Home & Garden

Pick a good base then reinvent your wreath every Christmas

I love a gorgeous garland. I adore shimmering, showy Christmas tree ornaments. And I've never met a set of holiday dishes that hasn't set my heart on fire.

But if I had to pick the single-most-amazing holiday decorating tool that you can use to transform your home for the season, my vote would go to the humble, versatile, never-fail wreath. This timeless classic is a must-have, whether you want to add just a spark of holiday spirit to your home or make it a showstopping spectacle. How could you not love a gorgeous gem that's so low-maintenance that it's easy to store, won't break, is a snap to put up and just as easy to take down?

In my new holiday decorating book, "Nell Hill's O Christmas Tree," I share some of the tips and tricks the Nell Hill's designers and I use to make our holiday wreaths look like a million dollars. Here are just a few.

Start with great greens: If you're like me, you've switched from fresh greens to faux because they are so easy to work with. But the key to making fakes look great is to only use ones that look so real you're afraid you're going to poke your finger on the pine needles. If the base of your wreath looks cheap or cheesy, no amount of adornment will save it. Instead, invest in a few wreaths made of wonderful lifelike greens like pine boughs, boxwoods or even magnolia leaves.

Arm yourself with the right tools: Put together a tool kit of craft supplies you can use when dressing up a plain wreath base. We like using fishing line or 26-gauge green wire to secure adornments to the wreath base because they are virtually invisible to the eye. The wire is essential if you want to hold ornaments fast, secure hanging votive candles or keep wisps of ribbon in place. In addition, add a hot-glue gun to your kit so you are prepared to make necessary repairs to the wreath, such as securing a pinecone or sprig of berries knocked off by the wind or a pet.

Freshen old wreaths: Because wreath bases are so durable, you can use them year after year. But you'll want to keep them fresh by reinventing them every season. Try giving your wreath a natural look by adorning it with fresh or dried flowers, fruit or tufts of moss. Or brighten it with colorful tree ornaments. When the wreath begins to look a little worse for wear, you can lengthen its life span by sparking it up with a garland. Just loop the new garland around the wreath, and it will be fuller and fresher and ready to dazzle guests for another year.

Don't skimp on bows: Like peanut butter and jelly, wreaths and bows were made to go together. A carefully chosen bow will make even a lackluster wreath look amazing. This year, I really love ribbons made of rustic burlap, black-and-white checks and plaids, wool plaids and wilting satin. Get creative when using ribbon on your wreaths. Make an elaborate bow and hang it on a ceiling hook. Then descend a loop about a foot below the bow and hang the wreath from that. Let the loose ends of the bow hang down either to the top of the wreath or to the wreath's midpoint, then cut the ends in a "V" shape or at an angle.

Try something different: If you're in the market for a new wreath or two this season, you're going to be amazed by the huge array of traditional and truly unusual wreaths available. Some of our best-selling wreaths at Nell Hill's are anything but conventional, like square wreaths made of boxwoods or wreaths festooned with green apples. One of my favorites features a base of spiky pine needles dotted with silver or multicolored glass balls.