As a gardener, I enjoy inviting a bit of nature indoors for the holidays. A tousled mop of dried hydrangea or the wispy elegance of Japanese silver grass plumes add special warmth to the table.
One easy way to bring in the great outdoors is decorating with pine cones. They can be piled in a decorative bowl, scattered across a table, or tucked into arrangements. Here’s a fun and easy project for a winter day:
Do It Yourself Cone Wreath
This elegant wreath highlights the natural beauty of the cones. You can collect cones from the outdoors, or purchase at craft stores.
A few caveats on collecting:
1) Ask permission if it isn’t your property.
2) Do not collect from forest preserves, arboreta, or botanic gardens without express permission. These institutions may allow you to collect, but talk to them first. No one likes to get questioned by security.
3) Exhaust all resources. Check public parks, as well as asking family and friends.
4) Make it an outing with the kids! Collecting cones can turn into a great counting game.
5) Choose only the cones in the best shape, and include nuts if you like.
If you collect your own cones and nuts, make sure to pre-treat them before you start working. You want to make sure that they are dry and pest-free. This treatment allows the sap to melt a bit so the cones are much less sticky. Always make sure to treat nuts - especially acorns - as they often have larvae inside. Do not be surprised if the tops of the acorns pop off. That’s what the glue gun is for!
To pre-treat the cones:
1) Line a cookie sheet with foil and spread the cones and/or nuts evenly.
2) Bake at 200 degrees for 30 to 45 minutes with the oven door cracked open. This is flammable stuff, so make sure to keep an eye on it.
3) Allow cones to cool before using.
You will need...
Newspaper or other dropcloth material
Needle nose pliers (optional)
I chose to use spruce cones, Austrian pine, dwarf white pine, Douglas fir, and hemlock. These can all be found in many neighborhoods. The spruce cones are the papery ones, and the pine cones have bigger, woodier scales.
To get started, I did a loose layout of the base layer.
Then, I wired up the cones. You want to tuck the floral wire way up under the scales of the cone, while leaving plenty of extra to maneuver with. You can always trim it later. You may want to use needle nose pliers to get a super tight twist on the wire.
For this wreath, I interspersed groupings of Austrian pine cones in with the spruce, with a dash of white pine for contrast...but after thinking about it, I decided I didn’t care for the white pine cones breaking up the rhythm. The nice part of wiring in the cones is that it’s very easy to change your mind and rearrange. I also found that after attaching a group or a row, that they could be anchored if you wrap all their wires together.
So now with a base layer complete, I added a bit of flourish on the top, with long white pine cones, a trio of Douglas fir, and topped it off with an open hemlock cone. Since the wire base was showing through in places, I went back and glued in several small spruce and hemlock cones. This gave it a subtle depth of texture without losing the monochromatic color scheme.
After determining the center of the wreath, I slipped a zip tie through the wire base and tugged it through just enough to close the loop.
As you can see from the back, I have several bundles of wire twisted together.
After hanging on the wall, I adjusted the zip tie to make sure it wouldn’t show and then trimmed the end to form a nice, tidy loop. To make it permanent, I took it outside and gave it a good spray of clear acrylic to seal. I prefer the natural colors of the cones, but you can also add glitter, ribbon, and other ornaments.
One final note on cleanup – expect to get a little dirty and sticky. Two tricks of the trade:
1) Use hand lotion and lots of it before you handle the materials. You can sometimes just rub the sap off your fingers.
2) Crabtree & Evelyn’s Gardeners Scrub Cleanser – by far the best microbead cleanser I’ve tried that not only works, but moisturizes and smells nice. Lava Soap works too, but it’s very very abrasive.