‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, and for many that means a bit of decorating. I like to keep it pretty simple, with some lights (which I admit to not taking down .... ever) and a few handmade wreaths and swags that we put together with some greenery and odds and ends. OK, and also approximately one million paper snowflakes cut out by me and my 5 year old. Throw in the tree, and that's about it.

I love how this sort of decorating gives me an excuse to bring the outdoors inside, and foraging for colorful bits from nature to include in the wreaths (bittersweet, holly berries, sumac, etc) is always a fun time. We usually go for a bike ride or walk around the neighborhood or Rec Park to see what we can find, always being mindful of not taking too much and being sure we have permission from property owners before gathering. I have also found that most any tree lot selling Christmas trees will happily send you off with lots and lots of fragrant fir and spruce cuttings if you ask them politely.

To make a simple wreath all you need are some wreath forms (I typically use a pre-existing plain grapevine wreath as a base, but you could easily bend some vines into a circular shape yourself and secure the ends with wire), some greenery, a pair of pruners or heavy-duty scissors, some wire (I like to use the green-coated floral wire because it hides in the greenery well), and perhaps some yarn or ribbon for embellishments. I have also used a simple cardboard ring as a base when creating wreaths with pinecones, cinnamon sticks, or (as seen in the photos) Sweetgum seed pods.

Evergreen wreath (swag, garland)

To make the evergreen wreath, begin by cutting greenery to a manageable length, and then secure it to the base with some of the wire. Then simply continue adding more a bit at a time until you like the overall look of the wreath. Finish it off with ribbon or yarn or any other embellishments of your choice (or not), hang, and enjoy! If you are making a swag, it is even easier - simply create a bundle of greenery in an appealing way and tie it off with your ribbon or yarn. We have found it to be quite fun to make several swags at a time and leave them on friends’ and neighbors’ doors as sweet little surprises. For a garland, you'll need to lay out several pieces of your plant material and begin to attach them to one another securely with bits of wire. Make sure to secure it every 4 to 6 inches or so that it will hold its shape well.

Cardboard-based wreath

For the cardboard-based wreath, all you need is cardboard, a hot glue gun, some wire or twine, and whatever material you'd like to make your wreath out of. Some options include twigs, cinnamon sticks, Sweetgum pods, acorns, small pine cones or even a mix of things. Before you begin gluing materials onto the form, loop some twine or wire around the form to serve as a hanging loop. Next, plan out how you'd like your wreath to look and begin gluing your materials in place. For this wreath I glued several Sweetgum pods onto the cardboard base and then wrapped some red, green and white yarn around it, and finishing it off with a few cinnamon sticks tied in place.

Amanda Riley lives in Black Mountain with her husband, young daughter, cat and small flock of chickens. Read more about her suburban homesteading at

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