Gardens are generous and never stop giving, even as their brilliant summer colors and fragrances fade. Something is always beckoning to be harvested, salvaged and used. It’s time to gather armloads and basketfuls of garden materials–pods, seeds, twigs, pine cones, and other spent blooms–and prepare to create wreaths. We tend to think of pine, juniper, and fir wreaths, but don’t discount magnolia leaves, bay and even succulents as exciting backgrounds for wreath-building.
I use 12″ double wire circles as my frame, floral wire on a “pad,” and garden clippers. Attach the floral wire to the frame. Next I make little “bouquets” of the base leaves (bay, magnolia, or eucalyptus), flowers, twigs, whatever, and attach the end of the bouquet to the circle frame with about 4 wraps of floral wire, and pull tight. Do not cut–use the wire continuously around the circle, attaching each bouquet in the same manner, overlapping the last. Continue attaching the bouquets until the circle is complete. Clip the wire and form a double loop for hanging.
At first you’ll feel like you’re “all thumbs” and will never get it. You will. Your fingers have memory and will become nimble. You’ll be able to hold, trim, and wrap all at the same time. You can make small 6″ wreaths, too, to put around the base of candles or giant one 16-20″. It just takes practice.
I’ve taught classes with 20 people, giving them identical directions, and all using garden materials from the same piles. We had 20 wildly different wreaths in the end, each one more beautiful and creative than the next. Each person’s eye is different, design ideas and feeling for color and flower combinations different.
A wreath hung outside in a protected area can survive a year or more; but directly in winter weather, its life span will be shorter. A wreath in the house can last for a couple years. If your wreath is outside, be prepared to have the birds snag some of the materials for nest building or even construct a nest in the wreath itself. If it’s on a door, try not to fling the nestlings out their nest when you open and close the door.
Other excellent materials for creating wreaths include, lavender and oregano, Santolina, yarrow, clusters of Nandina or Chinese pistachio berries, Curry plant, dried small artichokes, lichen-covered twigs, rose hips, dried hydrangea blooms, St. Catherine’s Lace (buckwheat), Love-in-a-Mist pods, eucalyptus branches, lotus pods, dried rose buds, and many more items you will find in your own gardens.
If you enjoy walking through fields or along back roads as I do, often you will find weeds, wildflowers, and dried grasses just begging to be clipped and used in wreaths or dried floral arrangements. Use my suggestions as a jumping off point. Experiment with other plant material. Some will work, others may not. Half the fun is using flowers and weeds you’ve never tried or seen used before. Be bold, be creative, take risks, and have fun!