A Holiday Garland

A holiday garland over the front door or mantel is undoubtedly a special yet familiar expression of the joy marking the turning of the season from fall to winter. Representing equal parts pageantry, goodwill, and a love of nature and natural materials, a garland is a hand worked expression of the garden appropriate to display for the winter season. I will leave mine up all winter, and be all the happier for having it to look at. Friends and family who view and pass under that garland have been invited to celebrate the beauty of nature and what that adds to everyone’s life before they step inside the door. I find this activity is satisfying for the gardener in me who has had to put their gardening ways away for the winter. These ideas are what energize the design and fabrication of every garland I make.

Our garland always begin with a collection of evergreen boughs that have been wired together in a long flexible length. I have also seen garlands made from boughs attached one after another to a stout rope. We hand make the garland if it is fairly short and manageable, but I usually purchase them premade from a mix of fir boughs at my local farmer’s market. Concolor fir, Douglas fir, Nordmann fir, noble fir and fraser fir will maintain their fresh appearance inside and out for a long time. Magnolia garlands have a sumptuous look that dries beautifully if used indoors. The first order of business is to determine the direction of the boughs. We arrange the boughs in an upward position from the bottom left, and up and over to the top/center. In a traditional garland, the right hand overhead portion and drop needs to mirror the left hand side. A traditional garland is bilaterally symmetrical. If the garland purchased is a long one, it will need to be cut in the center, and flipped end to end, and reattached at the top/center. For this reason, I order my garlands in 15′ lengths. A pair of this shorter length garlands can be easily be attached at the center point with the boughs running in opposite directions. I always run the boughs upwards, so gravity fans them out as the branches dry. Branches hung in a downward position close up and shrink in width as they dry. 15 footers are easy to handle, and any excess greens can be cut off the bottoms. The 30′ foot garland under construction was perfect for 2 15′ garlands overlapped and attached in the middle. We usually add more of our cut greens over the top of the garlands we buy, so the garland is thick and substantial.

What gets added to that branchy base is a matter of personal preference. Dried and preserved natural bits, branches and seed heads look great attached to a garland. Dry hydrangea flowers shrug off winter in a way that surprises me.  Faux berries and picks can provide both color and drama. I do not value one material over the other, nor do I value one style over another. What is of great value is the process of creating and making. There are so many things that contribute to that moment when a thought or idea takes on a life, and the making begins. That transition from an idea to the making is a perfect moment. My advice? Make something.

Positioning the work to make it convenient to work on is crucially important.  We set this garland on a collection of cardboard boxes set end to end. They are not really tall enough for me, although Natasha did not seem to mind hovering over the work. Her back is 50 years younger than mine, so there you have it.  If I work on a garland, an old office chair on casters puts me at exactly the right height to work. I can roll from one end to the other. The box tops holds all of the necessary tools and materials. It supports the work in a way that makes it easy to work.

This particular garland is traditional in its materials, so it features a secondary garland of grapevine. We buy grapevine garland in rolls 35′ long. Grapevine garlands are notoriously hard to handle, but properly arranged and secured around the evergreen garland, they add a reference to nature as much as they add volume and air.

I would be remiss if I did not say that winding a grapevine garland around an evergreen garland is hard. It takes at least two people to handle the under and over. In the aftermath, my hands look like I have scrubbed them with a cheese grater. Ha. The work of it is worth it. We attach the lighting for the garland to the grapevine. That light that stands proud of that evergreen garland will endow it’s night view with a warm glow. Of course we light our garlands.

My treasured staffer Natasha took the lead on the construction of this garland. She did a great job of insuring a solid construction. She went on to make sure that every gesture she made was beautiful. I was so pleased to see her taking ownership, and seeing both the art and the construction through to the finish. She has great hands, a great heart, and a will to be that I admire.

loading the garland

loading the garland 2

loaded up


We had already installed the holiday container arrangements. The garland would be a roof over all.

My membership in that group that nature organizes over the the garden and landscape means I have plenty of perfect moments. This was one of them.

A perfect moment in the garden may come at any time. And not necessarily when we expect it.

Beautiful, this. Best regards, Natasha.

Comments

  1. Frieda Hickman says

    Absolutely gorgeous! Congratulations to ALL for the most beautiful garland I have ever seen. Perfect!

  2. Thank you for sharing this!! As always, you have opened up my eyes to make my outdoor holiday decor more dramatic!! You inspired me again!! I also enjoy your writing and how much you love all the elements that work together to make a beautiful finished product!

