The plants that play a role in Shakespeare’s works include a number of herbs and flowers that dry easily and retain their color and shape: bay laurel, lavender, marjoram, oregano, poppy, rose, rue, sea holly, and wormwood. We’ve devised this elegant small wreath of everlastings as a fitting tribute to the Bard’s mastery of garden imagery. You may wish to make one for a favorite English literature teacher, an aspiring actor, or a friend who loves Shakespeare. You can pick and dry materials from your own garden or purchase them from a craft store.
Our Shakespearean wreath is made from a base of wormwood (Artemisia absinthium). Other artemisias, such as Silver King (A. ludoviciana cv.) and mugwort (A. vulgaris), would work as well, but wormwood is the only artemisia Shakespeare mentions specifically. For the wreath base, it is important to use fresh materials because dried wormwood becomes too brittle to bend. If you harvest the wormwood in late summer or early autumn, you’ll have its tiny flowers as a bonus.
The wreath base is 1 1/2 inches thick and forms a circle 5 inches in diameter. For a different-size wreath, you would start with stems that are about four times longer than the desired diameter of the wreath.
Bend a wormwood stem into a circle, with the tip end overlapping the butt end by 6 to 8 inches (Figure 1). Wrap the overlapping tip around the butt end in a spiral to secure it, then spiral a second stem completely around the circular form of the first one. Don’t be concerned if the butts protrude at this stage. Continue wrapping wormwood stems, one at a time, around the circular base until your wreath is as thick as you like (Figure 2). As you add new stems, adjust the shape so that it remains symmetrical. For instance, if one section of the wreath base looks a little thinner than the rest, wrap a wormwood stem around that section only. Leave the tips of the last few stems projecting outward to give your wreath a graceful sweeping shape. Finish the wreath base by trimming off the protruding butts. Figure 3 shows the finished base. Let it dry for several days before continuing. You can add the dried herbs and flowers at any time after that.
When you are ready to decorate your wreath base, assemble a selection of dried herbs and flowers.
The first step is to attach the flowers and sprigs of herbs to false stems of floral wire with the floral tape. Wrap a single large flower, such as a rose, onto a false stem by itself; wrap small bunches of small flowers (of the same type or of different types) onto a single false stem and treat each bunch as a single unit. Use the thicker floral wire to make stems for large flowers or bunches of flowers, and the thinner wire for smaller flowers.
Cut a piece of floral wire about 6 inches long—long enough to pass through the body of the wreath base and leave you a tail to work with. Choose a flower—a single rose or poppy are easy ones to start with—and align the wire so that it overlaps the bottom inch or two of the stem. Position the end of the floral tape at a slight downward angle just above the point at which the flower stem overlaps the floral wire. Next (this takes some practice), twirl the stem between your thumb and forefinger while feeding the tape from the spool in a tight spiral down over the stem (Figure 4). Stretch the tape as you wrap so that it will adhere smoothly. End the wrap and cut it off 1/4 to 1/2 inch below the end of the flower stem.
Because wreaths are circular, some symmetry of form and color is desirable; however, a wreath in which a pattern of flowers continues unvaryingly can look contrived and uninteresting. A wormwood wreath base is intrinsically decorative and does not need to be covered completely with flowers. In this wreath, we left most of the wreath base exposed and clustered the dried flowers along the tips of the wormwood stems that we left projecting outward.
Poke the wired flower stems through the wreath backing, and twist their ends around the thicker twined stems. Take care that the wires are not visible from the front or sides of the wreath. Continue inserting wired single flowers and bunches until you have an arrangement that pleases you.
Dried-flower wreaths will last for at least three or four years with proper care. Although all natural colors will fade slowly, they will last much longer if you keep them out of direct sunlight and away from direct moisture or high humidity, which will also cause some flowers to droop. To remove dust from your wreath, treat it to light, periodic blowings from a hair dryer set on cool. You can extend the life of a favorite wreath design by replacing the most faded dried flowers with a few newer, brighter ones.
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