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Carlsbad Senior Garden Club members Mary Kipp, left, and Esther Chien make grapevine wreaths. Photos by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

A natural wreath for the holidays

My family has always loved to decorate for the holidays. My dad, who was an industrial designer, always found unusual objects with which to decorate the front entryway of our suburban Milwaukee home.

It was never the proverbial snowman or Santa Claus, but usually an antique seasonal object from his collection.

One year a 3-foot antique wooden sled was mounted near the door, surrounded by a variety of hand-picked evergreen boughs. With the accompaniment of back lighting, the well-worn sled was reminiscent of Rosebud in the movie “Citizen Kane.”


This is the perfect time of year to harvest any type of grapevine to shape into a holiday wreath. On the grounds of the Pine Street Community Garden, which houses the Carlsbad Senior Garden Club, my students were delighted to find yards and yards of grapevines covering the fence, and we set to work to create our wreaths.

If you have vines on your property or know someone who does, ask them if they could spare some footage. The wreaths are also available at craft stores, if you cannot locate the vines.

You will also need a good pair of pruners, garden twine and a large tray on which to place your dried herbs and flowers. Set up a table inside or outside where you can work.

  1. Once you have located the grapevines, cut at least 4-5 feet of the vine. If you open your arms in front of you (as if giving a hug), this is the approximate length you are aiming for. Cut a second length this size and place it on your table.
  2. Twist the first vine into a circle approximately 24-36 inches across and tie at the top with garden twine.
  3. Repeat the process again, so that you have a double wreath. Set aside.
  4. Locating herbs and flowers: Choose an assortment of fragrant herbs and colorful flowers in your garden, local park or a neighbor’s yard. Look for brightly colored and textured plants such as lavender, amaranth, poppy pods, garden sage, statice, onion seed pods (the type that occur when the onion is fully bloomed), and assorted tall grass with plumes. The most important requirement for your floral choices is that they must be dry. The flower or seed pod should not be soft or green. (Flowers such as petunias or nasturtium will wilt, whereas the above selections will retain their shape.) Once you begin your search for your herbs and flowers, the possibilities are endless.
  5. Gathering and preparing plant material: Cut at least 6-8 stems of each plant. Place them into individual bunches, so you can separate into smaller bundles later. They should all be of similar length, no more than 4 inches long.  Place all the bunches on your tray.
  6. Gather green leaves: If you have access to eucalyptus or magnolia leaves, make bundles of three leaves each to total 6-8 bundles. If you cannot locate eucalyptus or magnolia leaves, you can purchase them from a florist.
  7. Bring back all the plant materials on the tray and set them on your work table. Create individual bundles of each flower, herb or green (usually 3-4 stems each). Holding the individual bundles of herbs and greens in your hand, twist the garden twine to secure the bottom of the stems. Depending on the thickness of the plant’s stem you should have 3-5 stems per bundle. Keep one end of the twine long, so you can tie it to the wreath.
  8. When you are done with the herbs, flowers and greens, place them back on your tray. Lay out the assorted bundles and experiment with color combinations and textures. Does the red amaranth look exciting next to green sage, does spiky lavender set off the rather bland pampas grass? Once you have decided upon your color combinations, you are ready to begin decorating your wreath!
  9. Working in a clockwise direction, start to tie the bundles to the grapevine wreath. You can alternate herbs and flowers with greens to give it a fuller look. Be sure to overlap the bundles, so as to cover the twine.
  10. When you are finished, hang the wreath on the door and take a look.

You might want to add ornaments or ribbon to complete the theme.


It is easy to continue the natural look in your holiday decorations by taking long clippings of pine trees, holly bushes, juniper or even bougainvillea vines that you might find in your yard or neighborhood.

Remember to ask your neighbors before you start pruning their trees and bushes, but the possibilities abound.

Place your findings in large ceramic pots near your entryway, and along with your grapevine wreath, you will have created a festive look.

Jano Nightingale is Master Gardener and horticulturist who teaches gardening classes in North County. To join the Carlsbad Senior Garden Club, call the Senior Center at (442) 339-2650. Contact Jano at [email protected] for further questions.

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