During my daily autumn dog walks, I pick up small mountain pine cones and blue spruce cones that litter the edge of a neighbor's yard. I pinch off some mountain ash berries growing along the sidewalk median in front of a foreclosed house. I snip off spikes of grasses that have gone wild along a road edge. And the tips of western juniper branches adorned with bluish berries are fair game in the undeveloped lot. Of course, some of these items come from my own yard.

If I need to supplement my wreaths with greens from the local National Forest, I visit one of the District Offices and get a greenery or bough permit. The inexpensive permit allows me to load up on greens, and may include other plants like sagebrush or Manzanita. Willow or dogwood twigs may also end up in these wreaths, as well as holly leaves from a friend's mother's yard. Basically, everything is fair game, and this doesn't include ornaments, bows, ribbon, dried fruit, or other holiday items.

ImageSo I gather up my supplies and pick out a wreath ring. But here too I run into choices. Should I use a metal ring from the craft store or twist some grape vines or hop stems into a circle? Maybe a straw wreath base; what I really need to do is make a decision. So I settle for a metal double ring and florist wire. The double ring provides a wide base to hold the greens, and the florist wire is used to wrap the greens to the ring.

Sometimes I wrap individual bundles of greens and then wire these to the ring like placing shingles on a roof. Other times, I lay the greens on the ring and then wrap them with the wire directly to the ring. Some of the other items may be included at this time or added later by sliding them into place amongst the greens.

ImageAs I work my way around the ring, I look for symmetry and evenness. My wife is better at creating a wreath with asymmetry than I am, so I work at keeping things even. Not that they all end up looking smooth and round. I like an alternating pattern that repeats every two or three bunches and highlights a certain type of greenery like cedar or pine each "shingle."

When I'm done with the initial base of greens, I then go back and add in pre-wired cones and berries and other objects. A hot glue gun is also helpful to attach fragile or tiny items to the greens. Lastly a bow or some ribbon woven around the wreath provides the final touch.

The beauty of creating a wreath is several fold. Firstly, there are no rules to what can be used or how it gets attached to a base. Secondly, personal preference rules when it comes to symmetry or asymmetry. And lastly, the final wreath is a product from our garden, our neighborhood, our region and may adorn a friend's or co-worker's front door throughout the winter. And sometimes, they even recognize the greens or cones from their own yard.