Swags are evergreen branches tied together for hanging. It's best to use a variety of greens with different textures. Variegated boxwood, eucalyptus, magnolia leaves, variegated holly, berried holly, berried juniper, incense cedar, white pine, and Frazier fir all make good selections.
Ornamental seed heads, pinecones, and ribbons can be tied to the swag to give it a festive look. Pinecones, nuts, and seed heads can be placed along the evergreen stems by wrapping them together with floral wire. Floral tape is often used to soften the look of unsightly ends of cones or seed heads.
Evergreens will dry out less quickly if sprayed with an anti-desiccant such as Wilt Proof, which can be purchased at your local garden center.
Alternatively, spraying the arrangement with water will help extend the longevity of the evergreens and keep them looking fresh through the season.
Collect pinecones as soon as they fall from trees, but don't collect in botanical gardens (it is illegal). Allow the cones to open up in a warm area. If desired, wash the cones in water, using a stiff wire brush to remove any soil.
Preserve pinecones by spraying them with clear lacquer. If this process seems too labor intensive, decorative cones can be purchased at crafts stores.
Shown here: weeping eastern white pine Pinus strobus 'Pendula'
Fold a piece of floral wire in half, and slip the loop end down around the lower end of the cone between the scales. Twist the wire a few times to tighten it. The wire can be wrapped onto branches for swags. If the wire is exposed in the arrangement, floral tape can be used to conceal it.
For centerpiece arrangements, crafts stores sell wire attached to small stakes that can be easily inserted into centerpieces (floral picks with wire). Simply wrap the wire around the bottom of the cone, sliding it between the scales to hide it.
It is easy to create a beautiful evergreen centerpiece for your table. Select a bowl that can accommodate a large piece of florist foam. Presoak the foam before placing it in the decorative bowl.
Evergreens always need to be freshly cut to last. Use pruners to snip the greenery, and then place it in the foam. (Pruners also make a lovely gift for that special gardener on your list.)
Water daily and spray the greens with water to keep them looking fresh. If you are collecting greens from your own backyard, remember to wash them and shake them well to get rid of any insects that may be hiding in the needles.
Purchase a wreath form at a crafts store. Take medium-gauge wire, and wrap it several times around one point on the frame. Place a small cluster of greens (4 to 6 inches in length) on the wire. Secure by wrapping the wire several times around the ends of the green and the frame. Do not cut the wire.
Take another cluster of greens and place it 2 to 3 inches down the frame, overlaping the first cluster. Wrap this with wire as mentioned above. Repeat this process until the form is covered.
With the last cluster, lift the first cluster of greens and wire it underneath, and then cut the wire. Wire pinecones and bows to the arrangement for more appeal.
Keep your green thumb working all year long with inspiration from the experts. Whether it's table arrangements or outdoor living accessories, The NYBG Shop has plenty of resources to keep you up to speed.