Over the years, I’ve had a chance to watch some incredible floral designers put together wreaths and containers for the holidays. Watching others is a great way to learn, which is why I highly recommend taking one of the classes at MSHS on holiday decor. (The Dec. 1 class is full, but MSHS is sponsoring other classes on Dec. 2, Dec. 3 and Dec. 5. Each class is taught by an experienced designer and will offer a chance to really watch the process being done.)
But if you can’t get to a class, here’s what I have learned over the years:
1: Pick a Theme. Maybe you like snowmen or Santas or have a special affinity for angels, the northwoods or succulents. Keep the elements in the wreath or holiday pot consistent. If you are looking for something natural, go with muted colors. Or design like a diva and go for big, bold colors and forms.
2: Pile on the greens. In a holiday pot, start with something tall in the center or just to the back of your pot — then pile on the greens. Choose things with a variety of textures and colors. For a holiday pot, you want a minimum of three to five types of greenery. For a wreath, start with your basic wreath and then add additional greens—arborvitae, blue spruce—whatever adds contrast and interest.
3: Don’t Make it Symmetrical. You do not need to perfectly balance elements. On a wreath that was put together for Gov. Mark Dayton’s home a few years ago, the designer loaded one side with three over-sized imitation pears, a few pinecone clusters, as well as ferns and cranberries. The other side had only pinecones and cranberries. The imbalance gave the wreath a natural look.
4: Use Odd Numbers. Like plantings in your yard, odd numbers seem to work better on holiday pots and wreaths. Go with threes, fives, sevens of each item or, if it is a big focal point, just one.
5: Mix Fake and Real. No one needs to know the apples on your wreath are imitation or that the
6: Wire it Down! 24-gauge floral wire is great for lashing decorative pieces to the wreaths. A hot glue gun can secure everything from decorative balls to cranberry sprays.
7: Choose Containers Carefully. Pick containers that enhance any holiday arrangements. If your container is formal, keep the arrangement in the same tone. For a funky container, go all out in color and whimsical elements.
8: Use Potting Soil. Holiday containers should be filled with some kind of medium to keep branches and decorative items steady. The most economical choice is potting soil from a summer or fall container. The soil isn’t providing any nutrients, so it does not matter that it is spent.
9: Water Containers. You want to water in holiday container displays—but just once! The water will give the plants some moisture to keep them looking good longer. Normally, the container will freeze and once it is frozen in place, it should stay there.
10: Know When to Stop. Holiday containers and wreaths are so much fun to embellish, but don’t over do it. When you add an element (fruit, holiday ball, playful Santa) and it seems to detract from what else is there, then it’s time to stop.
—Mary Lahr Schier