Okay so as I sit here writing this it’s 62 degrees outside. Now don’t get me wrong, I happen to loathe the cold weather, so I’m not sad about this weather at all, but I am a little worried.
My flowering quince is flowering, in December. Sigh. Also the hydrangea buds have cracked and I have fresh, delicate little leaves starting to unfurl. This does not make me happy. I tell my clients to grab a butt load of burlap and start wrapping all their hydrangeas, but I’m not planning on follow my own advice. I’m thinking of doing one or two, but I have so many that it’s not really possible, or affordable for me to do them all. So I’m ignoring them and hoping that we’re going to have a winter like the one we had the year I gardened all the way through February -- but I’m not holding my breath.
Instead I’ve decided to try and get in the holiday mood. It’s a little tough right now, as it feels like September out there, and even though our tree is up and decorated, it never really feels like the season is upon us until I make my own wreath. Making your own wreath is one of the best reasons to work in a garden shop or a florist and I recommend it highly. Normally I join in one of our wreath making classes and starting with just a wire ring, a bunch of evergreen cuttings and a spool of wire, I build the whole thing from scratch, but this year I had a client visit scheduled at the same time as the first class, so I had to start with a basic wreath and add onto it.
As you can imagine, my wreath is very similar to my personality. Or at least to my hair. It’s a little wild, unkempt and unruly, almost improvisational you might say. Which is the same way I cook and I garden. It means sometimes things work out fabulously, and sometimes they go terribly wrong. In baking, improvisation is not always rewarded. In music it can be marvelous. Unfortunately I cannot carry a tune. And although my garden looks a little more Miss Haversham than Gertrude Jeykll that’s the look I’m after. Fortunately, wiring layers and textures of greenery in a circle also seems to work out for me.
Blue Atlas cedar, white pine and noble fir, plus a few left over pieces of false cypress scrounged off the floor were placed on top and wired around my base wreath with the loops of wire tucked under the existing balsam. The blue Atlas cedar I cut long so it would extend out like Farah Fawcett’s wings in that bathing suit poster. Then once everything was secure, I grabbed a handful of shorter greens to tuck under and conceal any exposed wires. These I also twisted up and forced into rutting out positions like random Joan Mitchell brushstrokes of green. Luckily there was also some seeded eucalyptus left over from a special order that I was able to grab and tuck in as well. The result was pure Paige. Explosive, excessive and a little off kilter. Intentionally.
At home I knew I still had last year’s silver bow, saved in my Christmas ornament box, so I didn’t make a new one, although I was super tempted by the burlap ribbon we have. I was also good and declined the proffered pinecones, dried pomegranates and limes that were already “picked” or attached to the green sticks used to work attachments into floral arrangements. And although I am dying to use artichokes in a wreath I really want to try and get the ones in my garden to flower more profusely so I can dry and use my own.
I was almost seduced by the silver glitter branches I used two years ago, but sense prevailed. That wreath was so big it didn’t fit on my front door and I had to hang it between the two windows on my front porch, but it was an extraordinarily crazy and fabulous wreath as I used the branches in a radial way, sticking them into the sides of the wreath at a angle so that it resembled one of those starburst gilt mirror you see in interior decorating magazines -- if it was being copied and constructed by a drunk woodland fairy with a glitter fixation.
I also plan next year to grow and dry a ton of allium Schuberti that I intend to spray either silver of gold and use not only on my wreath but also as ornaments on our Christmas tree. I had planed to harvest and dry my gigantic angelica gigas flowers this year, but I blew my chances and left them out too long and they not only got soggy, but I also lost my ability to collect more than a handful of seeds to sow for next year. All the more reason why I MUST win the lottery and stop this silly thing called, “having to earn a living.” It just takes up far too much of my gardening time.
I worked quickly today, getting most of the wreath done in about 20 minutes and then hung it up on a nail to see it and to add the final touches, and yes it could definitely have used a little more work, and a lot more tweaking but I liked it. Hands sticky and black with sap I threw it in the car with a pile of cast off Christmas tree cutting to dress up next year’s tulip pots, brought it home and hung it on the door where, glass of wine in hand, I attached my saved silver bow. Perfection.
Then I sent a pretty sad photo of my finished product (shot in the dark with the unfortunate assistance of my iphone’s flash) to a friend, complete with its off-center silver adornment and she said it was perfect, that the bow was exactly how I would wear one in my hair, “slightly awkward and too close to the forehead.” And of course she loved it. Which is the best kind of Christmas present.
Paige Patterson learned wreath-making basics from Denise’s classes at Marders and has never looked back.