Long-time Garden Photo of the Day contributor Cherry Ong may be the poster gardener for the spirit of the season. It has become a tradition for Cherry to make wreaths and swags for friends and family out of materials she gathers from the surrounding landscape. She then travels around handing them out like a nature-inspired Santa Claus in the weeks before the holidays.
Garden at a glance
Size: 500 square feet in both the front and back of the property
Location: Richmond, British
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; sandy soil, amended yearly with compost
Age of the garden: 13 years
While she doesn’t begin construction on the decorations until late November, Cherry is thinking about how to spread cheer all year long. In summer, she delivers cut-flower bouquets, and before her succulents die off in fall, she makes succulent pumpkins and hands those out to coworkers, family members, and friends. At holiday time this effort is directed into making winter wreaths and swags, sometimes up to 10 or 12 of each type of decoration.
Cherry has built the wreath bases out of grapevine before, making both circular and square shapes, but now she mostly purchases metal bases and reuses them year after year. Some of Cherry’s favorite evergreen branches for wreath- and swag-making include Forever Goldy® arborvitae (Thuja plicata ‘4EVER’, Zones 5–8), variegated boxwood (Buxus sempervirens ‘Variegata’, Zones 6–8), Scallywag™ holly (Ilex× meserveae ‘Monnieves’, Zones 5–9), ‘Goshiki’ osmanthus (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, Zones 6–9), Scarletta® leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Zeblid’, Zones 5–8), and ‘Elegans’ Japanese cedar (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Elegans’, Zones 5–8).
Because she prefers naturalistic-looking decor, sourcing items has turned into a yearlong treasure hunt. Aside from the gleanings she gets from her own garden, Cherry collects items she stumbles upon during her walks or bike rides throughout the seasons. These include pine cones, colorful branches, dried berries and leaves, and even antlers to add color and textural interest to her creations. “I collect pine cones, put them in a bag, bring them home, and clean them up. So I have a bin full of them now—all different types,” she says. Cherry will sometimes purchase other items to decorate, including cinnamon sticks, dried orange slices (which she cautions have a short life span unless you live in a very cold climate), and seeded eucalyptus.
A transplant to British Columbia, Cherry keeps an eye out on local gardens and yards for inspiration. “I always notice gardens everywhere and think, ‘There are pine cones good for collecting.’ I’m always looking,” she says. The result is a unique and thoughtful gift for friends and family. One of the nice things for Cherry about the wreaths and swags is the ease of disposal. “Almost everything goes to the compost bin,” she explains. “A few pine cones and cinnamon sticks don’t get composted, but other than that, it’s all evergreens. People give the wreath bases back, and I get to do them again next year.”
Festive Wreath Recipes
Festive Swag Recipes
Festive Container Design
—Christine Alexander is the digital content manager for Fine Gardening.
Get our latest tips, how-to articles, and instructional videos sent to your inbox.