In the spirit of the season, we took a trip down the road to visit our friends at Tarrnation Flower Farm in Franconia, New Hampshire. The shop was prepping for the decorating season by making wreaths with local greenery and accents gathered and dried over the course of the year.
Vanessa Tarr took some time to show us how to make a wreath to decorate our home or give as gifts. These are her easy steps to crafting beautiful designs inspired by nature.
She says that it usually takes about an hour to make your first wreath, but with her years of practice, Vanessa has it down to about 20 minutes — that’s Santa speed.
SUPPLIES YOU’LL NEED
- Wreath frame (a 10” ring will make a 20” wreath)
- Floral wire (we recommend 22 gauge)
- Sharp clippers
- Wreath greens cut and organized into piles
- Decorative ingredients like pinecones, berries, and dried flowers
- Hot glue gun with glue cartridge
- Small and large floral picks (large picks can always be cut, if small ones are not available)
For greenery, we used balsam boughs for the main structure and added in a mix of cedar, juniper, and princess pine. We liked the cedar, because it had tiny cones nestled in with its greens. Juniper berries were plentiful this year and the branches are so fragrant, so we used them as a second layer. Princess Pine is a much more delicate green, so it adds depth and dimension on top of sturdier greens. It grows low to the ground, so it has to be collected before the snow covers it.
HOW TO MAKE A WREATH
1. Start by wrapping the end of wire on the frame. You will not clip the wire until the very end, so make sure it is secured with several twists around the frame.
2. Take a handful of greens; about 4-6 sprigs fanned out in a cluster. Start with the balsam to give the wreath structure and support, and then layer in one or two other evergreens.
3. Lay the bundle flat against the frame on the table. Attach it to the frame by wrapping the stems to the frame three times with the wire. The wire should be sturdy against the frame, but not so tight that it breaks.
4. Back the bundle with another piece of balsam to conceal the frame and wrap it a couple more times with the wire. This will finish the reverse side to give the wreath a finished look on both sides, allowing the recipient to hang the wreath on a window without the wire frame showing.
5. Create another bundle and layer it over the first bundle a couple inches down the frame. The bundles should overlap, creating additional support and stability. Arrange the handful of greens, loop with the wire, back it, and continue the process to fill the wreath.
If the bundles are too far apart you’ll start to see thinning and holes between bundles. If they are too close together, the wreath will become too bushy. Try not to get frustrated (think ho ho ho and all that!). You can always clip and prune to shape the wreath after you are done, and remember, it’s bendable wire so you can always unloop and redo the last bundle that you placed.
6. Work your way around the wreath frame until you are back where you started. You want to make it look full, but leave space to create a hook to hang your wreath when finished. To do this, lift the original bundle you started the wreath with. Get that last bundle as close as you can to the stems of the first bundle. Doing so, will make the wreath look seamless, and that is the ultimate goal.
7. Anchor your last bundle and back it, making your final loops with the wire. Press the bundles down or fluff them with your fingers as needed to make the wreath look full and seamless. Fill with small bunches and backing if that last section is sparse.
8. Lift it up and examine your work, looking for holes and asymmetry. When you feel that you’re done, wrap the wire a couple more times around the frame and cut, but leave approximately 8” of wire to craft the hanging hook.
9. With that remaining 8” of wire, twist it to form a loop. The loop should sit lower than the height of the boughs in front of it, so that the hanger is hidden when the wreath is hung. It’s a good idea to tie a tiny piece of ribbon to the loop, so you don’t lose it. The wire is designed to camouflage beautifully and you would be surprised how hard it can be to find it again.
10. Examine it from the back to make sure it looks good on both sides.
11. Now it’s time to decorate. Dried flowers, pinecones, berries, feathers, collected objects are great finishing touches for your wreath. You can glitz it up as much as you’d like or keep it natural with the trimmings from fields to forests. For our wreath, we used Limelight Millet, Tamarack pinecones, German Statice, and red berries (Rosa Multa Flora).
Lay all your decorative trimming out, like you did with your greens, to take inventory. Arrange your selections on the wreath moving in the same direction that you did to craft the evergreen layer. This is your last chance to fill holes.
12. When you are happy with the composition, start to attach the decorative elements using the floral picks and/or a hot glue gun. The floral picks are best for small and delicate trimming and the glue is better for more substantial items, like pinecones. Go light with the glue, because it can be messy. Systematically work your way around the wreath, pressing and holding the glued objects to make sure that they stay put. If using the floral picks, work them into the bundles, so that they are completely concealed.
13. Continue to clip and fluff as needed, once everything is fixed in place.
If you happen to be in the area, stop by the farm and see Vanessa’s work and get a little inspiration first hand. Her and her staff’s wreath designs are beautiful ways to bring the natural splendor of Northern New Hampshire and New England to your front door.