Wreath making - WOWnet 2017.jpg

Constructing a wreath from a variety of evergreen boughs (both native and non-native).

It is the time of year where holiday cheer starts spreading through our communities and homes. To me, there is nothing quite so inviting as a wreath hanging from a door, greeting friends and family as they gather to celebrate the season. In preparation of this delightful decoration, I love to take the time each year to comb my yard for interesting boughs (branches/leaves) to use to make my very own wreath.

There are many native evergreen conifers that you can harvest boughs from to make wreaths. Popular ones include Douglas fir, western red cedar, incense-cedar, grand fir, and other true firs. While you’re in the woods harvesting boughs, look for cones, berries, and evergreen hardwood foliage (like madrone and myrtle) to incorporate into your wreath to add some flair.

It is best to harvest boughs after they’ve been exposed to a hard frost, which allows the tree to be in a dormant state, thus reducing stress to the tree. This also allows the needles to remain on the cut branch through the holiday season. You can start harvesting boughs as early as October and continue through December.

When cutting boughs, be aware of where you make the cut. In order to encourage regeneration, boughs should be cut 3 to 4 feet from the tip of a branch (above the node). If you are achieving multiple woodland management goals while cutting boughs, such as pruning or harvesting your trees, then you can cut the entire branch off the tree. Remember to use proper pruning techniques by avoiding leaving stubs, avoiding any flush cuts, and cutting just outside the branch collar to promote a faster healing process.

In general, avoid cutting more than 25% of the live crown of any tree that you harvest boughs from (that will remain standing). This will help prevent stress on the tree. Harvest boughs using a rotation process through your woodland, so you don’t harvest from the same area each year. Aim to reenter an area every 3-5 years.

Once you’ve harvested your boughs, store them in loose piles in a refrigerator at 37 degrees or outside under a cool, dense tree canopy with good air flow. Keep boughs moist with periodic misting or sprinkling with water, but be careful not to do this in excess as it can promote mold growth.

If you find that collecting boughs is your new passion, then you may be interested in marketing some of your product to local buyers. You may find that harvesting boughs goes hand in hand with some other forest management activities, such as pruning, pre-commercial thinning, or commercial thinning. Think about how you can incorporate multiple goals and revenue streams into one operation.

The ideal age for bough trees is 10-30 years old, however you can certainly obtain quality boughs from older and younger trees as well. Before you get out there and start cutting boughs, talk with local bough buyers to see if there is interest in your boughs. You want to make sure you have a market before you put in all the work. Buyers might include retail florists, nurseries, seasonal wreath-makers, and intermediary buyers. Talk with the buyer to understand exactly what they want — including species, size, cut, color, and other preferences. Contact them well before the holiday season begins, such as late summer/early fall. Prices will vary depending on who you sell to, so do your homework before you start harvesting boughs on your woodland.

If you want to try your hand at creating a beautiful wreath from the comfort of your own home, join us for a virtual wreath-making workshop. On Thursday, Dec. 2, join the OSU Extension Service and Women Owning Woodlands Network to learn how to make wreaths and garlands at the annual wreath-making workshop from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. This workshop is fun for all people of all ages and is offered through Zoom this year.

At this hands-on workshop, you will create (virtually) alongside friends and neighbors in our community, as well as the two instructors, as we show you step-by-step how to make wreaths and garlands. You’ll learn how to identify, harvest, and use native forest materials to make wreaths and garlands, just in time for the holidays. Before class, walk your property and collect greenery, cones, and berries to bring to the workshop. More information regarding what to bring will be provided upon registering for the class.

Register online at https://beav.es/UkF. Questions? Call (541) 672-4461.

Alicia Christiansen is the Forestry Extension Agent for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Alicia can be reached by email at Alicia.Christiansen@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461.

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