CO-Horts Blog

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Holiday Decor: Hortie Style

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

For some people, they jump into the holiday season head-first and excited; I tend to warm more slowly to the hustle and bustle of December. But after taking a wreath making workshop at the Gardens on Spring Creek (once again taught by the incredible Nancy Frank), I caught the bug. Perhaps it was the scent of fresh greens in the air...
Holiday "wow" on your doorstep.
Making wreaths is a fairly easy task, but even more "SHAZAM!" is taking ordinary evergreens from around the yard and (literally) shoving them into foam in an urn to make a fantastic welcome to your front doorstep. It's a snap and anyone can do it! It will take you about 30 minutes.

Here's what you need:

  • Container (use your favorite from the summer!)
  • Styrofoam block (can be purchased at any craft store)
  • Evergreens (from the landscape or purchased from a florist)
  • An inexpensive pre-made wreath (or make your own)
  • Various embellishments for color and pizzazz (from the garden or the craft store)
  • Big ol' fancy bow

First, find your container. I used a plastic urn. If you use one that is ceramic or clay, be sure that it won't crack in cold weather. Because the arrangement will be top heavy, fill the lower half of the container with bricks or rock to weigh it down.
Add weight to the bottom of your container so it doesn't tip over!
Then place your foam block on top of the bricks. Make sure it's fairly level. If you feel it may not be sturdy, you can tape it down, but limit how much surface area you cover with the tape (it's hard to poke branches through tape). Because my block was fairly large, I had to shave down the corners to fit our pre-made wreath on top....
Foam block from the craft store. You may have to shave down the sides to fit the wreath on top.
To help cover the container edges, place an inexpensive wreath on top and make sure there is foam showing through the wreath's center. Now, if you don't want to buy a wreath, you can make one. Or be sure to use greens to cover the container edges. But the pre-made wreath is really a time saver! The diameter of your container will determine how large a wreath you need.
Lay the wreath on top of the container and make sure foam is showing in the middle.
It's important to decide how the arrangement will be viewed. Mine is against a wall, so I didn't need to worry too much about making sure the back was attractive. But you do need to "even it out". From the greens you've cut or purchased (or asked nicely for at tree lots), cut a few longer pieces for the back of the arrangement and shove them into the foam. Don't be shy! Push hard to make sure they stay in place.
Start framing your arrangement with longer pieces.
I used common greens from the Colorado landscape. And (gasp!) junipers look fantastic in these arrangements. If you can find them with cones (berries), even better. Maybe junipers really do have a purpose?!? Anyway, I cut junipers, spruce, Scotch pine, Austrian pine and some ornamental grass plumes.
From front to back: junipers, Scotch pine, spruce, ornamental grass plumes and Austrian pine.
After you get your back pieces placed, just keep cutting and adding. Be sure to leave a longer stem so that it's easier to push it into the foam.
A nice long stem to poke into the foam.
Add more greens...
Keep greening away!
And more greens...until you're happy with how it looks. It's all a matter of what you like. It can be really full and bushy or a little more sparse. Just make sure you can't see any foam when you're finished.
The blue junipers really add a little somethin' somethin', don't they?
Once your greens are finished, then add other fun adornments, like ornamental grass plumes, berries, pinecones, sparkly dazzle or whatever moves you. In terms of berries, I'm not sure there is anything in our landscapes that will stand up to December weather, so I always buy the fake cherry red ones at the craft store. But you can absolutely do a natural arrangement.
Ornamental grass plumes from Miscanthus and pampas grass.
Then add your bow (mine, of course, is sparkly!) and move the container to your front step for everyone to "ooh" and "aah". You could consider spraying it with an anti-desiccant, but that's optional. So are posing your beagles :)
Happy Holidays from Hazel and Maple!


  1. Love your evergreen urn! Must give it a try. Thank you for your instructions.

  2. Looks lovely. Your instructions are clear, descriptive and fun to read. Your step-by-step photos are helpful. Love the final photo with Hazel and Maple.Happy Holidays!
    Mom Stoven, MN

  3. I wish my front door looked half as nice. Great job!