Manzanita / Natural Branch Buyer's Guide

Manzanita / Natural Branch Buyer's Guide

HOW TO PURCHASE MANZANITA AND OTHER NATURAL BRANCHES (Manzanita, Grapewood, Curly Willow, Birch and all other natural branches)

A link to this Buyer's Guide appears on all of our product pages and twice on
all of our Manzanita and Birch product pages.

First and foremost: ALWAYS try to place your order AT LEAST two weeks in advance of your event, especially during our Spring and Fall wedding seasons. Fulfillment times are from 48 hours to 5 days during these periods. It's always best to purchase additional pieces, especially if you are ordering close to your event date. While availability is usually plentiful, shipping can take several days to your location.

Floral Work Required! If you are not comfortable with working with natural products, then creating your own centerpieces is not for you. Hire a florist. Just as your lovely bouquet of roses has no thorns or discolored petals, be assured that they did not come from the floral market that way. They had to de-leafed, de-thorned, wired, and the discolored outer petals removed before the arranging was even begun.

Manzanita and other natural branches are no different in this regard. Strong trimming tools and floral paint are practically a necessity for creating a nice centerpiece with this material. Just plopping them in a vase with some rocks is just not realistic. Be ready to be the florist, be creative, and have fun!

Fitting Branches Into Glass Vases: Manzanita is non-flexible, and glass is unforgiving. Because branches are always a unique shape, fitting them into vases can sometimes be a challenge. View this three-step tutorial or a video tutorial on working with this combination.

Adapting Manzanita for Non-Centerpiece Use: Our branches are harvested specifically for centerpiece use, and our suppliers are instructed to harvest the most symmetrical pieces available. They are generally not suitable for hanging on a wall, or placing flat against a vertical surface. Symmetrical pieces must be CUT OR TRIMMED for other specific uses. We DO NOT GUARANTEE that any cutting or trimming techniques will adapt your branches for the intended use.

Natural Branches: Consistently Inconsistent!

When purchasing natural branches such as Manzanita, Curly Willow and Birch, keep in mind that they are unlike other decorative branches used for floral design. Each one is an individual shape and sculpture, and may take on a variety of shapes and variations. Manzanita is cannot be reshaped like Curly Willow, and is quite strong. Most professional centerpieces are created using several branches to achieve a full look, so always consider purchasing additional pieces or fillers. This needs to be a first consideration when purchasing your branches.

It's best to order your branches all at once. If you place an order today, and another order in a week, you will always see a difference in the product. This is because the harvest areas change every 2-4 days, resulting in changes in the harvested product. No two harvests are ever the same.

The following characteristics of manzanita branches are naturally occurring, and are a part of working with the material.

Characteristics of Natural (red) Manzanita:
  • Shape: shapes vary with each piece, harvest area, and time of year. Manzanita can typically grow wide and flat rather than symmetrically, although we try to always ship more symmetrical pieces..
  • Branches: branches can vary greatly in diameter with each piece.
  • Size: sizes are approximate and vary with each piece, harvest area, and time of year.
  • Bark: color and condition of the bark will vary with each season, harvest area and time of year. Spring through Summer (six month period), Manzanita bark will regenerate and peeling will take place. To remove loose or peeling bark, use a soft brush. For stubborn areas, use a light wire brush. Some branches may turn a gray color, which is normal. If the entire branch or tree turns gray, please send us photos so that we can assist you with this. For peeling and gray areas, the best solution is to touch up with floral paint, such as Design Master's "October Brown" floral paint available at Michael's Crafts.
  • Spring and Summer Harvest: Spring through Summer (six month period), Manzanita bark will regenerate and peeling will take place. As a courtesy to our customers, our staff will brush and color treat pieces before shipping to even out the color for consistency. If you do not wish to have color treatment performed, please indicate at checkout.
  • Age: Manzanita branches will last indefinitely (we have centerpieces in our showroom that are several years old). Cracks and splits will occur as the wood naturally cures, however this will not cause them to break in half, fall apart, etc. Using the floral paint mentioned above to add color into the spliting areas makes them practically non-noticeable.
  • Leaves: leaves are mechanically or manually removed, depending on the current season, harvest or time of year.

Characteristics of Sandblasted Manzanita:

  • Shape: shapes vary with each piece, harvest area, and time of year.
  • Branches: Sandblasting removes 20% to 30% of the smaller branches, and the branches are sparse as a result. Remnants of the bark are sometimes visible, although the finished color is mostly ivory.
  • Size: sizes are approximate and vary with each piece, harvest area, and time of year.
  • Bark: the natural red bark is removed in the sandblasting process, leaving the ivory wood exposed. The ivory color may appear in different shades depending on the piece, harvest area, and time of year. Some sandblasted manzanita may appear tan, while some freshly sandblasted branches may have a bright honeydew shade, which is a remnant of the red bark, and dissipates to ivory usually within days. Brown or reddish grains and ribbons may or may not appear in each individual piece, depending on the particular characteristics of each piece.
  • Age: Manzanita branches last indefinitely. Cracks and splits will occur as the wood naturally cures, however this will not cause them to break in half, fall apart, etc.
  • Leaves: leaves are mechanically or manually removed, depending on the current season, harvest or time of year.

