These simple circles of hedgerow gleanings are abiding yule-time symbols that capture the essence of Christmas. In the depths of cold mid-winter, a welcoming wreath hung on your front door sets the tone for the warm and comforting Christmassy glow that awaits inside.
Making a wreath can seem a daunting challenge if you have never attempted one before, but Dartmouth florist Heather Wilbourn can show you how to create your own artistic evergreen ring.
I headed over to Stoke Fleming Village Hall where the friendly ladies of Stoke Fleming Gardening Club welcomed me to their Christmas gathering, which included a wreath making demonstration by Heather and her able assistant Amy.
A myriad of twigs can be used as the basis for the wreath including willow, hazel, poplar, aspen, dog wood, weeping birch, vine such as old man’s beard – anything really, Heather told the group.
You can even use a ready-made wire-framed ring, which Heather sells in her Anzac Street florist shop, Flowersmiths for as little as 75-pence.
Heather showed us how to coated the wire frames in damp moss (sphagnum is best). First wind some string onto a small piece of card for ease of use, then wrap the string around the moss to secure it to the frame. Wind it loosely at first then go around again to neaten it up.
When you have completed this stage, immerse the moss in water to expand it before embarking on the creative bit of the process – filling your wreath with greenery of your choice.
Heather used Nordman Fir as it ‘lasts and lasts,’ she said, adding: ‘The needles hold quite fast so you can make your wreath three to four weeks in advance of Christmas.’ Clean off a little bit of the stem and then poke the fir into the moss all the way around the ring, binding with string as you go.
Next, make little bundles of different firs to poke in among the Nordman, building up the shape as you go. Heather said: ‘It doesn’t matter what you use as long as it’s you’re reasonably even with it.’
Heather also incorporated some osmanthus, a holly-type foliage, to the wreath and finished it off with some flowers. She explained: ‘If you want to use orchids you can create a single leg mount by wrapping wire around the seam and leaving about an inch at the bottom to poke into the wreath.
‘You can add flowers at the end or as you go along. With delicate flowers it’s best to do it at the end so you don’t damage the delicate petals but if you are using holly berry it’s best to do it as you go along.’
Other adornments, such as gold-sprayed fir cones and Christmas tree baubles, can also be incorporated to the wreath.
Heather finished her wreath with a simple but effective raffia bow. She also showed the group how to make a wreath using oasis as the base, saying: ‘It is the same principle only much easier.’
To make a wreath with freshly cut twigs, make a circle from three to five wands, bind with string and follow the same steps as you would when using a ready-made wire ring.
Gather materials for your wreath, such as berries, mistletoe, old man’s beard, ivy and rosemary, from your garden and wire them together to the required length. Attach to the base making sure the wires aren’t visible and tie a colourful ribbon to the bindings as a hangar to attach to your door.
Heather and Amy also had time to show the group how to make a selection of festive table arrangements.
Heather’s creative imagination went into overdrive with the last, but by no means least, of her demonstrations. She revealed her zany side with a roll of spiral ducting which she fashioned into an eye-catching illuminated table display.
Heather’s demonstration has inspired me to go on a foraging trip into the woods to gather foliage for my own wreath. If you would like to learn the art of wreath-making from this master florist, book yourself a place at Heather’s December wreath-making demonstration at Flowersmiths on Tuesday December 11 from 1.30pm to 3pm. But hurry as numbers are limited.
Otherwise, why not ask Heather to make you a bespoke wreath.
For more information pop into Flowersmiths in Anzac Street or phone Heather on 01803 835900.•
First Published December 2012 By The Dart