The Garland

evergreen holiday garlandA handmade holiday garland is a labor of love. There is so much involved. Expect to need lots of zip ties, and nimble fingers.  I do buy my mixed fir garlands already made up, at my local farmers market. But that length of cut boughs all strung together with twine is just the beginning.  We routinely add our own cut branches to the existing garland, so it is very thick. Warm for winter is a given. For this 50 foot garland, we split the garland in two, flipped one side, and reattached the two pieces at the center. This makes the direction of the greens face down equally on both sides.  I am not a fan of a garland whose branches go up one side, and down the other. That roller coaster approach disturbs the visual rhythm.  All up facing branches, or all down facing. Decide which look you like. A garland is too much work not to take seriously.

December 10, 2015 007Lots of our garlands are wrapped with grapevine. A 50 foot evergreen garland will take a pair of 35 foot rolls of grapevine.  Yes, we roll the vines around the garland in opposite directions, from the center. Grapevine is incredibly strong and resilient. We zip tie the loosely wired evergreen garland to that grapevine every few feet.  This creates a garland that is very strong, no matter how many pine cones you pile on. That grapevine is incredibly strong. It is a great vehicle for a string of lights. One 72 foot strand of 1000 warm LED garland lights will completely illuminate a 50 foot garland in one fell swoop. We attach the lights to the grapevine.  The grapevine stands proud of the evergreen garland.  The light encircling the evergreen garland will illuminate it.

20151209_120833A garland needs to be properly scaled to whatever architectural feature it means to celebrate. Big garlands are incredibly heavy, and require a number of people armed with ladders to install.  It is my good fortune that Buck sends his fabricators from Branch over to me for several weeks, during garland hanging season. Their fabricating jobs at Branch has given them a good idea of what it takes to accomplish a solid construction and a great finish. Once they hang a garland, they rearrange every element we have attached to it in a pleasing way.  Everything we wire on a garland is loosely wired, so we can rearrange once the garland is aloft. I can construct the most complicated work in the studio-those Branch men know how to get it up in the air, beautifully.

holiday garlandHanging a long and heavy garland may take four people. Yes, we do drill and set screws where we need to. A winter garland is a beautiful way to celebrate the winter season. It needs to stay in place the entire winter, through the snow and winds.  Do I leave garlands up all winter?  Oh yes.  A garland can tell a story about a garden, and a gardener. A thick garland adds a lot of warmth to a garden season which is dormant and cold.

DSC_6934A garland framing a doorway is welcoming and festive at this time of year. I would not do without a winter garland over my doorway at home. I often think about how any gesture in the garden is so much a response to a gardener’s relationship with nature. The garland framing my doorway tells all who enter that the garden welcomes them.

recent work (18)What I think about when I see this detail of a garland we install is about the relationships have been forged over the gardening season past. These materials reflect the taste of my client. Our good relationship makes it important to me to represent them as best I can. The winter is no gardeners favorite season, but there are lots of ways to celebrate and enjoy the off season. Warm and generous comes first.

holiday garlands 001We do all of the construction of our garlands in our garage. The approach to the work is such an important element of construction. We set all of our garlands on a string of cardboard boxes, at a height which is comfortable.  These artificial garlands to which we have added other elements will be installed indoors for the holidays have gotten a personal signature based on the taste of our client. Red, green, and white, she says. We are happy to oblige.

holiday garlands 004These bleached ponderosa pine cones are a major element, both in size, and in color. They are the organizing metaphor around which every other element – the sage green eucalyptus, the tallow berries, and the red berries – provides a supporting cast.

holiday garland (3)Those elements which get attached to a winter garland are wired together.  We decide in advance the frequency with which we attach them.  Typically, the spacing at the top is closer together than the spacing at the bottom.

DSC_6907At the top of this archway, every color and texture element essential to this garland is massed together. That density will fall off as the garland descends. I do not mean to imply any rule. This is a construction which I think looks good to my eye.  Every gardener needs to trust their own eye, and proceed accordingly.

holiday garland (1)Our construction in the shop is not so fancy.  The garlands get set up on a collection of cardboard boxes we reserve for this purpose.

holiday garland (2)The additions to the evergreens may have a number of elements.  I try to err on the warm and generous size and spacing.

IMG_7464holiday garland

DSC_6791winter garland

DSC_6911winter garland

Jan 6 2013 (16)Every year I install a garland on the shop of one type or another. Once the snow comes, our building looks snug and warm. The garlands over the windows are eyebrows of the garden sort. The best moment of any garland is what nature bestows in the way of winter weather. This is my idea of  great winter garland.  Yours might be entirely different. No matter your idea or construction, a winter garland is a way to warmly wreathe, and breathe, over the winter to come..


  1. Jeannine Eitel says

    I am in awe once again of the beauty of the designs you create! Stunning!

  2. Dear Deborah, like Jeannine say, STUNNING! Let me catch my breathe after looking at that garland.

  3. Brenda Marean says

    As always, breathtaking!

  4. Amazing works of art!

  5. Fabulous!! Every one of them!!

  6. Heather Burkhardt says

    Absolute eye candy. The one with purple eucalyptus sings to me. Very well done.

  7. Luxuriously lush and festive. Very nice.

  8. I so enjoy your blog posts! Your garlands are beautiful!

  9. Kaye Starnes says

    These are absolutely beautiful. Just one question. How does everyone protect their fingertips from splitting and bleeding – a common occurrence for me as soon as cold weather arrives? Have you found any gloves in particular that still allow for the necessary dexterity?

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Kaye, that’s one reason why we do the construction inside in the garage-it is so much easier on the hands. No gloves are necessary until we go to install. best, Deborah

  10. You are a force of Nature, Deborah!

  11. susan j konkel says

    Love the garlands…was wondering if it would help to buy those plastic “folding in the middle” tables. It would raise any job to waist height but, easily carried and put away. I think they are around $30.

  12. Love your posts, and how generous you are in sharing your process…Wishing you the very best in the year ahead
    : )

  13. Lovely. Makes one wish winter would stay a little longer….
    Do you ever sell the large long pinecones in the shop?

  14. The garland in our area is generally a string of green pine branches. Not very inspiring nor welcoming. Your garland is outstanding. So tasteful, decorative and welcoming. Really unlike any garland I have seen before. Thank you for sharing your process for designing garland. Your creativity, talent and generosity is greatly appreciated. All the best for the holidays – Susan.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, thanks for your letter. Garland can be spare, sumptuous,austere, or detailed. Lots of approaches are fine. I just like work that is carefully thought out and executed. My garlands by and large reflect the taste of my clients. What I do at home is different every year. But I like that big open winter wrap around my front door. best, Deborah

  15. I am always amazed by your talents & the talents of your employees! Lots of hard work & love goes into your arrangements. Wish I was closer to take classes from you. Where do you get your bleached pine cones? They are outstanding. Merry Christmas, Deborah!

  16. Very nicely done. Cool designs 🙂

  17. You’re always an inspiration, Deborah Silver. And looking at your gorgeous garland projects, it’s apparent that your clients, if not well-to-do, certainly live in remarkable residences. But what of those less than inspiring abodes with which the majority of us contend? Someday I hope you’ll show us what can be done with the average, less than stellar home. This is not a complaint, by the way.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Susan, you are on. I plan to take up this very topic in the near future. Stay tuned! All the best, Deborah

Leave a Comment