Making an Herbal Wreath From Gathered and Foraged Plants, Part 1

feverfew and artemisia wreath

Fresh feverfew and Sliver Queen artemisia wreath before drying.

One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of herbs is with an herbal wreath or arrangement of dried herbs. Making a wreath is wonderfully creative and lots of fun. This blog post gives instructions and suggestions for making a wreath with herbs and flowers to hang on a wall, a door, or use as a centerpiece.

There are a few materials and supplies that you need to gather before you start your wreath, and a few decisions to make.

Types of Wreaths

dock seed stalk wreath

Dock seed stalk wreath.

There are several kinds of herbal wreaths. Wreaths made with fresh herbs and then dried, wreaths made with already dried herbs, wreaths made a combination of both. Wreaths made with just one herb, such as a sage or chive blossom wreath, or wreaths made only with herbs, or wreaths made with flowers and herbs, or wreaths made with all flowers. Also, wreaths made specifically with culinary herbs to be used for seasoning in the kitchen.

There are various ways to make wreaths, from wiring herbs onto a base, to gluing them on, to poking them into the spaces of a vine wreath base or a styrofoam base. The instructions I am giving you are my way of making a wreath, which is wiring the herbs onto a vine base, using fresh herbs or a combination of fresh and dried herbs and flowers.

Gathering Your Supplies

Supplies you need:

  • Wreath base
  • Herbs and/or flowers—fresh, dried, or combo
  • Wreath wire
  • Scissors (that you can cut thin wire with) and/or wire cutters

Wreath base: Get one made from vines, usually grapevine, or other vines that you have collected yourself and fashioned into a wreath shape.

Wreath-making wire: This comes in a couple of different gauges, I find the thinner wire easy to handle, but I have small hands, and you might find the thicker wire easier to handle. It also comes in silver or green, and I don’t have a preference, since I try to make the sure the wire doesn’t show anyway.

Scissors and/or wire cutters: Use scissors you don’t mind messing up, because you can cut the wire with them. Conversely, for the most part you can cut plant materials with wire-cutters also, so either will do. I usually use a pair of craft scissors or plant scissors.

Design for Your Wreath (How You Want It to Look)

artemisia, cornflower, black-eyed susan wreath

Silver Queen artemisia, Queen Anne’s lace, black-eyed susan, and cornflower wreath.

You may not be thinking “design” when it comes to making a wreath, and I don’t usually think in those terms, but when you are gathering your plant materials and deciding what colors and textures to put together, you are actually in design mode. Even a decision to only use one herb is a design decision.

When you are designing your wreath, or figuring out what you want it to look like, there are a few things to consider:

  • Size: an estimate of the finished size, since it will be bigger than the base
  • What herb or herbs and/or flowers you want to use; single herb, multi-herb, etc.
  • Use fresh, dry, or combo of the two?
  • Colors and arrangement of colors
  • Is there a focal point for the wreath, and if so, top or bottom?

Now you want to actually plan your design and start putting your herbs together. Think about repetition and what colors and textures you want repeated and in what order and how often.

Making Your Herb Bunches

For your bunches you can either use fresh herbs, dried herbs, or a combination of both.

To begin the process of getting plant material onto the wreath base, start with making bunches of herbs that will be attached to the wreath base with a continuous piece of wreath wire. (To have an adequate length of wire that is easy to manipulate, wind several yards of wire onto a small piece of cardboard piece or popsicle stick. It will be easy to maneuver into small spaces of your wreath.)

To make an herb bunch, take several stems of herb and/or flowers and group them together. Wind a short piece of wire around the stems near the bottom of the bunch to hold them together. This will make it much easier to hold in place as you are wiring it onto the base. As you become more adept at the process you can choose to skip this step, but don’t at the beginning, you will have a much easier time!

Don’t make the bunch too thick, nor longer than about 4 to 5 inches or so, unless you have a very big wreath base. Too thick or long a bunch makes for an unwieldy, awkward-looking wreath. Make sure the bunches are approximately the same size for a prettier, more consistent look.

You can make all your bunches at once and then wire them onto your base, or you can make a few bunches at a time and attach them as you go.

