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December is a wonderful time of year in a southern garden.

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We can still get warm days, but mornings are seasonally chilly. The cooler air seems to make the berries in the garden more pronounced which makes them perfect for winter wreaths.

The background form for a wreath can be purchased, but if you have a wisteria or grape vine on the property then these make excellent natural bases. To start, take five or six long pieces of vine (about four feet long). Twist the stems slightly and bring the ends together to make a circle. The ends can be wired together, or tucked securely into the ring form. The basic ring form should be about two inches deep when placed on the table.

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Next you add the greenery. The background material comes from various evergreens and conifers. Pick trees that have long flexible branches, such as cypress, arborvitae or southern pines. For a 24- inch diameter wreath, you will need about one garbage bag of fresh clipped greenery. If you do not have sufficient greenery in your garden, try the local Christmas tree farm or nursery where trees are sold. They usually have lots of spare trimmings from the bottom of trees.

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Take a group (four or five stems) of green clippings and wire them together at the base end. Place the clippings onto the background form and attach by wiring the base securely to the ring. Take a second group of clippings that are similar in size to the first and wire together. Place this group with the needle or green end covering the wired base of group one. Wire this second group onto the base in the same way as the first group. Repeat these steps, offsetting each group of clipping as it is placed on the ring, and always working in the same direction. Eventually you will have a ring of green. Place the final group of clippings by tucking the base end under the free end of the initial group.

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Decorating the ring is the fun part and can be done in many different ways. Holly, nandina, callicarpa and cedar all have colored berries that can be used. Boxwood, blue spruce and photinia have interesting and colorful leaves that make attractive contrasts to the background material. Be creative as you decorate with these elements!

Finish the wreath with a bow made from coordinating ribbon, and the wreath is ready to hang on your door.

Once you have made one wreath, you will be able to make them quickly for gifts as well as your home.

Kate is a gardener, a garden writer and a garden educator living in Atlanta, Georgia. She has written for national magazines and local newspapers, plus hosts a weekly radio show. You can visit here website at www.katecopsey.com, her blog at www.katesgardenjournal.com.


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