“Throughout the world, in every culture, circles and rings have had a mythical potency for mankind since the earliest times.” This opening line, from Enchanted Circles: The Art of Making Decorative Wreaths for All Seasons and Special Occasions by Elizabeth Jane Lloyd, explains the power of the wreath as a symbol that endures to this day.
Twisting natural materials into a ring-shaped form has been one of mankind’s earliest expressions of the power of the circle. Native Americans used circles as protective symbols with their round headdresses and tepees arranged in a circle. The circle is also the form chosen for the Tibetan mandala to aid in meditation.
Some of Our Favorite Floral Wreaths
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Portland, Oregon, designer, Sarah Blasi creates an airy, artistic holiday wreath using unexpected materials and a fresh palette. The combination of berries and reindeer moss will dry nicely and can be used year after year with proper care. Photo by Maria LambUnconventional Christmas Wreath How-To
"I got to the dining room and I was all out of stuff! I had a wreath and some greenery that I had ordered but I had used everything else… the beautiful metallic pastel balls, the crystal trees, the mercury glass, the nutcrackers… everything. I had some tree cuttings, some red ribbon scraps and two boxes of red balls. Whelp! But got to make it work… Using the balls everywhere gave a great continuity to the décor and looked pretty. Using balls instead of candles and balls in a silver bowl combined with cuttings from the Christmas tree instead of fruit made it interesting and unexpected."—Keith Arnold, designer with Susan Kasler Interiors
. Photo by Brian Bieder
Designed by Laura Dowling, this lime, holly, and berry wreath, hanging a stone’s throw away from Washington DC's Gadsby’s Tavern, pays homage to a citrusy rum punch introduced to the local watering hole by George Washington.Step-by-Step How To
The team at Farmette Flowers shows that an autumn wreath doesn't have to be russet and gold. Farm volunteer, Ciela Cote Directo made this bright wreath with dusty miller, strawflower, sweet annie, sage, amaranth, broom corn, green & gold spray millet, and statice. See more from Farmette Flowers on their site
. Photo by Helen Skiba
Square, evergreen wreaths with Midori ribbon bows line the dining and family room windows in Mila Hirsch's Birmingham home. Photo by Laurey W. GlennMore from Hirsch's Home
A silvered wreath and Tricia Foley's collection of milk glass flow atop one of the five fireplaces the designer has in her 1820s farmhouse on Long Island, New York. Photo by Marili Forastieri from Tricia Foley Life/StyleMore of Foley's Holiday Decor
This wreath designed by Putnam & Putnam has a vintage feel because of its muted palate. The designers like to include warm brown undertones in many of their designs. Photo by Nichole FranzenSee More Wreaths from Putnam & Putnam
Brooklyn floral designer Amy Merrick makes a wintry wreath using some of nature’s little surprises gathered on a walk in the woods. Photo by Brooke SlezakHow to Make This Evergreen Wreath
At Mindy Rice's wreath-making party, the designer encourages everyone to step out of their comfort zones. Each guest chooses what materials to include—in this case, gorgeous yellow roses and oranges. Photo by Elizabeth MessinaMore from the Wreath-Making Party
A massive, 50-inch wreath of evergreens and tiny white lights hangs on the front exterior window of Mila Hirsch's Birmingham, Alabama home. Photo by Laurey W. GlennMore from Hirsch's Home
The front door of Barry Dixon's Elway Hall beckons guests inside with a wreath of greens and Osage oranges gathered from the property. Photo by Erik KvalsvikSee More of Dixon's Holiday Decor
On the mantel in Laura Dowling’s parlor, a lime wreath commands center stage. The wreath combines limes, variegated holly, and crab apples with a lime green ribbon. Photo by Erik KvalsvikSee More of Dowling's Christmas Flowers
When designing this wreath, Putnam & Putnam played with scale and contrast using the large cecropia leaves paired with more delicate clusters of white flowers and olive, and spindly branches that jut out for a wintry look. Photo by Nichole FranzenSee More Wreaths from Putnam & Putnam
This magnificent Stagg Winter Wreath from Weston Farms features magnolia leaves, baby blue cypress, deciduous magnolia bud, pheasant feathers and dried okra. Available on FlowermagShop.com. Shop Now
A front door wreath by former White House chief floral designer Laura Dowling makes a statement with unconventional elements such as new potatoes and fuchsia blooms. Materials List: red bliss potatoes, crab apples, nandina berries, heather, alstromeria. Photo by Erik KvalsvikSee More of Dowling's Christmas Flowers
At a the wedding of Jane Schewe and Keric Lickerman, a wreath decked in white and gold and trays of cookies gave a nod to the couple’s beginnings. The sweet treats were decorated in gold and black, the official colors of the University of Missouri, where they first met.See More of the Schewe Wedding
A window wreath speaks to the colors inside Ashley Wiltshire Spotswood's home with lunaria (money plant), an abundance of bronzed asparagus feathers, and flocked mitsumata. Floral design by Holly Carlisle of Rosegolden. Photo by David Hillegas.More of Spotswood's Holiday Decor
Rebecca Simms of Wylie West Creative made this spring inspired installation. Simms wrapped the materials around barrel rings using floral wire, zip ties, and rope. See More of Simms' Installation
Winter wreaths of magnolia leaves and tallow berries mark the bride's and groom's chairs at this wedding dinner. Photo by Rachelle DerouinMore Wedding Flower Arrangements
A delicate rosemary wreath at Ryan Gainey’s home. Photo by Jeffrey Lee Adler
Ryan Gainey’s hydrangea wreath, made with an Oasis ring, magnolia leaves, and seed pods, hangs nicely on a garden gate. Photo by Jeffrey Lee Adler
A wreath made of dried purple hydrangeas, pyracantha, sumac, and beauty berries hangs on Ryan Gainey's cottage door. Photography by Sarah Dorio
Used here as a tabletop arrangement, Ryan Gainey’s hydrangea wreath is coupled with candles and a glass hurricane. Photo by Jeffrey Lee Adler
Lavender flowers dried in a beautiful wreath in Sequim, Washington. Photo Courtesy of Olympic Lavender Farm
A festive, fall wreath of yellow and orange flowers, evergreen branches, and magnolia leaves from Designer Karin Woodward of Haute Horticulture. Photo by Annabella CharlesHow to Make this Fall Wreath
Wreaths are used in many rituals. Advent wreaths and harvest wreaths are made of wheat. In ancient societies, circlets of laurel, oak, and olive leaves were bestowed upon winners of athletic competitions. Wedding wreaths have long been worn as headdresses, such as those worn by the flower girls at the wedding of Prince William and Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge.
Today I still make floral wreaths for myself and for my clients. Like the wreath of hydrangea I designed for this story, many of my wreaths begin with a base of Oasis, which helps maintain the handsome look for many days. Fashioned to sit on a table or hang on a gate, this particular form celebrates the range of hydrangea-blossom types available in my garden at a particular moment in time. Magnolia leaves and seed pods provide a strong evergreen backdrop in contrast with the delicacy of the blossoms.
I encourage you to consider the ways in which this ancient symbol could enhance your own rituals. What materials and occasions are significant in your life? Fashion your flower wreath to celebrate the things that are important to you.
To quote again from Elizabeth Jane Lloyd, “Wreaths, circles, and garlands have a noble and fascinating history, and when you begin to make your own you will be entering into a special, centuries-old tradition.”
By Ryan Gainey
The late garden designer and author, Ryan Gainey wrote a regular column in Flower for many years, sharing his remarkable gardening knowledge and stories.
A Collection of Wreath How-Tos