Gifts come in all shapes and sizes, and if you’re looking for something to make your packages stand out under the tree, try adding a unique finishing touch! Instead of the usual factory-made bows, create a handmade decoration using materials from your garden or trimmings from the extra boughs of your Christmas tree. From plants to pinecones, almost everything you need is right outside your door. In a few easy steps, you can create a fresh swag or spray that’s sure to please everyone on your gift list.


Use simple wrapping paper to really show off your holiday swags.

Photo Credit: Lorraine Shannon


If you’ve got a larger package, consider joining two swags together to create a spectacular spray!

Photo Credit: Lorraine Shannon

Begin by wrapping a gift in brown kraft paper purchased from a craft or hobby store, or use preprinted holiday wrap with a simple, natural design. Then bring your pruners out to the garden and begin gathering some sturdy plant materials. Keep in mind that the cuttings won’t have access to water, so choose plants that won’t droop after they’re cut and left in the open air. Some good choices include: cypress (Cupressus), cedar (Cedrus), boxwood (Buxus), juniper (Juniperus), Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica) and the many varieties of holly (Ilex). Plants with berries emphasize the holiday theme, and herbs such as rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) add a wonderful fragrance to your work.

While you’re out in the yard, look for other natural materials such as small sticks, pinecones, acorns, chestnuts and moss to adorn your package. But beware of bugs! There are several ways to rid your outdoor décor of pests. One way is to place your findings on a cookie sheet and bake at 200 degrees F for one or two hours (but check on them often). Pinecones, sticks and nuts can also be boiled in a large pot of water for about five minutes and allowed to dry, or put them in a plastic bag and freeze them for a few days to eliminate unwanted pests.

Next, it’s time to get creative! To make a small swag, begin with the larger plant cuttings as a base and add smaller cuttings of various color and texture to form a “bouquet” of greenery. Hold the cut ends of the plant material in one hand as you work, and arrange the pieces so that the finished product will lie flat against a package. A rubber band may be helpful to hold the stems of the cuttings together before tying them with jute, hemp or raffia (natural materials instead of man-made ribbons help your work retain its organic feel). Leave the strands long in order to tie the arrangement to the package or to make a bow.

If you want to make something a little larger, try a spray. It’s essentially two swags laid end to end, overlapped slightly, and secured where they meet. This decoration is perfect for bigger packages.

Embellish your swag or spray with tiny pinecones, nuts, dried flower pods or even non-botanical items such as jingle bells or red beads. Secure any materials that can’t be tied to your decoration with a hot glue gun.

Once the glue dries on your homemade work of art, attach it to your package. Use jute, hemp, raffia, twill tape or holiday ribbon to wrap the opposite corners of the package. Or if you prefer, lay a strand across your gift lengthwise, twist it in the back and bring it around over the alternate sides to the front of the package and tie or glue in place. Then secure the fresh swag or spray with the long strands of tying material, holiday ribbon or with a hot glue gun.

That’s all there is to it! With just a bit of work and some trimmings from your garden, your gift is special inside and out. And that’s a wrap!