It’s time to make a holiday wreath at your local garden center

I know it seems way too early to be talking about holiday decorating but this is a really weird month in that Thanksgiving is so very late. Consequently, retailers are getting an earlier start bombarding us with Christmas commercials. And if you add in the fact that most of us are done with gardening anyway then you really can’t blame the local garden centers for shifting gears and trying to make a few more bucks before the end of the year.

November is when local garden centers turn their stores into Christmas wonderlands and shift gears from all things gardening to activities that can be done inside where it is warm and dry. It actually started last month with pumpkins and corn stalks and has moved to harvest and Thanksgiving themes and is now in full swing with Christmas.

Some garden centers like Wights in Lynnwood or Skagit Valley Gardens in Mt. Vernon get into it in a big way with theme trees and tons of decorating items. Others are more moderate in their commitment to the season and only do living and cut trees. But almost all of the garden centers do some kind of wreath making activity.

The wreaths that you can either buy or make at a local garden center are nothing like the cookie-cutter ones you will find at the grocery stores or mass merchants. While some of them may have started out as cookie-cutter versions, the creative employees of these independent businesses have embellished them with lots of locally collected greens, twigs and seed pods to make them very unique and individual.

If you choose to make your own wreath then fear not. Most of us have wreath machines and wire forms that make it so easy that you will amaze yourself with your creativity. With just a little instruction you will walk away with a wreath you can hang on your front door that will last way into February and impress all your friends and relatives.

While garden centers will buy in supplies of fir, juniper and cedar, most of the specialty greens that go into these custom wreaths are collected locally. Everything that we offer is found within a few miles of the nursery. I am sure it is the same for other nurseries as well. It is collected (that is to say begged, borrowed or stolen) from ditches, vacant lots, people’s yards (with permission of course or at least with forgiveness) or brought in from our employee’s gardens. We get the greens and they get a free, professional prune job.

Nurseries usually have several different options for making wreaths. You can choose between having the nursery supply everything to bringing in your own greens and simply renting the machine. Lots of our customers like to bring in a few items from their yards to personalize their wreath.

Wreath making is something that we as gardeners can do this time of year to stay connected with nature. It is an activity that lends itself well to being shared with a friend or family member or even as a group activity for your office or church. We’ve had groups come back year after year and you can just tell how much they enjoy the experience. They will bring cheese and crackers, fresh baked cookies and spiced cider, take pictures of each other’s creations and generally build fond memories. It’s just a warm and fuzzy thing to do this time of year and we are all blessed by the many nurseries that offer this service to their customers.

So, if you’ve never considered making your own wreath then perhaps this is the year to try it out. You’ll come away with much more than a decoration for your front door that will last all through the gloomy months of winter. You’ll gain a better appreciation for the bounty of the northwest and create a memory to look forward to this time next year.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville. You can reach him at 425-334-2002 or email at

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