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Make An Outdoor Swag

Many fellow gardeners enjoy a “natural” Chr istmas and endeavour to use plant material as opposed to decorations made from man-made materials. We are also always looking for ideas to create Christmas décor using plant material, and one idea that I have tried successfully is making a Christmas swag out of evergreen boughs to hang outside over the stairs leading up to our deck and front entrance.

This item is heavy when it is complete, so there must be a well-secured hook on which to hang it. I put a large hook into the beam and then hung my swag on a sturdy gold chain – salvaged from an old swag lamp. The first step in making the swag (after making sure you have a place to hang it) is to take some chicken wire and scrunch it up into a ball. The size of this ball of wire will determine the size of the finished product, so judge accordingly. I started with a ball of wire about 25 cm in diameter. Attach the chain very securely to the top of the ball of wire.

Next you must find some attractive evergreen boughs. If you are like me, and live in a town that has a composting site, you will find all the branches you need. Alternately you could use a few from the wild if you have stands of evergreens on your property, or purchase an extra-tall Christmas tree with the intent of using the lower limbs for your project.

Cut short pieces of bough and stick them stem end into the wire, making sure each is secure. If necessary, use thin wire to fasten them in place. Start at the bottom and work up, overlapping the boughs and using enough to cover the wire and make a nicely shaped, full ball. If you are fortunate enough to have various kinds of evergreen – spruce, pine, fir and cedar will all work nicely – you can create interesting texture. I used both green and blue spruce to create a nice two-toned effect.

Choosing items that will withstand the outdoors, add brightly coloured decorations such as bows, metal or plastic Christmas balls or large cones. One year I had purchased an old Christmas wreath at a garage sale that had a number of nests with red birds sitting on them. I salvaged these and used them on my swag. Use your imagination. If your mountain ash tree still has colourful clumps of berries on it, use some of those. Finally, hang the finished swag outdoors – hopefully where not only visitors can see it but where you can enjoy it viewed from a window of the house.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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