Preserve your Garden’s Beauty

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Finished Harvest Wreath.
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Finished Lavender Wreath.
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Next, begin attaching bundles.
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First, wire moss to your form.
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Start with a straw or moss-covered wreath form.
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Overlap leaves and flowers until the form is covered.
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I‘ve often admired the dried wreaths adorning
the doors of friends and neighbors, but I’d never ventured to make
my own until I saw the one Betsy Williams made for the herbal
wedding story in our March 2001 issue. Once I realized how fun and
relatively simple they can be — or complex, if that’s your
preference — I vowed to make one at the end of each summer with my
favorite herbs from that year’s garden. If you don’t have
everything you need in the garden, a trip to your local florist or
craft store will fill in the gaps. (And for those of you not up to
the task, suggestions for purchasing pre-made herbal wreaths can be
found on Page 31).

FRESH VS. DRIED

When it comes to choosing fresh or dried botanicals, let the
look be your guide. While it’s easy to clip small, fresh bouquets
from the garden, arrange and wire them to a wreath form and hang it
right away, remember that when they dry, they’ll curl and form to
the angle at which they are hanging. This is fine for some
botanicals — a few curled sage leaves dispersed among stiffer
flowers and stems will be fine — but if you use a plethora of fresh
sage leaves as your backdrop mixed with roses, you’ll likely have a
droopy mess of a wreath on your hands when the herbs dry. Fresh
herbs and flowers, however, do have their place (see “Fresh
Centerpiece” directions on Page 31). Whether you choose to use
fresh, dried or a combination thereof, make sure you have some
variety of leaf shapes, sizes and colors.

A GLANCE AT DRYING BOTANICALS

To dry your herbs, secure bunches with a rubber band about 1
inch from the bottom of the stems, and hang them upside down in a
cool, dark and dry place. (See Page 36 for more details on drying
herbs.) I usually hang bunches of each herb together and then
gamble with separating them and loosening some leaves when
wreath-making time arrives. Alternately, if you have enough space
and want to preserve the entire stem with leaves intact, hang each
sprig individually from clothespins on a line of wire or string,
leaving plenty of space to prevent them from touching or sticking
together while drying.

No matter how you begin to tackle this project, collect more
botanicals than you think you’ll need so you have plenty on hand to
fill in any gaps as you complete your wreath.

CHOOSING A FORM

Several types of wreath forms are available in the floral
section of craft stores: wire, twig or grapevine, straw,
moss-covered and foam, to name a few. Choose one based on your own
style, or try them all to see which you like working with best. If
you’re using a foam form, you probably won’t want any of it
showing, so you’ll need plenty of flowers and leaves to fill in and
cover the foam entirely. Wire forms are lightweight, but also need
to be covered completely, either with botanicals or with moss or
straw before you begin. I’ve made a few suggestions, ranging from
simple to complex combinations, in the instructions for various
types of wreaths at right. Also keep in mind whether you prefer
gluing or wiring items to the form when making your selection.

OTHER MATERIALS

A glue gun is a must for most dried wreath projects. Even if you
choose not to use it as the main mode of attaching botanicals,
you’ll find it invaluable at some point when touching up your final
wreath. Choose a low-temperature hot glue gun or cool melt glue gun
for these purposes.

Wire for attaching botanicals should be next on your shopping
list. Spools of varying gauges of green floral wire are available
at craft stores; or you can put those excess garbage bag ties
filling your kitchen drawer to good use by stripping their paper
exteriors to reveal the bare wire. These will do a fine job of
attaching the plants to your wreath form, but keep the silver
covered by overlapping it with leaves.

To add meaning to your wreath, keep a guidebook to the Victorian
language of flowers, such as Tussie-Mussies: The Language of
Flowers by Geraldine Adamich Laufer (Workman Publishing, 1993), on
hand for reference as you prepare.

LAVENDER WREATH

Lavender offers splendid wreath-crafting potential because the
entire plant is scented, textural and beautiful. The light airiness
of simply placed dried lavender stems and blossoms makes for a
whimsical, delicious-smelling wreath.

2 or 3 pieces 22-gauge floral wire (each piece about 20 to 24
inches long, depending on desired wreath size)
1 handful of moss or lamb’s-ears (about 2 loosely filled cups’
worth)
Lightweight (about 26-gauge) floral wire
Dried lavender stems with blossoms (about 300)
Wire clippers
Ribbon, optional

Begin by twisting 2 or 3 pieces of 22-gauge floral wire
together. Then form into a circle and twist the ends together.
Next, place some moss or lamb’s-ears on the newly created wire
wreath form and wrap with lightweight floral wire, adding and
wrapping as you go around the circle until the entire piece is
covered with moss.

Next, bunch together about 10 lavender stems with blossoms and
wrap tightly with wire near the blossoms, leaving about 1 inch of
wire on each end to secure to the wreath form. Once secure, snip
the stems about an inch or two below the wire so the bunch is 5 to
6 inches long (longer for a large wreath). Repeat until you have
several bunches on hand.

Now wire a bunch to the moss-covered wreath form (see photo on
Page 29). Then, just below that bunch, wire the next bunch to the
wreath form so the blossoms are overlapping the wire of the
previous bunch and protruding out from the wreath slightly.
Continue this process around the entire wreath and repeat to fill
in any spots where the wreath looks off balance.

Finally, secure a wire to the back of the wreath to serve as a
hanger and attach a bow to the top or bottom with wire, if you
like.

