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Living wreath's appealing surprise? It's alive

For The Associated Press

Care to go a different tack with your springtime gardening? Plant a living wreath for the front door or garden gate.

Upscale catalogues, such as Viva Terra, have been selling living wreaths for years. The rub is they can be expensive (at Viva Terra, $98 plus other charges that tip one wreath toward $122 to receive).

The upside is they're easy and fast to assemble on your own, and require a minimum of care. Rewards include a summertime of enjoyment and do-it-yourself satisfaction.

The instructions below are taken from the pages of the DIY magazine "Fresh Home." Editor Karol K. Nickell, from the magazine's offices near Milwaukee, advised gardeners to have fun with this wreath.

Want to plant a kitchen herb garden? Go for it. Thinking succulents? That's great. How about a holiday-themed living wreath? Nickell suggests planting a Fourth of July wreath with red, white and blue annuals. (There are more blue flower hues on the market than ever before.)

There are only a few rules to plant by: Consider the sunshine and watering needs of the herbs or annuals, and plant accordingly. For example, stick to either shady or sunny plants — don't mix the two. And if you're apt to forget to water the wreath, you might want to lean toward drought-tolerant succulents.

Aim for variety: plants of varying color, variegation and leaf shape and size.

Nickell says smaller plants work best. They cost less, are easier to plant in a wreath and also grow faster.

"That's the nature of a small plant — to really push growth," says Nickell.

Armed with these tips, you can plant this novel garden with creative abandon. An example that appears in the spring issue of "Fresh Home" includes wiry chives and other, bushier herbs. Another wreath is planted entirely with variegated ivy.


Living Wreath

Adapted from "Fresh Home" magazine


Pre-made sphagnum peat moss wreath

Small plants (such as herbs, flowering annuals or succulents)

Topiary pins


Spray bottle

Wreath hangar or hanging hardware (strong enough to hold the weight of your wreath)


1. Fill a large basin with water and submerge a pre-made sphagnum peat moss wreath. Let the wreath soak until it's damp (not soggy) enough for planting.

2. Before planting, arrange the plants according to color and size around the wreath. When satisfied, use your thumbs to create small holes to insert the plants. Keep adding plants until the wreath looks lush and full.

3. Secure plants with topiary pins, which keep the plants in place and allow you to position foliage to cover up bare spots.

4. Using the spray bottle, mist your newly planted wreath with water, making sure to reach plant roots, if possible.

Note: The plants will grow while maintaining the shape of the wreath. Water regularly with a spray bottle (not the garden hose). Pinch off dead leaves and spent blooms as necessary. If you plant an herb wreath, be sure to clip and use your fresh herbs.

Tip: Experiment with different shapes and sizes by designing your own wreath. For this, pack sphagnum peat moss into any pre-shaped wire form. Make sure the hanging hardware can support the weight of the finished wreath.