Friday, October 31, 2014

DIY Pine Cone Wreath Using Chicken Wire

Every Fall my pine trees gift me with a large amount of pine cones and every year I bag them up and take them to the city compost.  Not this year.  This year my goal was to use at least some of those  pine cones.  I did do a few other projects put it didn't put a dent in the piles I have so I decided to try and make a wreath. Of course, I had to do it on the cheap so I used chicken wire instead of a wire wreath form (which would have worked nicely for this).  Here is a picture of the end project:

For this project you will need:
1.  A length of chicken wire-mine was 4 ft by 1 ft (you can also use a wire wreath frame for this)
2.  Pine cones (I used about two-thirds of what is in the plastic tub in the picture below)
3.  Nylon Ties (zip ties)
4.  Ribbon and any thing you want to decorate the wreath.  I used a fake leaf garland I picked up at Dollar Tree.
I started this project by baking my pine cones in the oven at 250 degrees for 1 hour (to kill the bugs).  I bake them on aluminum sheets I purchased from Dollar Tree for-that way I can keep reusing them.
After they are baked let them cool and then you need to re-wet them so they close back up.  I threw them in a plastic tub and poured water on them-I then stirred them up then removed them.  You don't want them to soak in the water.  You just want them to get damp.  They should close up by the time you get the next step done.

To begin making the wreath lay your chicken wire out flat (as best you can) then roll it up to make a long tube (you might want to wear gloves for this part-chicken wire can be sharp).  Hold it in place then take your nylon ties and start securing it like this:

Secure it with a nylon tie every so often (as many as you think it needs to stay in place).  It should look like this:
Now "squish" one end of the tube like this:
After you squish one end insert it into the other open end like this:
Secure it together with nylon ties:
It should look similar to this:
It doesn't look like much at this point-don't worry.  Trust me:-))  At this point you need to go back and "fluff" up the chicken wire.  To "fluff" it just pull it apart gently where it is smashed.  You can also give it a more round shape by bending it a little.

We are ready to start adding the pine cones if they are closed up.  When they are closed they look like this:
Begin sticking the pine cones in the holes in the chicken wire.  You do not need to stick them in too far-just enough so that when they open back up the will be secure.  Also remember it is not necessary to do the back of the wreath and also leave a spot to hang the ribbon.  I used the area where I connected the two ends of chicken wire together.  Here is a pic of a pine cone being inserted.  This is about how far they need to go in:
Add as many pine cones as you need for it to be full.  Remember the pine cones will expand when they dry and that you can also add pine cones later if you find a bare spot.

Remember to leave a spot empty for the ribbon:
And you don't need to fill the bottom.  When the wreath is full of pine cones flip it up and press the chicken wire to flatten it up against the pine cones:
Here is a picture of the wreath with the pine cones in place:
At this point you can play with the wreath to kind of shape it.  You can also check for bare spots.  I added my fake leaf garland and just weaved it into the front of the wreath and then attached it with the nylon ties:
I then added a ribbon I made-I just attached it with a nylon tie.  I am not a ribbon tying kind of girl and it took me a while to get it to look decent:-))
After I added the ribbon I let it dry for a day so that the pine cones would open up all the way.  I then checked it for bare spots and added a few more pine cones.  Here it is hanging on my wall:
The best part about this wreath is I can change it over to Christmas whenever I feel the urge.  All I have to do is take off the bow and leaf garland and replace them.  Easy!  You can also spray the pine cones with a sealer if you would like-I did not.  I like them just the way they are.  Just remember to not get the wreath wet or the pine cones will close back up:-)) 

I hope you give this project a try-it is easy and would be even easier if you use a metal wreath form.
As with all my projects you can give it your own special touches-make it your own:-)) Have fun with it!  Until next time-Happy Planting!


