Tradition meets the garden for holidays
Make a wreath that reflects your personality



November 29, 2007
Nandina, Natal Plum and Hawthorn
Spicy Jatropha
Ixora and Juniper
“Non–traditional foliage for holiday wreaths could include the bright blooming jatropha and ixora plants with contrasting more subdued hawthorne, nandina, and natal plum.”
Holiday decorating with greenery from gardens is a tradition that dates back to ancient times and continues to be a popular choice today.

Evergreens have long been used in winter festivities and are still a symbol of hope and new life. Originally, wreaths made of braided textiles were worn on the head as a sign of nobility. As wreaths were adopted by other societies, different materials were added to them to reflect the creator’s personality.

Today, wreaths usually take on the style of the household.

In the southern United States, decorating with greenery dates back to colonial days and did not become a custom in the northern states until the 1800s.

Garlands of holly, ivy and other native greenery were prolific in churches while homes displayed greenery in window frames and, often, holly berries still attached to tiny springs dotted the windows, held in place with wax. Fragrant flowers, herbs, and rose petals were scattered about for their pleasant aromas.

Design a wreath

Making your own wreath not only reflects your own personality, but using various cuttings from your garden makes your decoration even more distinctive. So, let’s walk down to the garden gate and start gathering the elements of our design.

There are several shrubs from which to choose that will provide a longer-lasting starting point for your wreath.

Flowers, fruits, pods and berries can be changed out as they wither, but the basic greenery, if prepared properly, should remain fresh throughout the holiday season.

Evergreen foliage

Evergreen foliage is generally the main material in wreaths. There are many types and combinations that can be used, including variegated forms, like two or three forms of variegated holly or ivy.

To avoid looking messy, don’t use too many varieties.

Cedar always makes a dependable mainstay for your wreath because of its wonderful fragrance and flexible structure. If junipers, pines, or firs are in your landscape, they also work well in wreaths because of excellent needle retention and tolerance of dry and warm indoor conditions.

For some non-traditional evergreen foliage, consider pittasporum – green or variegated, jatropha, nandina (heavenly bamboo), Japanese yew, magnolia, Hawthorne, rosemary, yaupon holly, Texas mountain laurel, Natal plum or boxwood.

Berries, fruits and more

Once you have established which evergreen you will be using, start thinking about how you want to embellish it.

This is where berries, fruits, vines, seedpods and grasses can be used.

Some berries to consider are those from the nandina, yaupon holly, sapphire showers duranta, Barbados cherry, coralberry, Burford holly, Chile pequin, pyracantha (be careful of the thorns), and wax myrtle.

There are fruits and seedpods or seeding structures that might be found in your garden or purchased at the grocery store. Some seeding structures to consider are lotus and magnolia pods, pecans, acorns and pinecones.

Pomegranate, oranges, lemons, limes, apples, kumquats and pears make an interesting addition to a wreath. Vines may be used to twine through the foliage for adding a variation to texture or color. Some vines that may be in your own landscape are fig ivy, Asian jasmine, Confederate jasmine, star jasmine, coral honeysuckle, wisteria and creeping rosemary.


One way to add more texture, aside from the plant material already mentioned, would be the addition of grasses such as Muhly grass, Mexican feather grass, fountain grass or sea oats. These grasses may be bundled together and stuck in among the larger textured foliage for more contrast.

Form and harmony

Form and harmony can be achieved by a careful composition keeping in mind repetition of elements or balance of elements, either formal balance or asymmetrical balance. Formal balance might mean making a base of solid green magnolia leaves and, every few inches, adding a cluster of kumquats and red berries.

An asymmetrical composition might mean making the entire wreath of rosemary and adding one perfect calla lily for an accent.


Color can be one of the strongest design elements to make a wreath both personal and unique.

Dramatic combinations of colors if used in careful repetition can be stunning and not gaudy. A monochromatic color scheme can be elegant if a variety of textures and forms are used to add interest instead of color.

The traditional red and green color scheme does not have to be utilized in your wreath. Let the materials you have gathered define your color scheme and the form you wish your wreath will take.

Designing a centerpiece, accent piece or a simple or elegant holiday wreath from your landscape treasures can be economical and rewarding as well as festive. The vegetation found in your own garden reflects your surroundings and so will your holiday wreath –just take a walk through the gate.
Holiday décor from your garden
Your own garden might have everything you need for holiday decorating. Take into consideration texture, form, harmony and color in designing your own wreath with evergreens, berries, fruits and vines.

Traditional evergreen

*Cedar   *Fir   *Juniper   *Pine

Non-traditional evergreen

*Boxwood   *Hawthorne   *Ixora   *Japanese yew   *Jatropha   *Magnolia   *Nandina   *Natal plum *Pittasporum   *Rosemary   *Texas mountain laurel   *Yaupon holly

Berries from shrubs, bushes

*Barbados cherry   *Burford holly   *Chile pequin   *Coralberry   *Duranta   *Nandina   *Pyracantha   *Wax myrtle   *Yaupon holly

*Apple   *Kumquat   *Lemon   *Lime   *Orange   *Pear


*Honeysuckle   *Ivy   *Jasmine   *Wisteria
The Gardeners' Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas Cooperative Extension-Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, Texas 77901; or, or comment on this column at