) or simply leave it evergreen-only
8. Attach securely to your front door

Spot the difference – this year’s Christmas wreath; wreath 2014

Top tip

DO NOT use a stick-on hook to hang your door wreath.  Just don’t. That is all.

Broken door wreath and subsequent improvised table decorations

OK, fit of pique over, the best way to hang a door wreath is to tie it with strong string looped over the top of the door and secured inside on a nail, hook, letterbox etc. Just please, not a stick-on hook…

And if it should happen to fall off, after the exclamation of suitable profanities, use the broken bits of oasis to make table centres.

Now light the candles and relax with a hot cuppa to the scent of freshly cut evergreen. Advent is only a couple of days away.

And don’t forget Making Advent Matter for more fun Advent ideas.