Seasonal greens, winter fruits, and sculptural cones have long been associated with the winter holidays–with brightening shortened days and long nights, with the universal hope for the return of the light, and symbolic wishes of prosperity for the coming fresh start of the new year. Photo: Seasonal wreath of North State pomegranates.
When I was a girl, my florist/garden designer mother would transform her workshop and much of our lives into wreath-making and holiday-greening central. We were taught early how to bundle pine cones, how to double wire each green we attached to a frame. When my children were small, I would send them out into the early December garden with clippers and they would come back with trimmings of whatever they liked the look of: seed heads, annuals not quite frosted yet, evergreens, nuts and cones would come back into me and we would wire these into little wreaths, add a ribbon of choice and place them proudly on their bedroom doors for the season. Photo: An petite window wreath made of the Indian hawthorn foliage. A broadleaf evergreen with leaves just a little large than those of boxwood, these wreaths last a nice long time looking fresh inside or out.
We are not alone in loving the rich look and the iconic form of the wreath. According to Adrienne Edwards, who will be leading a native plant wreath workshop for the Chico State Herbarium on Saturday December 8th, “Wreaths have been created since ancient times to represent the virtues, harvests and cycles of many cultures and religions. The Greeks used oak leaves to symbolize wisdom. Hollies have been used in wreaths since at least the late Middle Ages to symbolize eternity and new life.” Photo Top: A wreath of native California bay leaves, which will be available at the Friends of the Herbarium workshop on December 8th. Bay is intensely fragrant to work with. Below
A participant at last year’s workshop by Chico Horticultural Society goes home with a lovely traditional evergreen wreath plump with a variety of greens and cones.
Wreaths date back to ancient Greece & Rome when ring-shaped head pieces were made using fresh leaves, small fruits & flowers. The word wreath comes to us from the greek Diadema, “a thing bound around.” In the Christian tradition, evergreen wreath-making began well before the common era to symbolize perseverance through dark winter. Photo: A wreath of green olives and olive branches. Lovely to behold, this one holds its fruit for only a short amount of time. Perfect for a dinner party or single event.
“Anyone can do it – and all you need is whatever looks good in your garden right now, a pair of clippers, a pair of gloves, some floral wire and your imagination,” says gardener and veteran wreath-maker Dorothy Showmaker of Chico Horticultural Society.Photo: Materials prepared for wreath or swag making.
“Sometimes I like to use a variety of different greens from the garden for a tapestry effect, and sometimes I like the simple elegance of a wreath or swag made from just one type of green.” For making wreaths, Showmaker pre-cuts her greenery into 4 – 6 inch pieces, ready to wire. For larger wreaths, she wires together greenery bundles (see photo), which are staggered along the frame and wired separately into place. For simple wreathes she staggers and wires individual sprays of greenery. In either case, she wraps each bundle or spray twice with wire to secure it. “It’s important to wire tightly to account for the drying and shrinking of the greenery over time.” Photo:Dorothy Showmaker of the Chico Horticultural Society and Bidwell Designers at work on her greens.
“Once you are done with the main structure of the wreath or swag, you can embellish with fresh flowers, colorful berries, cones, acorns, buckeyes – whatever strikes you as lovely. You can wire in cones and sprays of berries, but if you have a glue gun you can use that as well. I glue gun a lot – including myself!” Showmaker said wryly. “If you use the glue gun, be careful with the liquid glue – IT’S HOT!” Photo: The small bundles that Dorothy will make many of and then wire these into the box frame of a larger wreath.
PHOTO: Native white sage florette is the “bow” at the top of a native plant wreath at last year’s Native Plant Holidays Greens workshop hosted by the Chico State Herbarium.
Conifer greens that Showmaker used and recommended for our wreaths included fir, cedar, juniper, and redwood. Broadleaf evergreens included magnolia, Chinese fringe flower, toyon and sage: “I love that fragrant silvery foliage of the sage in a design,” Showmaker enthused. Good berries include the blue berries on Indian hawthorne, and the red berries on toyon, holly and pyracantha.
PHOTO: Native coffee berry wreath.
“If you are using a fleshy berry or fresh flowers, you can either secure them into your arrangement with some damp oasis or in a floral flower tube to help keep them fresh. Or you can tuck them in at the end and replace them as needed over the course of having the design inside,” Showmaker advised.
Showmaker uses floral clippers and a mid-weight floral wire. For larger wreaths, she recommends a three-ring wreath frame, for a simple/small wreath, a single round of metal or twisted vine also work well. For swags, wire the bundled greens together at their tops. Wire, wreath forms, clippers and glue guns are available at local craft stores. Photo: Tools useful for holiday green creations: clippers, floral wire, simple frame, box frame and soft straight wrapped wire which can be wired into a circle and used for a small wreath.
