By Glenna Sheaffer
When you are making your own wreath out of fresh greens, there are some things that make the job easier. One major item to look for is evergreens that have smaller stems like Taxus [yew], Juniperus [juniper], Pinus [particularly white pine], and Thuja [arborvitae]. These choices make wire wrapping the stems to add to the wreath so much easier and assures that the observer will see only the greens not the brown stems. Using only 6-10” stems of these evergreens keeps you at the tips of the branch where the stems are smaller and easier to use. Another excellent choice is Abies fraseri [fraser fir] with it’s wonderful fragrance.
Taxus [yew] has a foliage growth pattern that will be narrow and elongated the first year and the second year will have widened out into fuller fan-like sprigs. The second or third year’s growth is the best for wreath making. It will fill in the spaces very well and make the wreath look luxuriant and full with no open pockets. As you trim the yew follow the branch down looking for sprigs that are fan-like. This is not the way to trim yew to look best from the street so go lightly on trimming to keep the plant looking good on your lawn. Our yews here at Kingwood are set back away from close scrutiny so we can glean more sprigs off the branches. The next year the yew recovers well as long as you leave the elongated narrow sprig behind. The narrow elongated shape of the first year’s growth can be used to get length but does not fill in well requiring using more Taxus to fill the wreath in. Taking this part of the yew does more damage to the subsequent growth of the branch requiring another year to fill out.
There are evergreens that are just not as easy to use that probably should be avoided. Trees that have thick unyielding stems are not as pleasant to work with. Picea pungens [blue spruce] has very thick stems right up to the tip. Although it can be cut as boughs to tie together, they make a mess of a wreath. Picea abies [Norway spruce] has branchlets that are too long and flexible to be easily used. Even though, if you make the wreath exclusively out of Norway spruce, I think it would look interesting in it’s own right. And, finally, another tree, Pseudotsuga menziesii [Douglas fir], should be avoided because it’s needles are too small, stiff and homely to be a good candidate for a wreath.