Greet your guests with a festive handmade wreath on your front door. It's a deceptively simple and inexpensive way to decorate for the holidays, especially if you can use some recycled materials and greens clipped from the yard. Or, when you go to buy your Christmas tree, keep any branches the vendor trims from the bottom, and ask if you can have any extra leavings (they'll probably be glad to just give it to you). This project also makes for a great party: gather a few friends and some eggnog and have an afternoon of wreath making. Fa-la-la!

Tools (if you haven't got 'em, borrow from a neighbor)

- Garden shears or clippers

- Pliers

- Wire cutters

- Scissors

Materials

- An old wire hanger (the kind you get from the dry cleaner)

- Masking tape

- An armful of fresh-cut greens (see resources below for where to find appropriate greens)

- Fine floral wire or long twist ties salvaged from food packaging

Directions

1. Using the pliers, untwist the top of the hanger at the base of the hook. Bend and reform the wire into one large circle. Securely twist and join the ends together.

2. Wrap a layer of masking tape around the wire circle, covering the wire completely. This bulks up your wire wreath frame and prevents the greens from slipping.

3. Cut all the greens down to about seven-inch long sprigs. Then cluster three to four sprigs together and wire together at the base with a long twist tie or floral wire. It is helpful to strip the leaves or needles off the base of each sprig so that the leaves/needles do not interfere with the wrapped wire. You will need to make about 18-20 of these mini bouquets.  Each bouquet should be composed of a variety of greens.

4. Starting at one point, wire each bouquet at its base to the hanger wreath frame, with the bouquets all facing the same way and running roughly parallel to the frame. They should be spaced about one to two inches apart, with each bouquet alternately tipped slightly to either side of the frame so as to add a look of fullness to the wreath. Make sure the hanger frame is hidden beneath the foliage and that the wreath looks full and balanced. Cover the entire circle frame with the bouquets.

5. To make the pom-pom flowers: cut a plastic shopping bag down to approximately 1 x 3 inch strips. You will need about 15 strips per flower. Gather 15 plastic strips together and secure them together with a twist tie in the middle. Then fluff the plastic strips up to create a full flower. Wire each flower to the wreath.

6. Alternatively, you could wire in small found objects and doo-dads left over from previous holidays to decorate your wreath. Ideas include: tiny Christmas ornaments, pretty buttons, old costume jewelry, seed pods, dried flowers or pine cones.

7. Create a bow with ribbon and wire to the wreath. Hang the wreath on a door using an over-the-door wreath hanger

Resources

Greens:

- If you have a live Christmas tree in your house, you could clip a few branches from its underside or back to use for your wreath. To find local, organic trees grown with Integrated Pest Management, which uses pesticides sparingly and only as a last resort, see these tips from New York Times gardening columnist Anne Raver.

- Use yard trimmings! Search your backyard (or ask a neighbor for pruning permission) for sprigs and boughs of pine, spruce, boxwood, white pine, juniper, holly or ivy.

- If you live in the tropics, lucky you! Ferns, mock orange sprigs, ti leaves (Hawaii) and even grape vines make lovely greenery for wreaths.

- If you do not have any appealing flora growing where you live, evergreen bundles are often sold at farmers markets at about a third of the price of a wreath, and nurseries or Christmas tree farms often sell or give away clipped greens that would otherwise end up in the compost. Also check for holiday sales at your local botanical garden, garden club or city park.

Ribbon:

- Of The Earth: Offering a variety of eco-friendly crafters' materials, they sell a small selection of ribbons made with natural fibers, recycled materials and vegetable dyes.

- Sweet Organics and Naturals: Browse the sustainable wrapping paper section for biodegradable and natural ribbons.

Finally, having decked your halls with sustainable boughs, tell Santa you've been very, very good indeed.

Story by Lindsay Kurz. This article originally appeared in Plenty in December 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

Also on MNN: DIY Christmas tree ornaments