An Expert’s Guide to Holiday Greenery

Gracious Garlands

When it comes to decking the halls, nothing transforms the home like greenery. Fresh, fragrant, and festive, natural wreaths, garlands, and swags immediately add a welcoming touch and bring wonderful color and texture to spaces throughout the holiday season. But while the beauty of greenery makes it an obvious choice for decorating, the options available can seem overwhelming. Therefore, we asked Elle Worsham, owner of Gracious Garlands in Austin, Texas, for advice on how to select and enjoy holiday greens throughout the season (and beyond). Dedicated to sourcing long-lasting greenery and making decorating easier, Gracious Garlands offers locals and online customers access to a variety of fresh décor, and their Instagram is an excellent source of inspiration for anyone seeking ideas for dressing up the home with some foliage. Here, Worsham shares expert advice on everything from rules of thumb regarding measurements to how to get creative with your greenery.

Consider the source. The key to making sure your greenery will last throughout the season (with minimal tending) is to buy only the highest and freshest quality greenery, says Worsham. This is when it really pays to find a trusted source like Gracious Garlands, which seeks out the best greenery from farmers across the country for their customers.

Measure twice, order once. When buying garlands for your bannister, always measure from the floor to the top of the post, the length of the bannister, and then back down to the floor, Worsham advises. Then, add in a few extra feet if you plan to swag. For example, if your bannister measures 55 feet total, you’ll end up using about 60 to 65 feet of greenery. Many retailers sell greenery in specific increments (most of Gracious Garlands’ are sold in 25-foot pieces)—when this is the case, err on the side of excess, and use the leftovers to decorate a sideboard, mantel, window sill, or mailbox.

Don’t shortchange your door. For a standard size 36-inch door, the recommended wreath size is 24 inches, says Worsham. However, these days doors are often larger, so be sure to measure and upgrade your wreath size accordingly for your grand entrance. Also, don’t be deterred from hanging a wreath or garland on a glass door (or window)—large suction cups are Worsham’s favorite hassle-free hardware for those non-hook-friendly places.

Make the most of your greenery. There are a number of ways to maximize your greenery, from selecting versatile pieces to ideas for extending the life of your greens well into the new year, says Worsham. Her recommendations include purchasing double-faced wreaths for windows and glass doors so you can enjoy them coming and going; transforming boxwood kissing balls into topiaries; using pliable swag in less obvious places, such as on the table as a centerpiece, on a coffee table, or on a bookshelf; incorporating baby boxwood wreaths in the powder room around sconces; and keeping an organic bay leaf wreath in the kitchen long after it has dried to spice up dishes as well as décor.

Know when to spritz, and when to refrain. If your greens look like they’re in need of a refresh, feel free to give them a spritz of fresh water—unless you’re working with bay leaf or magnolia. Worsham warns against spritzing these varieties, as it can lead to spotting on the leaves.

Photograph by Brandon Hill. TSG Tip 286 from Elle Worsham of Gracious Garlands in Austin, Texas. Gracious Garlands is featured in The Scout Guide Austin.