Standing orange garland
Standing orange garland

Earl settlers to America brought the custom of Christmas garlands to the country. While the garlands were used to decorate the Christmas trees, they were also used for other adornment purposes like decorating the room or the house during the Christmas season.

Making Christmas garlands added to the family income after the harvesting season was over. Selling the garlands fetched a tidy sum, which was spent in buying clothes or other household articles.  Certainly William Beekman sold strands of garland in his mercantile.  His farmlands were dotted with pine, spruce and cedar trees and likely his wife Joanne and daughter Mary (see how Mary decorated for Christmas on the Mary Beekman blog)  included other seasonal remnants like cornhusks, the orange and scarlet pods of bittersweet, mosses, and dried fruits.

Keeping the tradition of 1802, we adorned the halls and doorways of the Beekman this holiday with hand-strung garland and kissing balls. But given the formal angular features of the house, we decided to create frames that would allow us to build straight pillars of standing garland rather than the more traditional draping effects.

Gathering bows of evergreen
Gathering bows of evergreen

We traipsed up the ridge above the Crow’s Nest to cut boughs.


The Kubota came in very handy as the half-mile journey in the snow and blowing wind dragging boughs behind us would not have been comfortable.


Because we wanted to create an upright column of garland rather than draping, we built a frames out of light weight wire rebar which we fortified with wooden garden stakes. These materials can be found at your local building supply store. The frames were propped up against the walls.  This also kept us from damaging the Beekman’s hand-printed wall-paper with tack and nail holes


Branches were attached to the frame using floral wire.  Large branches of pine were attached first then filler branches of spruce and cedar were added as accents.

To add additional color and fragrance to the strands of garland, we added cloved oranges, another traditional craft. To create them, we used a wooden barbecue skewer to “thread” a twelve inch length of floral wire through the oranges.


After threading we twisted the wire tightly against the orange so that it would not be visible after hanging. Only the front side would show.


We then used a fork to puncture geometric patterns onto the orange in which to insert the cloves. Creating guide holes rather than simply pushing the cloves into the peel helps keep the fragile clove heads from shattering. (Plus saves ones fingertips.)


Cloves have become increasingly expensive. We recommend buying in larger quantities from Penzey’s spices.  Penzey’s is unequaled for freshness, price, and service for all herbs and spices.


The oranges are attached to the frames after the greens are finished. We then added some pine cones we’d gathered as well.

Standing orange garland
Standing orange garland

After the holidays, we’ll simply throw the garland pillars onto our burn pile. The pines will burn off leaving us with the bare wire rebar columns again, which we’ll store and reuse next year.

(We always give our christmas tree to the goats who devour the needles within minutes, but since the garland has so much floral wire attached, we’d rather not risk stripping it for them.)

by Josh and Brent

Reader Comments

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Amy Olmsted

Fabulous idea!! thanks for the tutorial.I used to make cloved oranges which I would then sprinkle with cinnamon. the best fragrances together!


I’ve tried cloved oranges before and instead of drying, mine spoiled. Have you ever had this experience? I wonder if I did something wrong.


What a beautiful idea.I'm always looking to decorate something different each year. I'll keep this and try next time!



Thank you for the pictures! It looks beautiful! I'm new at trying to make my own garland and have a few questions.

1. How does one prepare the greens before dressing?

-one search said to put greens in oven at 200 degrees to kill any bugs. Do you do this?

-another search said to soak the branches first in water overnight.

2. How do I prepare while at the same time, keep the nice scent they give off?

3. How soon in advance should I prepare in order to be ready by Thanksgiving?

Thank you for responding. I would appreciate the help. 🙂

Dr. Brent

Hi, Melanie

We've always waited until it was well-below freezing to harvest the branches, so we've never had to consider killing bugs. I would imagine if you've had several cold nights, bugs will not be a problem. We've never soaked the branches in water either and we've had them up for at least 3 weeks before the needles start to drop. If you've got the time, string the garland the week of Thanksgiving. The oils in the needles and bark will be strongest during the first week. Gather additional pine cones and attach them with floral wire. You can continue to dab or spray the cones with essential oils throughout the holidays. They are great vectors for scents.