DIY Autumnal Garland

The year after I moved away for college, my parents moved about 2.5 hours north of Phoenix. The small town that they moved to was the place we had visited every summer and Thanksgiving for most of my childhood. It was where my dad grew up and where my grandparents had always lived. It's a special little place in the high desert, and the drive up there from the Valley takes you through all sorts of beautiful Arizona scenery.

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Michael had to work over Veteran's Day weekend (boo) so I decided to take the girls up to visit my parents. The weather was perfect and the sky was that perfect color of winter blue. I've always loved the desert, but I think I can appreciate its unique beauty even more after living on the east coast for a decade.

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On the way back home, the girls and I decided to collect samples of some of the plants and foliage along the road back down to Phoenix. We found everything from sage to juniper (with pretty little blue berries!) to gorgeous maple leaves in every shade from red to yellow.

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I was surprised that we were able to collect something from every color in the rainbow in less than two hours of driving. How could I resist making an ombre garland with all those pretty colors?

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Here's the easy how-to:

I've made a few wreaths with evergreen boughs before and the concept is very similar for a garland. It couldn't be simpler or much less expensive (it was actually free for me since I had the floral supplies on hand already).

To make a similar garland, you'll need a good collection of leaves and plants. Try to find plants that are either already pretty dry or that will dry out well (flowers usually do not dry that well). It can get a little messy, so try organizing everything on a canvas drop cloth to make clean up easy.

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Here are a few things I used:

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You'll for sure want two thicknesses of floral wire, wire clippers and floral shears. The Dried Material Preservative (available at craft stores) is optional, but is actually pretty helpful for keeping the brittle, dry plants more soft and pliable. And actually I've been giving my garland a light misting with this stuff every few days, just to give it a little more life.

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So, I would say the trickiest part here is figuring out the flow of the garland. I wanted mine to have a gradient or ombre look, so it took a little planning to get the right plants with the right color in the right area of the swag so there was a good balance to the thing. I knew I wanted the juniper berries in the middle though, and the red leaves in the corners and the white grass at the ends, so then it was just a matter of filling in the rest.

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Once all your foliage is ready to go, and you have a good sense of how long your finished garland will be (mine is about 15 ft long), measure out three equal lengths of thick floral wire and then braid the wire. It doesn't have to be perfect at all - and don't stress if the wires get a little tangled. The idea is you want a thicker but still pliable surface to tie the flowers to.

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I used two of those stick-on hooks (in black, to match my fireplace) in the corners of the mantle. I looped the braided wire around the hook and sort of pinched it to help the wire stay put. If you want the finished garland to swoop down a little in the center, let the wire sag just a bit here, but not too much. The weight of the foliage will pull it down several more inches.

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Then it's time to start layering on the foliage. The most important part is to start at the bottom and layer on top of each little bundle and work your way to the center.

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To make each bundle, you just layer the foliage in your hand in a pretty way so that there are no gaps or blunt lines. And then you hold the bundle up against the braided wire and wrap it three or four times with the smaller gauge floral wire, just around the base of the bundle, mostly. For the lighter foliage, I used gold wire and for the greenery I pulled out my dark green wire.

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Once I finished layering on one half of the garland, I started at the bottom of the other side, trying to copy the layout exactly. When both halves are finished, you should be left with two mirror-image symmetrical swags. I think it would look a little funny if you don't have a center piece that is sort of bunched up and less layered looking. So I made a little end cap for the very center out of more juniper bush. I used floral tape to sort of bunch and fan out some shorter pieces, and then attached it with wire just like with the other bundles.

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Also, and I didn't end up needing to do so here, but if you've lost a lot of leaves in the process, you can strategically hot glue a few leaves back on to help fill things out a bit.

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Finally, you can sort of bend and tug at the wire to get it to look right and you're done! It's easy and fun and only takes an hour or two. My garland has been up for about a week and a half and I think it'll still look great for Thanksgiving next week! The only plant that's shed at all is the soft gray sagebrush in the middle, and it's not been bad at all.

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I'm already dreaming of ideas for a winter palette of all blues and greens and grays for my next garland. Maybe a double swag!

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28 comments:

Julie said...

Love the beautiful garland! It always seems more special when you collect the items yourself and good to share that experience with the kids:)

Rebekah Hamon said...

truly beautiful! Thanks for explaining it so clearly. I'm looking forward to making a winter garland with this help!

Michelle Panting said...