  3. Ahh…Breathtaking! What a beautiful entry way to welcome friends and family. I can only hope to have something of this magnitude welcoming Guests at my home. Love seeing the pics and reading about the craftsmanship involved. GREAT team effort! Have a lovely Thanksgiving, Deborah and WELCOME the holidays!

  4. Seriously mind blowing!!! I love all the materials you used in this. Genius to wrap the lights in the grapevine. I sincerely hope the homeowner loves and cherishes it! Gorgeous work!!!

  5. Does the weather not damage or crack the pots?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Barbara, the pots are made from fiberglass reinforced concrete that has an integral terra cotta color. They are not clay pots. best, Deborah

  6. Alison Wilson says

    Dear Deborah:
    As usual a magnificent garland with complimentary containers. I have 2 clients who want Christmas but in January, that has to be removed and replaced with non-holiday decor. Any suggestions? To that end, the picks with the whitish pompoms, are they artificial? So many available items do not last until March, these must.
    I thank-you in advance for your consideration,
    A. Wilson

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Allison, all of our faux materials do very well outdoors in the winter. If you are looking for a longevity guarantee, choose something all hard plastic. And in white or other pale color so fading is not an issue. best, Deborah

  7. Carol Johnson says

    Absolutely gorgeous! How do you attach something like this to the building to assure it will with-stand the outdoor elements and still be up thru out the season?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Carol, see my reply to Cici below. The very first time around, we installed screws in the wall, and we attach the garland with concrete wire. best, Deborah

  8. This is extraordinary, I don’t think I have ever seen anything quite like it. It truly is a masterpiece!

  9. margaret k staib says

    Your work is such an inspiration to me. It is so beautiful. You can tell your staff puts as much love into the work as you do your business. Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Margaret, thank you for your letter. They are a great group-loads of talent, patience and willingness to work. I am lucky in this regard. best, Deborah

  10. Gloria Damoff says

    Absolutely stunning! Love the look of the holiday Urns and Front entrance surround.

  11. Stunning work! May I ask how you attach it to the wall?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cici, years ago we set screws every so often in the mortar between the bricks. They are 18″ apart or so. Concrete wire is wound around each screw, and then around the garland. best, Deborah

  12. ursula Schmelcher says

    Oh wow, that is just gorgeous.

  13. amazing!

  14. Jaw dropping spectacular! Truly a labour of love !

  15. I envy Natasha, to be apprenticed and appreciated by such a master.

  16. Linda Gilliem says

    This is magnificent, I have always loved shopping @ Detroit Garden Works & now I am learning so much from behind the scenes. We now live in Holland so your Dirt Simple keeps me inspired! Thank you for taking the time to share so much with us!
    Just a question regarding the garland, what holds it up! L.G.

  17. Deborah, this garland is beautiful in every aspect! Love the color of the pinecones. You have very talented designers. Bravo, Natasha!
    Anne

  18. Silvia Weber says

    Very lovely work. Fortunate homeowner, indeed.
    Merry Christmas!

  19. Gorgeous!

  20. Fabulous. I decorate mailboxes with fresh greens and handmade bows. This is gorgeous. Where can I buy wholesale fresh garland ?

  21. Stunning.
    Just stunning.

  22. I just love reading your blog posts. I long for snow and season changes, especially this time of year, as I live in Florida. Your work and your staffs work is just beautiful and I love this garland. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

  23. ELVERA HOWARD says

    Deborah,
    Another labor of love that is amazingly beautiful! Your unique techniques and mechanics are simply astonishing to me.Love all the work you do for every season but I must say your holiday decor is always so inspiring to see.
    Are the green pine cones real or fake? If real, what kind are they and where can I purchase them? I live in Massachusetts, are they something that you carry in your shop?
    Thank you and hope you enjoy your holidays ahead!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Elvera, the green pine cones are real, and come on a rope garland of their own.I cut the cone garland apart for this project. Jackie@detroitgardenworks can help you with this. best, Deborah

  24. simply stunning!

  25. Simply gorgeous! A garland is the true finishing touch. As always, beautiful work!

  26. Wowzer! That’s spectacular!

  27. Love, love, love.

  28. Oh my! How absolutely GORGEOUS!!!

  29. Just stunning.

  30. Joni W. Holinger says

    I want to be rich when I grow up.
    And hire you.

  31. Michaele Anderson says

    How gloriously festive…kudos to Natasha and your team.

  32. Beautiful!

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