We're going to take a traditional approach and assume you want to make a dried herb wreath from which you will harvest herbs later. Your best bet is to use a strong base on which you can wire bunches of herbs in place. Although you can use floral tape, it's not a good idea to contaminate your herbs with the tape adhesive, so that leaves metal pins, wire or picks (small sticks with wires attached to the end).
For our example, we're using wire cut to length. I like wire because you can buy rolls in a variety of colors and finishes, cut the wire long enough to secure the ends of your herbs, and then use the additional length of wire to attach herb bunches to the form or backing. Here's how:
Making an Herb Wreath
We'll be using a six inch grapevine wreath form and 24 gauge wire. To make the job easier, we'll be working on a large trash bag outdoors and have garden shears, wire cutters and scissors standing by.
A Simple Herb Wreath Assembly Method
One of the most efficient ways to assemble an herb wreath is to make separate bunches of herbs and then add them to the backing (form) one at a time. As each subsequent bunch is added, it covers the wired end of the bunch before it. When you get to the last section (opening) in the circle, prepare a bunch of herbs that has stems facing in both directions. Tie it in the middle instead of at the end, and work to conceal the wire with greenery. When you put the final bunch in place, you won't know where the wreath starts or ends.
Choosing Herbs for a Wreath
The overall appearance of your wreath will depend on the types of herbs you have to work with. Where herbs are concerned, more is usually better. Variety adds interest to your wreath, but you want the whole thing to look integrated too. An easy way to achieve this is to make all the smaller bunches look similar by layering herbs in the same manner. That's the way we'll do it today. (Some folks like making bunches using one herb variety per bunch in bands around the wreath. If you prefer to do it that way, the assembly instructions here will work as well. Just use one type of herb per bunch.)
For mixed herb bunches, start with a base layer made up of an herb you have in abundance. Something full with thick stems and leaves is a good choice. My favorite is rosemary because it looks like an evergreen bough, dries well and has a nice aroma. If you live in a temperate climate, you can grow rosemary year round outdoors. If not, you can plant newer winter hardy cultivars that can tolerate a freeze. Some are hardy to zone 5.
If you don't like rosemary, or don't have enough of it, the following herbs make good bases too. Remember, you want something that fills in well and isn't too lacy in appearance:
- Lavender branches
- Bay Leaf
For our example wreath I used rosemary as a base with layers of:
- Lavender stems (and buds)
- Common sage (smaller leaves)
- Pineapple sage
- Lime scented geranium
In each bunch I also added an accent herb tucked in here and there:
- Lemon balm
Use what you have, but make sure to use more of your woody stemmed sturdy herbs. They'll support soft stemmed herbs like the mints (catnip, peppermint and lemon balm) better. If you do have to rely on lots of soft stemmed herbs, keep the stems relatively short. For interest, try to incorporate flowering herbs too, like lavender, calendula and rosebuds. They add color and contribute appealing textures to the wreath.
Assemble the Herb Wreath
1. Get your gear together, and work in the shade if you can.
2. Pick herbs in the morning after the dew has evaporated but before the sun gets too hot.
3. Remove yellow or damaged leaves from herb stems.
4. Assemble herb bunches by using the layering method above. Try for bunches that are around four to six inches long. Let the curve of the herb base be your guide -- shorter for tiny wreaths, longer for large wreaths.
5. Strip some of the foliage from the last half inch of the bunch. This will help keep the base manageable and limit shrinkage that will loosen bunches as they dry.
6. Cut a 9 to 12 inch length of wire and wrap stems four or five times. Make them snug. Trim the stem ends to keep them relatively even.
7. Assemble as many bunches as you think you'll need to go around the wreath. Remember, each subsequent bunch will cover the stem end of the one before it. I used seven bunches for this six inch sample grapevine wreath.
8. Prepare the wreath form by adding a hanging loop or hook to the back.
9. Start adding bunches to the wreath using the extra length of wire attached in each bunch. If the tops of the stems stick out at unattractive angles, bind them to the curve of the form by threading a loop of wire directly to that stem. It will be concealed in the other greenery. Leave any extra wire loose for now. You can trim and tuck it in later.
10. Add the next bunch. Make sure the top of the new bunch completely conceals the base of the previous bunch.
11. Keep going around the wreath base adding bunches until you get to the last opening. At this point you can do a couple of things. If the bunches are pretty dense, you may be able to just add a final bunch for a nice filled-in look. You can also reserve that last space for an attractive bow. I like to make the last bunch by placing stem ends on both sides of a bunch and wiring it in the middle, being careful to add a few bushy herbs that will conceal the wire. Geraniums are great for this. You can put the last bunch in place pretty effortlessly regardless of how much space you have available.
12. Once the wreath is complete, check for exposed wire and tuck in additional stems to conceal the wire and any gaps. Trim remaining wires and bury the ends into the base.
13. Stand back and review your handiwork. If some leaves look too floppy or don't fit the curve of the wreath, trim them. You may also be able to finesse them behind adjacent bits of greenery.
14. Dry your wreath in a warm, dark spot for at least 72 hours. If there are any insects present, they will evacuate as the herbs dry, so try finding a spot in a garage or attic. You can also do this outside in good (but not very hot or humid) weather. Just tuck the wreath into a fully opened brown paper bag set on its side, cut open the bottom (now the back) and make sure no sunlight is hitting the wreath directly through the open sections. Check every few hours to make sure the herbs are drying and not cooking. There should be adequate air flow to allow moisture to exit the bag.
15. As your herb wreath starts to dry, you'll notice that your beautiful design will shift a little, exposing the wires and altering the nice round (or heart shaped, oval or square) outline. Tuck fresh cut stems into bald spots to conceal wired sections. You can also hold wayward stems in place with a couple of wooden clothespins until they dry completely. Once dry, most herbs will hold their shape.
One dried herb wreath can last an entire season if you keep it out of the sun and away from moisture (like steam from your kitchen sink). Herb wreaths make wonderful gifts and attractive wall art.
Special Notes on Making Herb Wreaths
If you want an herb wreath for decorative purposes only, you have much more latitude. You can tack stems in place with hot glue instead of pins or wire, and you can use decorative mosses to make the base look more natural.
If you love the idea of making a dried herb wreath but don't have lots of herbs to use as raw material, there are some other options. Instead of completely covering the base with herb bunches, just place herbs on part of the wreath and add a bow. You'll have aromatic and attractive dried herbs, effective wall art, and it won't take a garden full of greenery. Just construct a double stemmed bunch as described above and add one or two additional bunches on either side.
Making an herb wreath is wonderfully entertaining, but it can take time, so give yourself a couple of hours for the job. Make a nice cup of tea or cocoa for yourself, while you're at it. When it comes to herb harvesting and crafting, this is about as good as it gets, so enjoy it. It only happens once or twice a year.