Make a natural evergreen swag for your door, or to give as a gift. It’s fun, aromatic, easy on the pocketbook (if you don’t believe me, check the prices for live greenery arrangements at your local florist) and the results are absolutely stunning. If you happen to have holly bushes and pine trees on your property, simply cut several fresh branches/sprigs when you’re ready to start. Or, ask your friends and neighbors if you can visit their yards. If your family buys or cuts a live Christmas tree, you can use the stray branches you cut off the bottom to make the tree fit in your stand. (And, in a pinch, you can always use artificial branches and greenery.)
Because you’ll be working with natural materials, it’s best to make the swags in the garage, shed or somewhere you can make a (slight) mess.
You will need:
- Heavy-duty gardening gloves or work gloves
- Several long (1 1/2′-3′, depending on where the swag will be hung) branches of fresh pine or spruce — cut from trees or use the “extra” ones cut off the bottom of your Christmas tree
- Several good-sized sprigs of fresh holly
- Pinecones – gathered or bought
- Green floral wire
- Bow or ribbons (optional)
- Other greenery, berries, dried flowers, interesting twigs, etc. (optional)
- First, wear good gloves! Pine and especially holly are very sharp, and your hands will take a beating if you don’t. You also will get sap on your hands if you are using fresh-cut evergreen.
- On a work table or other flat surface, gather the evergreen branches together to form a swag. Arrange holly sprigs in the front to hang down amid the evergreen. Wrap floral wire around the top portion a few times to hold the whole thing securely together. Wrap tightly! In the back, use a short length of wire or a sturdy twist tie to create a hanging loop for the swag.
- Cut shorter lengths of floral wire and wrap around pinecones a couple times, then wire pinecones to the swag as desired. They look nice clustered all at the top, or sprinkled here and there among the greens.
- If you have a large bow, tie it or wire it to the top portion of the swag to hide the wire wrapping. If you don’t have a bow or just want a truly natural look, use a few pinecones or more holly to hide the wire. (One year I used a length of baler twine wrapped around the top several times and tied in a simple bow. I got more admiring comments on that swag than any other I have made!)
- When hung on an exterior door, fencepost or light post, swags will last up to a few weeks in cool to cold weather (here in Ohio, they always look great even past New Year’s). We have even hung them between the front door and glass storm door. They also look spectacular laid or draped on an outdoor bench, chair or railing. As long as they stay cool, they will stay fresh quite a long time – and they’re even prettier with a dusting of frost or snow.
You can use any evergreen branches for the swag itself. For accents, if you don’t have holly, you could substitute (or add) any of the following:
- Juniper branches – the blue berries are especially striking
- Bittersweet branches
- Ivy or other attractive vines
- Dried flowers or grasses from the garden
- Large baubles or Christmas balls – sturdy ones designed for outdoor use
Editor’s Note: First published in 2007.