Decorating with Holiday Greenery

Modern takes on wreaths, garlands, and bouquets give your home a fresh new look.

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Making the Rounds


No need to mess with Mother Nature when unadorned wreaths of greens look this elegant.

Here's how: Find wreaths of different sizes at garden shops or order from We used, from left, cedar, magnolia, juniper, silver dollar eucalyptus, and seeded eucalyptus. You can make your own by attaching sprigs with floral wire in overlapping layers to a wire wreath form.

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Take a Bough


Spruce up the mantel with fragrant greenery of your choice, like eucalyptus and pine, arranged in vintage milk glass vases.

Here's how: If you don't have evergreens in your backyard, purchase scraps from a tree lot or garden center. Cut stems to desired height and insert into vases with water in them. To keep branches upright, cut blocks of floral foam, soaked thoroughly in water, to fit snugly in containers. Drape a swag over mantel for the finishing touch.

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Standing Tall


Keep it simple with a few snippets of green and a sprinkling of silver leaves.

Here's how: Layer cedar and leaves on three cake stands stacked one on top of the other. Place the arrangement on a kitchen island or a sideboard.

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Grand Opening


Make a striking statement in the entry hall with a live tree that can be planted outside when the holidays are history.

Here's how: We used a dramatic Blue Atlas cedar, but a small spruce or cedar set on a table creates a similar effect. Place the root ball of the tree in a galvanized tub. If necessary for stability, position using rocks or bricks and fill in with mulch to retain moisture. Don't remove a tree that's been planted in a plastic bucket—put it in the tub and top with floral moss. A living tree should be kept inside for no more than 10 days before planting.

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Center of Attention


Turn over a new leaf by dressing up the table with a glamorous arrangement of foliage.

Here's how: For "place mat": Break magnolia leaves off stems and layer in circles starting inside and working out.
For "bouquet": Arrange leaves with stems in a container. Flip a few leaves over to reveal the bronze underside. Magnolia can be purchased from florists or at

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Small Wonders


A centerpiece doesn't get any easier than this.

Here's how: Place sprigs of evergreens like spruce, magnolia, boxwood, eucalyptus, and cypress in pretty candle holders or juice glasses.

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Cascading Beauty


Get in the red and green spirit of things by decking the hall with boughs of pine or spruce and wreaths of pepperberry.

Here's how: Buy one or two blue spruce or pine garlands from your garden center or holiday tree lot. Hang small pepperberry wreaths at intervals—about every 3 feet—on the banister. Secure the wreaths with tightly twisted pipe cleaners. Disguise the pipe cleaner by looping a length of ribbon around it and the banister. Drape the garland through each wreath, starting at the bottom and working your way up to the top of the stairs.

Tip: Measure the length of your stairs before you buy the garland—add a few feet so that it will drape properly.

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Tiny Trees


Create an enchanted forest on the mantel with pine branches placed in terra-cotta pots.

Here's how: Cover the drainage hole in the bottom of each pot with a piece of plastic bag to prevent leakage. Soak a block of floral foam in water until saturated. With a sharp knife, cut chunks to fit snugly below the rim of each clay pot. To make trees, use trimmings from your holiday tree or buy scraps from a tree lot. (We used pine, but spruce is also an option.) Snip stems to a height of 1 foot, cutting them at an angle. Insert one into each pot and add one or two shorter sprigs for balance. Cover the top of the foam with floral moss. Arrange pinecones and votives randomly between pots.

Tip: Prevent drooping branches by adding a small amount of water to pots every few days.

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Welcome Home


Give guests a warm greeting with a swag of gorgeous greens on the door instead of the traditional wreath.

Here's how: To make swag, choose a variety of greens, such as white pine, holly, rosemary, and spruce with pinecones. Cut stems in a range of lengths from 1 to 3 feet, using the longer pieces as a base. Working on a flat surface, start with the longest pieces first—for example, three long stems of holly, rosemary, and white pine. Add graduating layers of shorter pieces on top. Aim for a mix of greens. Once you've created a full base, tie ends together, securing with floral wire. Using 1- to 2-foot-long branches, make a second, smaller arrangement, alternating types of greens and layering graduated sizes on top as shown. Tie the ends together firmly with floral wire. Place the smaller arrangement on top of the larger base, securing both together with wire or tape. Tie a ribbon in a bow around top to disguise the wire. Hang from door knocker with wire.

Tip: For another way to hang a swag or wreath, try using an over-the-door wreath hook.

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Ring of Fire


Go with the glow of candlelight and fragrant greenery for the table. Nothing could be easier—or prettier.

Here's how: Buy three or five 8- to 10-inch wreaths in the greens of your choice; we used bay leaf, eucalyptus, and rosemary wreaths. Place wreaths down the center of your table on a runner or tablecloth, alternating the size and type of greens. Insert candles in the center of each wreath—one or two pillars for the smaller size and three in the larger ones.

Tip: To keep a wreath fresh until you use it, sprinkle 1/2 cup of water into a plastic bag, place wreath inside, and close.

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Mirror, Mirror


Turn over a new leaf by dressing up a mirror or mantel with a graceful magnolia garland.

Here's how: Magnolia garlands can be purchased from florists, but you can also make your own. Cut a piece of floral wire the desired length (we used 4 feet). Fan out three to five leaves on a flat surface and twist floral wire around stems. Keep working down the wire, adding three or more leaves at a time to the garland, twisting stems together with wire as you go. Vary the pattern as shown by turning random leaves over to reveal the bronze underside. Once you've finished, make an "S" hook with floral wire at the center of the mirror. Hang the garland from the hook so that both sides drape naturally. Secure a bow with floral wire.

Tip: Magnolia leaves will stay fresh for about two weeks. A dried garland is also pretty.

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A Greens Glossary


All greens—but especially spruces and broadleaf evergreens like holly—stay fresh longer in a cool room.

Clockwise from top:

Cypress: The supple, flat, bluish-green sprays and slender branches can easily be twisted into wreaths or swags.

White Pine: The elegant, draping nature of the long, soft needles (up to 8 inches long) makes pine ideal for garlands.

Laurel: Can be incorporated into a fresh or dry arrangement, producing a pleasingly fruity fragrance.

Eucalyptus: The dusty blue-green leaves give off a lemon-like scent. Only wild varieties, such as the eucalyptus pictured here, bloom with flowers.

Rosemary: Branches with needle-like leaves can be used fresh or dried to add scent to wreaths or swags.

Spruce: Best for wreaths, the stiff, irregular branches with prickly needles and pinecones vary from dark green to steely blue.

Magnolia: Glossy, dark green leaves with a velvety rust-brown underside are long-lasting and make a handsome statement.

English Holly: With its glossy, dark leaves, the holly plant enhances any traditional arrangement.

Wate's Golden Pine: The long-lasting needles turn golden only in the winter months.

Cedar: Tufted clusters of short needles arranged along graceful branches range in color from green to silver-blue.

Originally published in the November 29, 2010, and November 29, 2008, issues of Family Circle magazine.