WINDHAM – Windham wreathmakers and designers are putting the final touches on another manic holiday season, with thousands of Windham-made wreaths to adorn front doors throughout the Lakes Region, and the country.

In Windham, the entire assembly process is represented, from Margaret Pinchbeck’s homemade wreaths to Eight Corners Farm’s beautiful creations and bows to North Windham-based Studio Flora’s online sales, which this year topped 3,000 shipped wreaths.

Studio Flora

Rod and Ann Jordan, owners of Studio Flora/Sebago Gardens near the intersection of Whites Bridge Road and Route 302, have been selling wreaths on the Internet since 1996 and, in fact, were one of the first companies in the world to sell wreaths online.

“When I went online in 1996, I didn’t even know what the Internet was,” Rod Jordan recalls. “I went to a chamber meeting and there was a guy there that was involved in the government and he was explaining it to us. So, I thought to myself, what should I sell online, and I said Christmas wreaths. It’s local to Maine and people like Maine products.”

Jordan was one of the first 15 businesses to sell wreaths online. Now, he is kicking himself a little for not securing the Web address, which was available then, but no longer is.

“Unfortunately, I could have had, but I thought it was too restrictive. Now when you type in ‘wreath,’ there are hundreds of thousands of pages,” he said.

Studio Flora is enjoying brisk holiday business. They order balsam fir wreaths from a company based in the northern Maine town of Wytopitlock, near Lincoln, and then decorate the aromatic wreaths on premises using bulbs, ribbons and natural add-ons. Studio Flora then ships to customers who order online at the company’s website,

This season’s sales have been good; better than last year but not as good as years past, said Jordan.

“We have more online sales than inside sales. We sell all over the country and Alaska. A lot to California, but I think it’s because California people like the Maine mystique,” Jordan said. “People like the Maine traditional balsam fir. It reminds them of home. We also send a lot to Florida. The snow birds buy them.”

One sizable order went to an investment firm in Topeka, Kan., which ordered 612 wreaths for clients.

Since wreaths can whither, the wreath-making season is necessarily short, giving little preparation time for producers like Studio Flora. Also factoring into the heavy rush in early December is that prior to Thanksgiving, consumers aren’t thinking about wreaths.

But after Thanksgiving, it’s another story.

“We can start making the bows in October. It’s quick, though, and it’s demanding, because everyone wants them shipped the first week of December,” Jordan said.

A wreath vacation

Over at Eight Corners Farm, located at the intersection of Albion Road and Windham Center Road, Rhonda Davis and her helpers are also busily making wreaths.

Davis, who works full time as an events coordinator for Harmon’s & Barton’s in Portland, uses her two weeks of vacation to create wreaths and kissing balls. While she buys the wreaths from another company, she adds her own touches to each to brighten the offering.

“We sell over 2,500 wreaths,” Davis said while working last Friday in her greenhouse. “Our wreaths come as straight balsam and then I’ll add pine and cedar so that’s my fancy touch to the wreaths. We do a lot of custom work. Ninety percent of it is custom so it’s not just generic work going out there.”

And, of course, she adds beautiful, big bows that she makes herself.

“I am the bow production,” Davis said. “They plug me at night in front of the TV and I make bows.”

Customers can purchase wreaths as well as Christmas trees at Eight Corners Farm, but the bulk of Davis’ business is selling to commercial accounts such as shopping centers in nearby towns.

Totally homegrown

As someone who produces wreaths from soup to nuts, Margaret Pinchbeck of Nash Road visits a nearby Windham wood lot – with the owner’s permission – and chops down a load of balsam boughs to cart home in her pickup truck, where she then laboriously cuts up her trove into smaller pieces.

Once all the balsam is gathered, Pinchbeck starts the time-consuming task of twisting the boughs around a sturdy wire frame, using twist-tie wire to hold the prickly boughs in place.

All of this handiwork can be rough, especially in bad weather, and Pinchbeck’s hands take the brunt of it.

“If the boughs are wet, and it’s cold, it can be really not very fun,” she said. “But I don’t like to use gloves because I need to be able to feel the wire and how tight I’m wrapping it. So I wear masking tape on my fingers instead.”

Like Studio Flora and Eight Corners Farm, Pinchbeck can’t delay too much in her wreath-making duties once Thanksgiving has come and gone. There’s no ability to pre-cut the boughs, since the goal is to have a wreath last through Christmas.

“The longer they can stay on the trees, the longer they’ll last, but if you cut them too early, they’ll drop their needles,” she said. “Also, I’ve found that if they’ve been through a couple of cold snaps, that helps, too. Toughens them up so they last longer once they are cut.”

Pinchbeck makes ribbons and collects pinecones and rose hip berries for decoration, as well. It’s the final part of the process, and it is relaxing for Pinchbeck following the hard work with the boughs and wire.

“Decorating is the easy part,” she said. “It’s all very enjoyable, unless I have a huge order.”

Laurie Buck, foreground, and Eight Corners Farm owner Rhonda Davis have fun working on Christmas wreaths and kissing balls last week. Davis is a full-time florist but uses her two weeks of vacation working 80-hour weeks, as well as help from employees like Buck, to crank out 2,500 wreaths. (Staff photos by John Balentine)Margaret Pinchbeck of Windham wraps boughs around a ring as she creates a wreath at her Nash Road workshop. She can’t work inside, since the sprigs would dry out. (Staff photo by John Balentine?)

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