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Happy Thanksgiving!

With the passing of Thanksgiving means the full wave of Christmas preparations. Many of us like to shop for our Christmas trees and put out all of our holiday decorations throughout our homes within the week of Thanksgiving. For Christmas trees and other holiday traditions, we often use artificial replicas of real plant material for our decorations. However, if you choose to use real trees and use real branches in your wreaths, the smell is a wonderful alternative to any artificial selection.

Wreaths are a great decoration for the Christmas season. Wreaths have been used for centuries to decorate for the holidays. According to North Carolina Extension, using evergreens in holiday celebrations comes from the Middle Ages when people viewed evergreen trees to be very special, representing life and growth to come. This can be especially important to us during long, cold winters.

Plant selection for wreaths

Plant material used for Christmas decorations can come from your own landscape. Many of our tree and shrub species make great wreaths, swags and garland for use during the holiday season. White Pine has long, soft needles that can be used in these decorations, but it needs to be kept moist and needs to be layered to look full.

Junipers are often used in decorations as well for good fragrance, but they can be messy. Firs have a great scent that can fill a room with a fragrance reminiscent of the holidays. They hold their short needles well and will tolerate indoor conditions. Spruces can be used as well, but be careful with these; the needles are short and sharp. It might be best to wear gloves when handling spruce to avoid injuring your hands. You can also add in accents from other plants such as berries from ivy, unique leaves and berries from holly, and pine cones. Just stroll through your landscape and gather some materials from whatever is green and catches your eye.

Making your own wreath

If you are making your own wreath from your landscape materials, walk around to find the best quality materials to use. Small amounts of pruning from your landscape for your wreath will not be harmful to your plants. Make sure you still make a good pruning cut and remove small branches back to a larger branch and do not leave a stump behind. Once back inside with your branch materials, cut them into 6-8 inch sections and overlap them along the frame as you wrap them with wire to hold them in place. If done correctly, the overlapping of plant material will cover up the wire as you build the wreath. Build your wreath as full or thin as you choose. When finished with the base of the wreath, you can add berries, other leaves and pine cones that you find in your landscape as well.

Maintaining freshness in your wreath

Wreaths made from live material has a shelf life, they will not remain green and full of fragrance long term. Given good conditions, however, they should remain green and full of scent for the holiday season. If the wreath is kept indoors, it will only last for a week to 10 days. If the wreath is hung outdoors, it can remain fresh for 3-4 weeks. However, if hung on a front door in full sun behind a glass door, it will not last this long. It would be best to store the wreath in a cool, damp location where it is sheltered from the wind, rain, and sun but has good ventilation. A door on the north side of a building would be best. It will also help with longevity of your wreath if you spray the wreath with water often to maintain moisture to the plant materials. If a floral foam is used, it can be watered down every 2-3 days to ensure the plant material stays hydrated to last longer.

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If you have any further questions please contact Nicole Stoner at (402) 223-1384, nstoner2@unl.edu, visit the Gage County Extension website at www.gage.unl.edu, or like my facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/NicoleStonerHorticulture and follow me on twitter @Nikki_Stoner.

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