November 24, 2013

Maine Gardener: Put a wreath on it in creative style

In December, Layne Gregory of Lincoln Farm Studio will offer a hands-on way to get into the holiday spirit.

Nothing gets you in the holiday spirit more than making your own Christmas wreaths.

click image to enlarge

Wreath makers at a workshop at Lincoln Farm Studio in Falmouth get creative with greens, pods, cones and berries.

Layne Gregory photo

click image to enlarge

Layne Gregory wants to teach you how, and is offering three workshops next month at her Lincoln Farm Studio at 120 Woodville Road in Falmouth.

Gregory gained her expertise in making wreaths by attending classes in Massachusetts similar to the class she now presents herself.

“I was living in Boston and the Arnold Arboretum offered a wreath-making class and I took it in 1985,” Gregory said. “I loved it and I took it every year. Even after we moved up to Maine, I would still go down for that class, often taking some people with me.”

After about 15 years, the arboretum in Cambridge stopped offering the classes, and Gregory started giving them.

“I think the biggest advantage of making our own wreath is to enjoy the sensual experience of putting it together,” she said.

You get to feel and smell the material as you attach it to the wreath, and it gets you into the spirit of the season, she said.

The Arnold Arboretum has plants from all over the world, and participants in the workshops there had a wide variety of material to choose from.

Gregory supplies material from her yard, as well as some she purchases, for the people taking part in her workshops.

“We order greens locally, as well as from the Northwest, and have really a broad selection of seeds, pods, cones and all different kinds of berries,” she said.

Last year she got some birds’ nests and also dried some citrus fruits, which her students wove into the wreaths.

To make a wreath, you start with a wreath ring, which you can get at most garden centers and craft stores.

At the Arnold Arboretum classes, people soaked sphagnum moss, wrapped the moss around the wreath ring, holding it in place with tape, and poked the plant material into the moss. The idea was that the wet moss would make the wreaths last longer.

Gregory did a test a few years ago, and found that the wreaths stayed fresh-looking just as long if the plant material is wired directly to the wreath form, so she has been skipping the complicated sphagnum step.

“I try to keep wreaths up until the traditional dates, taking them down the first day of spring,” Gregory said. “If they are on the sunny side of the house, they might start looking brown a couple of weeks before the first day of spring, and I take them down. But mostly they last as long as I want them to.”

For people who want to use a natural wreath indoors, Gregory recommends filling a sink full of water about twice a week and soaking the entire wreath for about half an hour.

Gregory uses both traditional and unusual plant material in her wreaths.

She uses all the evergreens, including fir, pine, cedar, spruce, juniper, hemlock and others, but sometimes she will find some surprises.

“A couple of years ago we had big storm, and part of a magnolia tree came down,” she said. “There were big buds on the tips of all of the branches for next year’s blossoms, and I wove them into some of the wreaths, and they looked really good.”

Cones of all of the evergreens look good on wreaths, but she uses berries, as well. Winterberries seem to be plentiful this year after being scarce last year, and she likes to use those.

In addition, rose hips, especially from rugosa roses, are big and bright. Mock orange berries are smaller, but they also show up well on wreaths.

If people have small ornaments or toys that have some sentimental value, she suggests that people attach those to the wreaths, as well.

She insists she isn’t good at tying attractive bows, but says that a lot of people who take her classes add bows to the wreaths.

Jim Masse of Estabrook’s in Yarmouth said he likes to add boxwood to wreaths that he buys because it makes them look fuller than the traditional wreaths you get at charity sales or nurseries, but boxwood would work in a wreath you make from scratch, as well.

The price for Gregory’s wreath-making workshops is $68.38, including all material and sales tax, and each participant gets to take home two wreaths – a bargain when you consider the price of fully decorated wreaths.

Workshops are scheduled for 5 p.m. Dec. 4, 3 p.m. Dec. 7 and 10 a.m. Dec. 8.

To register, call Layne Gregory at 781-3156 or go online to lincolnfarmstudio.com.

Tom Atwell has been writing the Maine Gardener column since 2004. He is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth and can be contacted at 767-2297 or at:

tomatwell@me.com

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