PHOTO: Jessica Walliser
December 8, 2017

The holiday boxwood and herb kissing ball is an old tradition that originated in the Middle Ages. Originally, kissing balls were made from evergreen boughs bound with twine, but in the Victorian age, they grew a bit fancier in their construction and the materials used to make them. The Victorians stuck evergreen and herb sprigs into an apple or potato instead of a ball of twine. The herbs and plants they chose to make the kissing ball sent a specific message to those who received it as a gift.

Now, kissing balls are said to promote health, fertility and good luck. They’re typically hung above a doorway or arch, much like mistletoe. Kissing balls can be made of various evergreen branches, including broadleaved evergreens, such as holly, boxwood and laurel, as well as conifers, such as spruce, fir and cedar. Though you can purchase artificial kissing balls from just about any store that carries holiday decorations, it’s far more fun to make your own kissing ball from fresh materials collected on your farm. This simple boxwood and herb kissing ball takes only a few minutes to make and will last throughout the holiday season.

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Materials

  • 4-inch diameter polystyrene ball; green or white
  • 10-to-12-inch piece of red ribbon
  • Spool of florist’s wire or piece of florist’s wire
  • 40 to 50 boxwood tips
  • 15 to 20 herb tips, could be sage, rosemary, oregano, scented geraniums or whatever you have on hand
  • 10 to 15 other evergreen tips for accents, if desired; could be arborvitae, cypress, cedar, fir, pine or others

Step 1: Trim & Insert Boxwood Stems

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

To begin to make a boxwood and herb kissing ball, start by removing all the lower leaves from the bottom inch and a half of each of the boxwood stems. Then, insert the stems, one at a time, into the polystyrene ball. To avoid breaking the stems, hold them close to the base and push them straight into the ball, always aiming the base of the stem directly toward the center core of the polystyrene ball.

Step 2: Add More Stems & Cover Ball

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Continue adding boxwood sprigs, making sure each one is inserted into the foam by at least an inch. If the sprigs fall out after insertion, you can put a dollop of hot glue onto the base of the stems before sticking them in, but I don’t typically have to do this. Keep adding boxwood until the ball is covered and most of the ball itself is hidden. Again, make sure the base of every stem is aimed directly at the center of the sphere so it creates a perfect ball shape.

Step 3: Add Ribbon Hanger

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Once you’re finished inserting the boxwood, it’s time to add the ribbon hanger. Fold the ribbon in half and tie the loose ends together about one inch from their cut ends. Then, make a hairpin shape out of a length of florist wire. The hairpin should be about two inches long. Tuck the folded end of the ribbon down between the pieces of boxwood and use the hairpin wire to pin it in place by inserting the ends of the wire all the way down into the polystyrene.

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Step 4: Add Herb Sprigs

Now it’s time to add the accents to your boxwood and herb kissing ball. This task is best done when the ball is in a hanging position, rather than when you’re holding it. I hang mine from a shepherd’s hook we use for our bird feeders while I add the accents. Tuck the herb tips and any accent evergreens in between the boxwood sprigs, spacing them evenly around the sphere.

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

As with the boxwood, make sure the bases of your herb stems and other evergreens are pointed toward the core of the ball. Place one of these accents anywhere you can still see the polystyrene ball peaking out.

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

You can also hot glue some small pieces of green sheet moss over any exposed polystyrene if you need to mask it further.

Step 5: Hang Up The Ball

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Hang your completed kissing ball in a doorway or from an indoor plant hanger. Over the course of a few days, the boxwood and herbs will dry in place so there’s no need to water or mist your boxwood and herb kissing ball to keep it fresh. If you’d like you can also dress it up a bit with a bow or more ribbons, pinecones, berries or other natural decorations.

boxwood and herb kissing ball
Jessica Walliser

Enjoy all the fortune, good luck and (hopefully!) kisses this tradition is sure to bring to your home.


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