This looks gorgeous. I think I'm going to use some of these ideas to make a wreath for my door this Christmas.

http://www.fullbellywornsoles.com

Kimber McGallagher said...

Stunning, Jenny, as always!

Amanda said...

This is absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for sharing, you make everything seem so easy!!

Full House said...

Pictures do not do your garland justice. It is so striking. You did such a wonderful job.

Marisa said...

Beautiful garland! My husband and I lived in Prescott for the first year of our marriage. I still have fond memories. As a Pacific NW native, my fondest memory was discovering the differences in foliage between Phoenix, Prescott, and Flagstaff. Northern AZ is beautiful!

Sam @ The Junk House said...

I live in Phoenix now, but I grew up in Prescott and went to college in Flagstaff, so Northern AZ has a special place in my heart. I'm actually driving up to Prescott tomorrow to visit my parents. If Christmas wasn't so close I'd pick up some foliage on my trip and make my own garland. Yours turned out so beautiful!

Sarah said...

I loved the link about your grandpa!
So sweet. Sounds like an amazing man.

sloandefyinggravity said...

Your garland is beautiful and the tutorial seems easy enough. One question- do you use your fireplace? I think I would be scared to used it with all of those dried plants around it.

Sara said...

This is amazing, and so beautiful!

Emily Davenport said...

Gorgeous!!! www.davenportdiy.com

Erin | Holtwood Hipster said...

I imagine your children will have so many wonderful memories of all the projects you did together in the house. How cool that you made the drive home fun, having them help you collect the materials. The finished garland hanging on the fireplace undoubtedly means something even more special to them now. I always learn from you Jenny...

Laurie Drew said...

I grew up in Arizona and I miss those skies! They really are amazing. I miss the monsoons too!

The garland is gorgeous! Really striking against the black too.

Tiffany P Pelletier said...

The nautical centerpiece is beautiful and different! love it!

nina | itsazooatthezoo.blogspot.com said...

This looks like something I can do. Garlands always look so beautiful, but complicated to make. Thank you for the step by step. I'll probably make mine shorter so my 2 crazy boys can't reach it and tear it up!

Rachael said...

This is one of the prettiest garlands I've ever seen. I really love everything about it!

jpluslbaum said...

My hometown! Garland is awesome. I'm inspired to go hunt down some of that high desert beauty....maybe a desert Christmas garland? I love your blog and tell your Mom that every time I see her. Seriously. My husband and I are on house renovation #8 - I can so appreciate all you are doing right now. I am loving this Arizona renovation. You're a genius. Keep those posts comin!

jpluslbaum said...

My hometown! Garland is awesome. I'm inspired to go hunt down some of that high desert beauty....maybe a desert Christmas garland? I love your blog and tell your Mom that every time I see her. Seriously. My husband and I are on house renovation #8 - I can so appreciate all you are doing right now. I am loving this Arizona renovation. You're a genius. Keep those posts comin!

Lisette said...

What a beautiful memory for your weekend trip!

Brett and Sydnie said...

That is absolutely beautiful, but I've got to ask about bugs. Does that spray kill them? Or do you leave the plants outside for a few days to let the creepy crawlies get out?

dervla kelly said...

what a lovely idea to make it ombre, and now it has a sweet memory for you and the girls.

Ashley said...

You blow my mind all the time. This is incredible! Do those sticky hooks come off without ruining the paint, or will you leave them up?

Vicente said...

Beautiful garland. But those sconces! Where are they from?

willowinteriors said...

absolutely beautiful garland!
And the gossip girl sconces look great with the round bulbs and against the black! Happy Thanksgiving!

Laney Reusch / Reusch Interior Design said...

Gorgeous! Love this!

Ali Morrow said...

I just spent the last month reading your entire blog from start to finish and I am happy (or should I be embarrassed that it took me so long?) to say I FINALLY finished! I am a mom of 4 boys under the age of 5 and I thought they had zapped me of all my energy, but you have seriously given me a new creative energy that I thought was long gone! You have inspired more projects than I could possibly finish in a year and I now have my own "little green notebook" of project ideas (except my notebook is not green nor is it stylish-ha!). And although, my husband might not thank you for all the the project ideas:), I truly thank you for taking the time to share all of your creativity, insights and knowledge with the rest of us. Everything you do, including this garland, is amazing!

Chelsea Strong said...

So beautiful. I live up in Northern California, and forget that Arizona isn't a desolate sandy place. Do you have cats? Because my farm-raised tom cat would have a heryday with it!

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