Putting It All Together

Think about where on the wreath base you will start and end. I like to start somewhere in the middle of the left side, but that’s just my personal preference.

first 2 bunches of herbs on grapevine wreath base

The first 2 bunches of herbs on grapevine wreath base.

I don’t recommend starting at the very top or bottom. Getting the ends tucked in under the first bunch can be awkward, and you don’t want the join to be in a conspicuous spot. If your focal point is the top or the bottom, you definitely don’t want to end at your focal point.

Start with putting 2 bunches together side by side on the wreath base, and wind wire tightly around them and the base to attach.

third bunch of herbs on wreath base

The third bunch of herbs on outside of wreath base.

Now put another bunch on the outer side of the wreath, down slightly from first bunches, covering the wire on the first set of bunches. Attach with the wire.

Now put another bunch on the inner side of the wreath base, down slightly from the first 2 bunches, covering the wire already on the base. Continue with another bunch on the outside of the wreath base, then the inside, and so on. You are overlapping the top of one bunch over the bottom of the previous bunch and thus gradually moving around the curve of the wreath base.

fourth bunch of herbs on wreath base

The fourth bunch of herbs on the inside of wreath base.

You want to be covering the wire with your bunches, as this makes the finished wreath much more attractive. If you have a lot of wire showing you can cover it with bunches as explained in supplementing your wreath.

When you finish your wreath, you will want to make sure it has a loop for hanging at the top. You can make a loop with wreath wire, other wire, a pipe cleaner, or even a paper clip.

The Finished Wreath

If you have any fresh plant material, in other words not dried, you MUST leave the wreath lying flat until everything is dried, or the fresh plant material will droop and it will look awful.

How long will it take for your wreath to dry? That depends on how much material is in your wreath and how damp or dry the weather is. You can test it periodically to make sure it’s dry.

Once your wreath is dry, or finished, you can hang it where you like. Make sure you don’t hang it in the sun or over a heat source, like a radiator, or it won’t last very long.

How long will your wreath last? Depends on the plants and where you have it and what you consider is over the hill. Some wreaths can last for years, others will be pretty for just a year or two.

Why Use Fresh vs. Dry Herbs and Flowers?

There are reasons to sometimes use fresh plant material or dried plant material.

One of the big reasons to use fresh plant material is that it is much easier to shape and it won’t break.

There are some herbs that I think it’s essential to use fresh, such as sage. Sage is very fragile when it’s dry, and will break and shatter easily. It will not fit prettily onto a round base and will be rather awkward. Often the leafy herbs I use as the foundation in a wreath are fresh—usually artemisias such as mugwort or silver queen artemisia ( a garden plant related to sage brush) or garden sage.

On the other hand, using dried flowers allows you to have flowers from a number of different seasons. You can dry chive blossoms that bloom in spring and combine them with zinnias that bloom in fall. Or daisies and goldenrod, and so on.

One thing to keep in mind is that plant material shrinks as it dries, and so your flowers may not be as showy when dry and your wreath may not be as full as when made it.

If you find your wreath doesn’t look as full or colorful as you like, you can easily fix it by supplementing the plant material.

Supplementing the Wreath

plant bunch pick

The plant bunch with twisted wire pick for inserting into wreath.

Sometimes you may want to add plant matter or flowers to a finished wreath, for added color or interest, or to fill out a wreath that looks too skimpy.

You can do this by making bunches that you wire at the ends with a bit of twisted wire poking out to poke into the wreath. Sometimes you can just push in a piece of herb or flower if it has a strong enough stem.

Where to Get Supplies, Including Plant Material

You can get wreath-making wire at Michael’s or A.C. Moore, or other craft shops. You can get wreath bases at these stores.

You can also get some dried plants and flowers at these stores.

If you pick or buy flowers and herbs it is easy to dry them.

Some places to find your plant material: your garden or yard or a friend’s, wild-crafting (picking them where they grow wild), farmers markets, florists, bouquets and centerpieces that are left over after an event.

I ‘m sorry I don’t have online sources for you, so if you want to order supplies of dried plants on-line, you will have to do the research.

More Information Next Time

In my next blog post I will give a list of plants and flowers to use in wreaths and several methods of drying them for use in wreaths

Have You Made a Wreath?

If you have made a wreath, please post a picture to show us what it looks like!

All photos and wreaths by Iris Weaver.