By Dot Zanotti Ingels
At this time of year, we tend to hunker down in the house and forget the many ways we can appreciate our natural world even in the winter. Nothing is better than a walk in the winter woods, especially after a rain. Everything smells and sounds so intense and fresh. There are many things to see that are not around in the dry summer when we are usually out and about.
But if you prefer to be cozy around the fire, consider bringing more of the outdoors in. How about making a wreath with found materials? Making a natural wreath is a great way to bring life into your home in the fall and winter. Look in the woods, fields, roadsides and gardens all around you. There you will find all the supplies you need to create unique natural wreaths and gifts. I like to carry clippers and totes in my car so I am ready to collect an unexpected find anytime. Look in your spice cupboard. Cinnamon sticks are fun to work with, as are spice seeds. Winter nuts and fruits look beautiful too.
If you have saved some dried herbs or flowers from your summer garden they can be used a wreath now. Keeping your eyes open on your travels will help you find what nature has to offer at that particular time of the year. Crafts stores, such as Jo Ann's, Michaels and the Flower Mart in San Francisco, can provide you with inspiration and supplies too. The local farmer’s markets are also good places to find natural elements to add to your wreath.
With the beginnings of the holidays come wreaths of evergreens and berries. But, there are no rules about what constitutes a wreath. Making your own gives you a chance to make it your own. Part of the fun is in letting your imagination fly.
Besides your natural materials, you will need a few other wreath-making supplies including forms (foam, wire, grapevine, twig or evergreen), floral wire, picks, wire cutters, a glue gun and glue sticks. Work gloves help to avoid sticky sap and prickly needles from evergreens and prickly thistles and cones from hurting your hands.
Moss is a great way to fill in spaces on your wreath or use it as a cover for twigs, foam or wires. A simple wire coat hanger can be formed as a circle and made into a wreath. The base you choose will set the tone for the style of wreath you make. You can cover your base with dried materials or, if the base itself is decorative, you can allow it to show through for a different effect.
It is easier to work on a base that is hanging just as the completed wreath will. Find a place to work where you can hang the wreath on a nail, hook or hanger. Wreath-making is a messy process, so plan to place a tarp down or work where cleanup is easy.
Once you have collected all your supplies, the fun begins of assembling the wreath. Gather bundles of filler and accent plants in your hand. Adjust the size of your bundles to make each one full and pleasing to your eye. Bring the ends of your pieces together and trim the bottoms so they are even. Start construction at about three o’clock on the wreath. This allows you to both start and finish the wreath away from the top where your eye is naturally drawn and you want to be its best.
Depending on your base, either glue or wire the first bundle to the frame. Work in either a clockwise or counter-clockwise direction to give the wreath its flow and make it look more random and natural. Overlap subsequent bundles in the same manner until you are happy with the look you see. Large bundles make the wreath fuller and the work go faster, while many small bundles keep the look lighter. It is best to add smaller accent pieces like miniature roses or small cones individually after the bulk of the wreath is completed.
When you have completed your ring, stand back and take a second look. You will be able to see spots that may seem off-balance or need additions or subtractions to give you the look you want. Sometimes it is best to walk away for a while and then come back for a second objective look. Now you can add the finishing touches, such as ribbons and bows, to truly personalize your wreath.
If all this sounds like to much with all you have going on this month, purchase a fresh greens wreath and enhance it with some of the items suggested or use your imagination (Gingerbread man cookies? Wrapped Christmas candies?).
Natural wreaths enhance any space where they are hung. They make great personal hostess gifts too. Experiment with all kinds of natural materials. Make it fun! Once you get the knack, you can make wreaths for all seasons and start saving materials year-round. Start small and enjoy the process.
There are several websites that provide simple, clear instructions with pictures for a variety of wreath styles including Save-On-Crafts, Comfy Country Creations, and Martha Stewart. Great American Wreaths from Martha Stewart Living, Flowerkeeping by Georgeanne Brennan and Kathryn Kleinman, and The Book of Dried Flowers by Malcolm Hillier and Colin Hilton are full of great ideas and pictures.
Learn more about the Marin Master Garderners and get more gardening ideas and tips at the Marin Master Gardeners website.