Manzanita branches, found naturally in the chaparral regions of western North America, are commonly used decoratively because of their beauty, unique shape, and strength when dried. As wedding décor, manzanita branches are hot! I have had many brides come in asking for manzanita branches for their centerpieces. These branches go well in enchanted and whimsically themed weddings as well as rustic and organic. They can be set vertically as tall trees standing on each reception table, or they can also be laid down horizontally for long, rectangular tables.
For the DIY bride, here are some general instructions and tips for making your own manzanita branch arrangements.
Where to buy manzanita branches
If you can’t make a hiking expedition and harvest your own manzanita branches (this might also not be recommended…), there are several suppliers at local flower markets as well as many available online including the following two based in Rancho Cucamonga, CA:
Securing and mounting the branches
There are a few different ways to secure the branches into a container so they remain upright. The easiest method, as long as the branches are not too large, is to simply place them in a container full of pebbles, river stones, rice, or even floral foam. For larger branches (2 ft. and taller) and for more stability, something heavier and more durable is necessary such as plaster of paris. Plaster of paris can be purchased at any art supply store as well as some hardware shops.
For smaller branches secured with decorative stones or pebbles, a glass container would nicely showcase the rocks. For larger branches in plaster of paris, something opaque would be recommended. Terra cotta azalea pots are very economical, though usually come with a drainage hole you would need to plug up before pouring in the plaster. Wooden boxes make a simple and elegant statement – these also usually need to be sealed such that the plaster of paris does not leak through the edges and corners before it sets. Both wooden boxes and terra cotta pots can be painted and decorated or even covered any which way using acrylic paint, moss, fabric, ribbons, etc. Probably the least expensive containers are mache pots. Mache containers will not leak when the plaster is poured though they will need to be covered afterwords either with fabric or even a larger decorative planter.
Directions for making a large manzanita branch centerpiece with plaster of paris:
- Old newspapers
- Plastic bucket (for mixing the plaster of paris; plastic is flexible which makes it easier to clear off any dried plaster)
- Paint and paintbrush
- Wooden box for branch – approximately 8x8x4 inches in dimension
- Manzanita branch – 24 to 36 inches tall
- Plaster of paris – about 12 cups per branch
- Water – 6 cups (or 1 cup water for every 2 cups plaster of paris)
- Clean off the manzanita branch with a quick rinse with water to remove dust and dirt.
- Seal the wooded box with clear silicone or caulk at the vertices and corners. Then paint the visible areas of the wooden box.
- In a plastic bucket, place about 12 cups of powdered plaster of paris and mix in 6 cups of cool water. The warmer the water, the faster the plaster will set. Mix the plaster into the water with your hand.
- Pour the plaster-water mixture into the prepared wooden box (placed on some old newspapers in case of splashes and potential leaks). Then insert a branch into the center of the plaster, propping the branch against the wall or anything to keep the branch upright and straight.
- Allow the plaster to set overnight
- Your branch is now ready for decorating!