Characteristics of Curly Willow:

  • Shape: shapes vary with each piece, harvest, and time of year.
  • Branch Color: colors range from golden, reddish, to light green, depending on the current supply and time of year
  • Size: sizes are approximate and vary with each piece, harvest, and time of year. Short willow ranges from 36"-48", and tall willow ranges from 60"-72".
  • Bark: Curly Willow material usually ships fresh, and can arrive either fresh, semi-dried or completely dried.
  • Leaves: leaves are mechanically or manually removed, depending on the current season, harvest or time of year.
  • Adornments: Curly Willow is NOT SUITABLE for hanging votive candles. Use manzanita instead.

Characteristics of Birch Branches:

  • Shape: Birch branches and trees are a larger diameter on the bottom, and taper to a small diameter tip on the top.
  • Branch Color: colors range from ash white or brown at the bottom to a dark brown to reddish brown at the top, depending on the current supply and time of year.
  • Size: sizes are approximate and vary with each piece, harvest, and time of year.
  • Bark: Birch bark can be pealing or smooth, depending on the current harvest and time of year.
  • Leaves: leaves are mechanically or manually removed, depending on the current season, harvest or time of year.
  • Adornments: Birch trees are suitable for hanging adornments, while birch branches are sometimes too vertical to hang items from. Flowers, either fresh or silk, work well with all birch branches.

Characteristics of Grapewood:

  • Shape: Grapewood branches grow on wire supports in vineyards, and can have various shapes. They are typically thicker on one end, however this can vary with each harvest.
  • Branch Color: Grapewood branches are sandblasted, which can vary from a bright ivory color to a darker honey color.
  • Size: sizes are approximate and vary with each piece, harvest, and time of year.
  • Grapewood Tiki vase shape: Tiki vases can vary in shape and the diameter of hollow area.
  • Grapewood Tiki vase color: These items are sandblasted, which can vary from a bright ivory color to a darker honey color.


Manzanita Filler Pieces


Filler pieces are perfect for helping a centepiece to appear fuller. They are not intended to be used in place of our regular stock manzanita branches. There are intended to be used as filler, which means they can be added to existing centerpieces to make them appear fuller. They can be cut and trimmed to achieve this goal. In some cases, they can be combined with other filler pieces to create a centerpiece, but this is not the intended use. Once again, they are intended to be used as filler, without exception.

Branches or Containers: Which Comes First?

It's always recommended to purchase your branches first. Because of the individual characteristics of each piece, especially Manzanita, it's wise to purchase containers to fit the branches that you have. Some branches may be wider at the base than others, so containers may need to be wider or narrower to accommodate the natural inconsistency of Manzanita. Click here to download instructions for a common method on standing your branches in a vase (one of several methods). The vases that are available on our website are especially selected for use with branches, and are good choices for your centerpieces.


Unpacking Manzanita Branches

Manzanita is by far the hardest product to ship. This is due to the varying sizes and shapes of each individual branch. When boxed for shipping, many of the branches may "hook" together, and may be a challenge to unpack. To separate branches with the least amount of problems, use the following technique:

Holding a branch in each hand, gently and slowly rotate each branch in opposite directions and gently work them apart. Do not twist each branch too far, or breakage may occur. Our shipping department uses this technique all day long, and it is extremely effective!


Designing Manzanita Branch Centerpieces

There are literally thousands of photos of Manzanita displays and centerpieces on the Internet, in addition to the ones on our website at Blooms and Branches. The most beautiful pieces photographed are nearly all created by professional florists and consist of 2 or more branches if the centerpiece is full and symmetrical looking. While creating centerpieces is not extremely difficult, it can be quite time consuming and does require creativity on the part of the purchaser. Blooms and Branches is a provider of raw materials, and does not provide design services or instruction. Be ready to be creative, and have fun!

Curly Willow Branches

Curly willow ships fresh, and dries out quickly. To restore flexibility to dried branches, soak fully immersed in water for 1 to 2 hours. They can be shaped more easily, and can be generally re-shaped and left to dry. When dried, Curly Willow will often change to a darker color. Color can be altered using floral paint, available at craft stores such as Michael's Crafts. Look for Design Master paint, available in many natural colors. Curly Willow is a fresh floral item, and as with all fresh floral items it cannot be returned. All sales are final.

Hanging Crystals, Attaching Flowers (real or artificial)

How many branches should you purchase if you are hanging crystals and attaching flowers? It depends on the look you are trying to achieve. Most branches fill up pretty quickly with few ornaments, but it's truly a matter of taste. The best answer is to start early creating your pieces (not a week before the event), in case you need extra pieces- and better yet, be sure to order additional pieces to save on shipping and time! Please note that Manzanita (size 18"-24" and up) is the ultimate for hanging crystals and flowers, however Curly Willow is not suitable in most cases.


Our Product Photos: Manzanita

Each piece of Manzanita is an individual sculpture and may take on a variety of shapes and variations. Our product photos of Manzanita are of random pieces, and do not in any way represent the best piece or the worst piece available. They are are a fair and reasonable representation of Manzanita branches in general. The product photo that you see for each product is not the actual piece shipped.

Requesting Certain Types of Branches

Our checkout system allows the purchaser to include Special Instructions during checkout. The box is aptly named "Special Instructions", and you can use this box to let us know the type or shape of branches you are looking for. While each piece is indeed unique, we will do our best to pick pieces that will best match your description or the intended usage.