Monday, October 20, 2014

Interior Browning and Fall Needle Drop on Conifers (Evergreens)

Do you have any conifers (evergreens) in your yard?  How about around the neighborhood?  Do the interiors of the tree seem to be dying?  Don't worry-chances are it is just Seasonal or Fall Needle Drop.  This is a common occurrence in conifers and is a normal part of the life of a tree.  Most people assume that conifers maintain their needles forever but this is not true-they are shed after a period of time.  Different conifers hold their needles for different amounts of time such as Pines (Pinus spp.) can hold their needles between 2-5 years, and Spruces (Picea spp.) can hold their needles for up to seven years. When Fall needle drop happens to conifers-especially White Pine (Pinus strobus) it is very noticeable and scary for homeowners.  Here is a picture of what my white pines look like when they start to loose their needles:

Pinus strobus fall needle drop

Drought, root injury, herbicide damage and environmental stress can make this occurrence seem more pronounced as well as White Pines that are mature-which can lose half of their needles every Fall.  As I said all conifers lose their needles at some time-here are some pics of other conifers in my gardens that are experiencing Fall needle drop:
Arborvitae experiencing Fall needle drop
Chamaecyparis obtusa experiencing Fall needle drop
Picea abies "Pendula" experiencing Fall needle drop
Thuja nigra experiencing Fall needle drop

Notice in the pictures how the browning affects only the interior part of the plant?  This is entirely normal.  Below is a picture of a plant that has browning on the tips (where there should be new growth) and quite a bit of the interior.  This is not normal Fall needle drop but instead it is damage caused from cold last winter:
Chamaecyparis browning not related to fall needle drop
Early yellowing of needles or entire branches browning and dying are not normal and can be indicative of insects, damage or disease.  In cases like that or if you have other concerns I suggest you contact you local county extension office.  They are very helpful and can help diagnose any issues you may have with your conifers. 

So what can or should you do?  Well, you don't really need to do anything.  Personally, I clean up the interiors of my conifers-at least the ones that are shorter.  I think removing the dead foliage helps to cut down on insects and disease by keeping the interior free of debris. Those needles can really build up in denser conifers such as Arborvitae and Thuja.  I also rake up the needles and use them as mulch for my gardens.  They work great and decompose more slowly than leaves.

I hope this post was useful and just remember that Fall needle drop is a natural occurrence in conifers and not to worry.  If you are still concerned contact your local county extension office or a certified arborist and seek advice.  It never hurts to ask questions or get help!

Until next time-Happy Planting!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy Twine Fall Pumpkins

I set out this week to find a way to create some Fall pumpkin decorations after seeing all of the great ideas on Hometalk and Pinterest.  I especially liked the look of the canning lid pumpkin but the price for them is a little steep-I like FREE.  So I looked around the house and found a couple of things that I could use but I especially liked the thought of using my roll of garden twine I have had forever (literally).  So I experimented with a couple of ways and finally got the look I wanted and it was so easy you won't believe it!  I didn't have to use glue or wire-it is all twine except for the stem.  Here is one of the final pumpkins:
Twine pumpkin

For this super easy project you will need:
1.  Some stiff twine
2.  A pair of scissors
3.  A cinnamon stick
4.  A piece of tape
5.  A cylinder or tube of some sort (at least 12-15 inches long) to wrap the twine around (I used an old piece of PVC I had for another project but you can use whatever you have)
Supplies needed to make twine pumpkin
1.  After you have collected your supplies start by taping the end of the twine to the cylinder-if it is short just tape it at the end if it is long tape it 12-15 inches from the end you will be slipping it off.
2.  Now start winding the twine around the cylinder:
3.  Wind it around until you get almost to the end:
4.  Cut the twine:
5.  Take the tape off of the cylinder at the other end and place it on the twine you wrapped:
6.  Now hold the end and start slipping the wrapped twine off of the cylinder-make sure to hold it like this:

7.  When you have the ring of twine off of the cylinder hold it firmly and take one end of the twine and run it through the middle:
8.  Run it through twice, hold it and then run the other loose end through on the opposite side twice
9.  Now you should be able to tie it up.  I knotted mine-do not do it too tightly otherwise it will make it difficult to fan out and also put the cinnamon stick in.
10. Fan out the pumpkin:
11. Add the cinnamon stick in the middle:
12. My twine was a bit "hairy" so I gave it a haircut:-))
13.  Here is a finished pumpkin:
Twine pumpkin
I made three of these pumpkins-the larger one was a larger cylinder I had (it was one of those tupperware containers you store pasta in).  Here they are sitting on my coffee table:
Easy twine pumpkins
Easy twine pumpkins
I think they turned out super cute and they look good in my living room.  The best part is they were free-I love free!  I hope you give this project or any of my other projects a try.  If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave it in the comments section.

Happy Gardening!