Once you get fully around the entire wreath frame, make a twisting loop to hang it by – add a ribbon, tuck in some flowers or berries or cones. Homemade, fresh-scented gifts to ring in the holidays – greenly.
You too can enjoy the fun of hand making wreaths, swags and centerpieces from garden trimmings at one of the many upcoming holiday greens workshops held annually in our region this time of year. These workshops, like the handcrafted wreaths you will take home from them, are fun and festive, they connect you to community, to our great outdoors and gardens this time of year, and to some of the best parts of this meaningful season: celebration, beauty, thanks and giving. Photo:Frosty rose foliage on a North State winter morning.
Nov 23 – Redding: Wyntour Gardens: Centerpiece Workshop 11 am. Join Wendy and create a centerpiece for the holidays! Please note all of our classes are free, Please Call or Email to reserve you seat. 8026 Airport Road – Redding, CA. 96002 – 530-365-2256 – Email Us: firstname.lastname@example.org. Hours of Operation: Monday thru Saturday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dec 7 – Redding: McConnell Arboretum & Botanical Gardens at Turtle Bay: Wreath Making Workshop 9 am – 12 noon. Floral designer and instructor Darlene Montgomery leads this creative and fun holiday workshop. Each participant will create their own fresh, full-size holiday wreath for the front door or family room. All materials provided. Space is limited to 15 participants (adults and youths 16 or older). Pre-registration required, call 242-3108 to pre-register. Members $35, nonmembers $40
Dec 7 – Chico: Friends of the Chico State Herbarium WORKSHOP – Native Plant Wreaths and Greens for Holiday Beauty and Cheer 1 – 4 pm. Meet in 129 Holt Hall, CSU, Chico. Holiday Wreaths are even more lovely and meaningful made from California native plants – full of history and place. Did you know that many of our native sages can remain fragrant for years after drying? Learn more about sages and other specialty native species while you create a holiday wreath. We will provide all materials, including a wide range of native plant clippings such as white sage (Salvia apiana), incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens), coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), manzanitas (Arctostaphylos spp.), and California bay (Umbellularia californica). You’ll be able to embellish your wreaths with native acorns, buckeyes, oak galls, seeds and berries. We will share botanical and ethnobotanical information on many native plant materials suitable for wreaths, swags, centerpieces and garland. All materials and tools will be provided, but we encourage you to bring plant clippings you wish to include in your wreath, including any you need us to identify. The 12 – 15” wreaths you will create are fragrant and beautiful inside and out! Wreaths are perfect for front doors, garden gates, mantelpieces, and tables. Come create a native plant wreath that you can use for years to come while learning more about our native California plants! This workshop will meet Saturday, December 7, from 1:00 to 4:00 PM in Holt Hall, Room 129, on the CSU Chico campus. The registration fee is $35.00 (or $45 to make two wreaths). For workshop registration please contact the Biology office at (530) 898-5356 or email@example.com.
Dec 7 – Chico Horticultural Society announces its annual Holiday “Greens” Workshop Saturday, December 7, 2013 9:50 am to 12 noon Chico Grange Hall 2775 Old Nord Avenue. Come and learn from our floral experts how to make a centerpiece, an over the door swag, or a wreath. All materials will be provided: Fresh greens, flowers, berries, cones, wreath forms, ribbons, candle, etc. Please bring in your own gloves and pruners. Also, any special ornaments or centerpiece holders that you might like to use. Cost is 15.00 for making one wreath, swag or table arrangement. Call or email today to reserve your place! Start a fun tradition and invite your family or friends. call: Avis at 343-6738 or Carol at 345-4824 Carol or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations with checks should be mailed to: Chico Horticultural Society PO Box 1873 Chico, CA 95927-1875. Last day for reservations is Wednesday, December 3, 2013.
Dec 7 & 8 – Chico: Plant Barn and Gifts WORKSHOP: Wreath Making Classes Wreath making classes. Saturday 11 and 1:30. Sunday 11 and 1:30. Long standing tradition at The Plant Barn. We bring the greens, you bring your friends. Make a beautiful evergreen wreath, enjoy yourself and we provide instructions and all materials…and we clean up the mess!!! The Plant Barn 406 Entler Chico CA 95928 345-3121. www.the plantbarn.com
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In a North State Garden is a weekly Northstate Public Radio and web-based program celebrating the art, craft and science of home gardening in Northern California and made possible in part by the Gateway Science Museum – Exploring the Natural History of the North State and on the campus of CSU, Chico. In a North State Garden is conceived, written, photographed and hosted by Jennifer Jewell – all rights reserved jewellgarden.com. In a North State Garden airs on Northstate Public Radio Saturday mornings at 7:34 AM Pacific time and Sunday morning at 8:34 AM Pacific time.