By Fiona Doubleday
Wreaths are my complete and utter passion. For me, they are a homage to the changing seasons and a ‘must have’ for every home. They help to keep us grounded in the season and connected to all that it has to offer. Traditionally a wreath is a mark of celebration and welcome and are hung on doors especially at Christmas.
The first thing to consider is the base. I am not a polystyrene foam sort of person so, for me, the base must come from our natural environment. Willow is always my first choice because the making of the base is creative in itself. Growing willow is incredibly easy and this tree thrives on being coppiced every year. You might consider growing different varieties that have different coloured wood as that makes for an enchanting wreath base. Working with willow is very therapeutic and connects you with the guardian of the garden.
Other bases include pine tree branches wrapped around a wire circle, driftwood and straw. Your wreath does not have to be a circle although that is a soothing shape to have in your home.
Taking account of seasonality presents the creative challenge in wreath making. A decorated wreath is a lovely way to welcome in spring and I adore fresh spring flower wreaths using blooms such as daffodils, hyacinths and tiny crocuses. Of course this wreath will need replenishing every few days as the blooms fade but that is part of the joy of it. An Easter wreath can follow a similar pattern but might include quail eggs for additional patterning and detail. Pussy willow catkins are usually in full glory at this time of year and add a special delicate touch to an Easter wreath.
A summer wreath should capture all that is wonderful about summer and at the heart of that is fragrance. Summer fragrance should fill your home from both fresh and dried flowers. Lavender is an obvious choice for a summer wreath and can be attached fresh and left to dry. As it dries it will shrink slightly but you can just add some more bunches into the gaps the shrinkage creates.
I love large willow circles capable of holding lots and lots of beautiful fresh blooms such as sunflowers and hydrangeas with smaller details from scabious and cornflowers. All of these blooms can be left to dry on the wreath and then you can use them in your autumn wreaths. I always adorn my summer wreaths with lots of organza ribbons to drift in the summer breezes.
Another favourite summer wreath is made using beach fragments creatively arranged on a base of driftwood. You might have to just tackle the glue gun with this type of wreath but it will be worth it. Lovely for a bathroom or a quiet place in your home.
Moving into autumn we are into the harvest season and possibly the best wreath making season. Straw bound onto a wire circle with detailing from barley makes a simple wreath. Then you can add dried blooms from the summer wreath. Orange, yellow and red are the colours of autumn but purple does like to make an appearance.
Autumn is the season of preserving summer’s bounty for the winter so I like to make herbal wreaths. I tie on small bunches of herbs—rosemary, thyme, bay, oregano and lavender–on a willow base. As they dry, I use them in my cooking and replace them with fresh bunches. Much as it is lovely to hang this herbal wreath in your kitchen it will have to contend with condensation from the cooker so put it as far away from there as possible.
Christmas is the time to create the ultimate celebratory wreath. As such it needs some preparation. I begin my preparation in September when I begin to harvest and dry seed heads such as fennel and cow parsley from the hedgerows. In October and November I am always on the hunt for rose hips which I cut with fairly long stems and dry on frames covered with muslin. They will turn a deep red colour and wrinkle slightly as they dry. You should still find fresh rose hips in December that you can add to your wreath to give the lift of a brighter red–a Christmas wreath must have red on it somewhere.
I am not a fan of wreaths made of fresh pine branches but then I am not a fan of pine trees. I prefer to use my coppiced willow as a base and tie the hedgerow bunches on with rustic string for a more natural look. I also attach cinnamon sticks and string some nutmegs attached to some dried fruit. If you want to dry your own fruit you will have to slice it into thin slices and place on a baking tray and bake on a very low oven for at least 4 hours. I add some dried heather and oregano flowers to add a lovely plum colour to the wreath and I finish with a large christmas ribbon.
Seasonal wreaths make a lovely gift. The joy is in the experimentation. Get outside and start harvesting and see what works for you. I am currently drying hydrangea heads in time for this years christmas wreaths where I am combining them with blooms made out of jute. A contemporary twist on a traditional design.
Happy wreath making. Xx
Please do not forget the birds. Birds love their wreaths too. You can make them out of strung dried sunflowers with the seeds intact ready for feeding or make your own bird seed mix using seeds and nuts bound together with melted fat. All placed in a mold to cool and shape. Perfect.
All photos taken by Fiona Doubleday.
Fiona Doubleday is the mother of four beautiful children and lives on the Isle of Arran in Scotland. They live on a smallholding where they grow herbs, cut flowers and willow. Fiona runs a small craft company With Love From Arran and is a freelance writer. She teaches online courses, blogs regularly as Scottish Island Mum and launched a new web site called One Soul Many Hearts on October 11.