How to Make an Herb Wreath - Part 1
In the next few blogs, we'll be making herb wreaths with our fall herb harvest. This intro describes what you should be thinking about before you begin.
Almost all herb wreaths are constructed using a base. You can make the base yourself out of plywood, woven branches or wire. The easiest way, though, is to buy a readymade base. Wreath making is fraught with decisions and the choice of the best base is the first of many.
If you want part of the base to show in your decoration, choose a straw or a grapevine wreath. They are available through your local craft outlets in lots of different sizes. From a four inch ring that makes a nice candle base to a 16-inch behemoth that will grace your front entry, the purpose you plan for your wreath and the amount of material you have to work with will play a big role in the type of base you choose. If you plan on completely covering the base, you can use Styrofoam or wire instead of a material with an attractive, natural appearance.
I should note here that you can also use artificial pine boughs -- Christmas wreaths -- but I've never done it myself. If you do decide on this method, make sure you have good air flow because the resulting wreath will be pretty dense, and you want all the herbs to dry quickly and completely.
Hooks, Wire or Tape
To make a wreath, herbs are typically arranged in small bunches and then affixed to the base. The herbs are FRESH PICKED when they're arranged and then dry in place. Dried herbs are so fragile that they'll shatter if you try arranging them into any complex design, so using fresh herbs is important. If you've already harvested and dried your herbs this year, you can make decorative brooms or display them in an attractive basket instead -- leave the wreath for next time.
The fresh bunches of herbs (more on herb selection later) will be affixed to the base using hooks, wire or a type of floral sticky tape. The base you choose can have an impact on the method you use to affix your herbs. Although straw and Styrofoam wreath bases can use any of a number of "installation" methods, you'll have less flexibility with wire or grapevine bases. You want an anchoring method that's sturdy but easy to work with. If you plan on cooking with your dried herbs, you'll also need a food grade material -- not a wire that may rust.
If you plan on hanging your wreath on the wall, you'll need a hanger for the back. Again, the base will have a lot to do with the type of hanger you use, but it's always best to put one on the base before you start work. Your wreath will be less forgiving of being moved around and worked on after the herbs are in place.
Tools and Supplies
It'll be much easier to have a few tools and a work area ready before you begin. I recommend these basic items:
Newspaper - The process of making an herb wreath is the culmination of a season in your herb garden. It's really, really (really) fun, but it can get messy. Have newspaper or a tarp you can place on a flat, stable surface. Actually, you may want to do this outdoors on your deck or patio.
Wreath bases and anchors - Whatever setup you decide on, have your materials ready to go. Floral pins work well with Styrofoam and straw bases while wire and tape are effective on grapevine and wire wreath bases.
Chop sticks - These sticks can be very useful for getting errant herb stems into the configuration you want. They're also free when you order Chinese.
Scissors, clippers and wire cutters - You'll need to cut stems and may need to cut or bend wire. Review your bases and anchors to see what types of implements might be useful, and get them together before you start your project. I speak from experience. It's never fun having to go on a tool hunt in the middle of a project.
Rubber bands - As the herb bunches dry, the stems will shrink, becoming looser whatever anchor you choose. To help combat this, especially with herbs that have soft, moist stems, you can assemble bunches using rubber bands first. As the stems shrink, the bands will tighten up, requiring a little less post-completion fussing. This isn't strictly necessary, but it can be a helpful step. For the best results, use green colored rubber bands.
Ribbon and decorative elements - If you plan on making an herb wreath part of your home décor, you may want to apply a few finishing touches to it. Raffia ribbon or something more formal is always a nice touch. You can even add decorative picks in the form of birds, bees or butterflies.
If the wreath is planned for the kitchen and will be used throughout the winter (my favorite), consider affixing a small pair of decorative scissors to your wreath with an attractive ribbon. It's a dainty touch that's helpful when you want to snip some thyme in a hurry.
Check out the available options and have the geegaws ready.
I usually make about five wreaths at a time and like four to six inchers. I like straw and grapevine base materials too. Once the herbs are in place, the wreath will usually increase in diameter by three to six inches depending on how densely you pack the herbs. If you plan a wreath for a particular spot, keep this in mind.
I outline how to assemble an herb wreath in my post: How to Make an Herb Wreath - Putting it All Together