Make your own colonial swag

Make your own colonial swag
Colonial Williamsburg's outdoor Christmas decorations are known for their use of natural materials that were available during the 18th century. These typically include pine and boxwood wreaths decorated with fresh pineapples, apples, oranges, pomegranates, nuts, pinecones, holly and other materials.

Each year, about a dozen floral designers and gardeners, with the assistance of four carpenters, decorate more than 80 exhibition sites and buildings, taverns, retail shops, guest houses and administrative buildings.

Materials used to decorate the buildings include more than 3 miles of white pine roping; 2,550 white pine and Frasier fir wreaths; 15 truckloads of cut pine, holly, boxwood, magnolia and berries; and 79 cases of fruit.


  • Wire cutters (needle-nose and side-cut)
  • Florist’s picks with wire attached
  • Floral tape
  • Floral cage
  • Floral foam 
  • Straight wire

Suggested decorating supplies:


  • Fresh fruits or vegetables such as apples, artichokes, lemons, oranges and pomegranates
  • Fresh or dried berries, such as bittersweet and holly berries and rose hips
  • Pinecones and dried pods of cotton, lotus, nigella and poppy
  • Fresh greens, such as boxwood, Eastern red cedar, loblolly pine, Southern magnolia, Virginia pine and white pine
  • Dried foliage, such as artemisia, bay leaves, cedar with berries and dock
  • Dried flowers, such as cockscomb, gold yarrow, strawflower and sunflower
  • Dried fruits and vegetables, such as apple slices, artichokes, cayenne peppers, okra pods, oranges, pomegranates and quince slices

Floral cages serve as the base of the swag and can be used to decorate doorways, windows, staircases and mantles. The swag also can also be used as a centerpiece.

The cage is filled with floral foam that can be used wet for fresh materials or dry for dried materials. You can reuse the cage, but you cannot reuse the floral foam. Once the foam gets wet and then dries out, you are better off replacing it.

The cages come in different shapes and sizes and can be purchased at a craft store.

For a doorway arrangement, depending on the size of your door, you might want to use a smaller cage, especially if you’re doing a fresh arrangement. Floral foam gets very heavy when it is wet, and you don’t want to add too much weight to a doorframe.

Before you begin, put wire around the cage and twist it off on the sides so that it won’t scratch walls or doorways. This ensures that the top of the cage won’t twist off.

Decide how you want to hang your swag before you start. Put the handle facing downward for a vertical design, so that the swag is sturdier on top and can be held more easily.

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