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Archive for Thursday, December 20, 2007

A wreath from your garden bridges the seasons

December 20, 2007

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Whether for Christmas, the ancient winter festival of Saturnalia or any other tradition, a wreath celebrates the continuity of life through winter. Evergreens are favorite wreath materials because their branches flout winter's apparently lifeless cold.

Here's how to make your own, either from trees in your backyard or from the branches trimmed from the bottom of a Christmas tree:

Gather some greens - or yellows or blues

Plenty of native and cultivated plants, many growing right in your backyard, could supply evergreen leaves for wreaths. Depending on the weather and the variety, needles of some junipers might still look bright green, although many turn purplish in the cold.

Norway spruce always looks rich green. For a softer look, use the long, slender needles of white pine.

The flattened sprays of arborvitae are another good choice, and most appropriate considering that the name translates to "tree of life." Don't forget broadleaf evergreens such as boxwood.

Go beyond green leaves if you want to get a little wilder - more in keeping with the raucous Saturnalia celebrated in ancient Rome. No evergreen has all yellow leaves, but Gold Star junipers have yellow-tipped leaves. Midas Touch and Variegata are varieties of Japanese holly with spots or splotches of yellow on its otherwise green leaves. These evergreens-and-yellows look wild - if that's your fancy - in a wreath with Colorado blue spruce

And now, for a base

Any wreath needs support. Easiest to use is a styrofoam doughnut that you can buy. Just don't let that styrofoam show through anywhere.

Other support materials are less obtrusive or more natural than styrofoam. Rigid wire bent from an old wire coat hanger works well. Tie evergreen stems right against the wire or dry moss held in place with raffia or thin copper wire.

Vines are easy to twist around and weave into themselves to make the "bones" for a wreath, and no need to hide them in greenery. Gather grapes from the wild or from your prunings. Other wild and cultivated vines to consider include bittersweet, clematis, honeysuckle and Virginia creeper. Before grabbing at any wild vine, make sure you can identify and avoid poison ivy - it can cause rashes even this time of year.

Flowers and fruits liven the show

With support and evergreen leaves in place, it's time for ornaments. Dried flowers from last summer's garden might include baby's-breath, bells-of-Ireland and statice. Many seed pods are also good as ornaments. Besides the obvious - pine cones - also consider the flattened silvery pods of silver dollar plant, the wiry ones of love-in-a-mist and the shaggy manes of clematis.

Finally, add some colorful fruits such as rose hips, bittersweet and winterberry. Brightly colored fruits, like evergreen leaves, show plants bridging one warm season with the next right through winter's cold. And this makes any plant having both evergreen leaves and colorful colorful fruits particularly appealing in a wreath.

Deck the halls.

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