ROSEMARY REMEMBRANCE WREATH

This is one of the simpler wreaths to make because any
botanicals you add are merely accenting the already interesting
look of the vines or twigs. While I prefer to wire fresh rosemary
to the wreath, you can just as easily hot glue dried rosemary and
the other botanicals, if you wish.

Thin-gauge floral wire
Rosemary sprigs (dried or fresh)
Grapevine or twig wreath
Wire cutters
Glue gun
Berries, such as hawthorn, or rose hips
Other dried flowers, such as white sage, statice or Queen Anne’s
lace
5 or 6 small pine cones or dried roses

Wire a few rosemary sprigs around the wreath using short (11/2-
to 2-inch) pieces to begin with. Remember, you always can add more
later, but it will be difficult to remove them once you’ve added
other items. Next, add berries or rose hips by wiring stems or
gluing small individual pieces at intermittent spots around the
wreath. Add more rosemary and any other botanicals to fill in the
gaps, if you like; then glue some pine cones or dried roses to
finish off the piece.

Complete the wreath by looping a 3- or 4-inch piece of wire
through some sturdy branches on the back and twisting the ends
together as a secure hanger.

HARVEST WREATH

Make this wreath with herbs you’ve already dried by hanging
upside down in a cool, dark room. (See “The Low-Tech Art of Drying
Herbs,” Page 36.)

Dried herbs and flowers, such as nigella seed pods, safflower,
eucalyptus, statice, yarrow, wheat or roses
1 straw or moss-covered wreath form
Thin-gauge floral wire
Wire cutters
Glue gun (optional)

Begin by arranging a handful of stems that offer plenty of color
and texture and trim them to about 8 inches. Bind them to the
wreath with wire (see photo at left). Next, wire another bunch
about 5 or 6 inches below the first so the leaves and flowers
overlap the first wire. Repeat until the entire wreath is
covered.

Fill in any spaces at your discretion by wiring or gluing
individual branches or flowers in the gaps.

Make the wreath’s hanger by pressing a 6-inch piece of wire
through the straw wreath in a U shape and then twisting the
ends.

CULINARY WREATH

Not just another pretty wreath, this combination of your
favorite culinary herbs can be hung in the kitchen for decoration
and occasional use.

18- to 20-inch piece heavy floral wire (or double and twist
together lightweight wire)
Fresh or dried culinary herbs, such as bay, marjoram, sage or
thyme
Cooking string
Thin-gauge floral wire cut into 1-inch and 2-inch pieces (for
attaching herbs)
2 to 3 pieces of wire, about 6 inches long
Garlic or shallot bulbs
Ribbon, for hanging

Begin by forming an oval or circle with your wire and twisting
the ends tightly together, overlapping, if necessary. Then, tie
bunches of herbs together with cooking string or twine. You may
find that you’ve collected some leaves, such as bay or sage, with
little or no stem that you want to remain flat and facing forward.
If so, simply poke a short, 1-inch piece of wire through each leaf,
about 1/2 inch from the bottom of the leaf and wire to the wreath
form. Next, attach bunches to the wire circle with wire, making
sure the tops of each bunch overlap the bottom of the bunch above
it (see photo on Page 29). Repeat around the wreath until the
entire circle is covered and add additional layers, if you
choose.

Insert a 6-inch piece of wire through the bottom of a shallot or
garlic bulb, between the cloves and out the top. Wrap the ends
around what you deem to be the top of your wreath and twist them
together at the back. Repeat with other bulbs, if you like.

Finally, to hang your wreath, loop a ribbon around the wire form
at the top of your wreath and tie it off tightly. Make the ribbon
longer if you want it to show, or keep it quite short if you want
it to be hidden behind the wreath when it’s hanging.

FRESH CENTERPIECE

Dried arrangements have their place, but as a centerpiece for a
tea or luncheon, a fresh wreath is lively and fun. If you can’t
find a floral foam wreath form, you can easily carve a block of
floral foam purchased from your local florist or craft store into a
rough circle with a kitchen knife.

6 to 9 large fresh-cut bunches of herbs and flowers such as
roses, mint, sage, Johnny jump-ups, lavender or marjoram, as needed
depending on wreath size
Lightweight floral wire
Floral tape
1 floral foam wreath form, such as Aqua-foam (I used the
12-inch.)
1 plate or dish large enough for the wreath to sit in

Cut fresh herbs and flowers when the day is cool and place in a
jar of cool water. Just about any culinary herbs that will
withstand being cut and watered will work — some more tender
leaves, such as basil or cilantro, might not stand the process.
Although you can press some individual woody stems directly into
the wreath form, the best way to begin this project is to create
small bouquets by grouping some stems, binding them together with
floral wire and surrounding that with floral tape (which will stick
to itself when stretched and wrapped). A great background filler is
parsley. Trim the ends off evenly and then set these small bouquets
in a glass or dish of cold water and place in the refrigerator.

Next, run your wreath form under gently flowing cool water until
damp. Allow any excess water to drip into the sink for a moment and
then place the form in the plate or dish.

Retrieve your bouquets from the refrigerator and start placing
them by gently pressing the wrapped stems into the foam. If they
don’t go in easily, simply create a hole with the end of a pair of
scissors that’s large enough to fit the stems, but small enough
they’ll fit tightly. Repeat this around the wreath, making sure the
sides and center are covered, as well.

When you feel the wreath is complete, drizzle cool water over
it, making sure some soaks into the foam, and place at the center
of your table or refrigerate until guests arrive.


Dawna Edwards is a former editor of The Herb Companion from
Colorado who enjoys summers in the garden, autumn in the craft room
and winter with the snowy reprieve of the mountains.

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