By Penny Pawl, U. C. Master Gardener of Napa County
Tis the season and possibly you are planning to decorate your home for the coming holidays. Take a stroll through your garden and look at all the beautiful plants growing there. Some of them might work well in a wreath for the holidays.
The plants mentioned below do well in wreaths, although some last without water longer than others. If you're unsure how plants will perform in a wreath, cut some and slowly dry them to see how they look after a week or two. Discard those that do not stay fresh-looking. European bay (Laurus nobilis) is a good choice, as are smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria), redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) to name a few. The red winter leaves of nandina last well in a wreath.
You can also add the red berries of toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), small pine cones or dried lavender. Craft stores and nurseries can supply other additions. Don't forget small ornaments. Online I saw an exercise “noodle,” or hoop, used as an ornament-only wreath and it was quite nice. The ornaments were wired and pushed into the noodle.
There are many different types of wreath bases. How you assemble the wreath depends on which base you choose. Some are easy while others require more time. You can either make or buy a grapevine wreath. If you make it, bake it a while at low heat to kill any bugs that might be in the grapevine. Also consider hay wreaths, assorted metal frames of different sizes or Styrofoam.
You will need a glue gun, wire, wire cutters and possibly scissors. Have equipment ready before you start to build your wreath. If your base is grapevines, hay or Styrofoam, you can poke the foliage in wherever you wish. With wire bases, you need to wire each bundle onto the wire frame. As you work around the frame, space foliage bundles at intervals that leave room for the decorative touches.
Decorate your wreath with dried fruits such as lemons, oranges and persimmons. Be sure to add ribbon. You can buy bows or make your own
I have used old wine corks to decorate a grapevine wreath. I glue the corks on with my glue gun and arrange them around the wreath. I add Champagne corks to the top if I have them and then fill in with real or artificial foliage, bows and ornaments. I also made a wreath out of succulents a couple of years ago. I bought a wire frame, fastened wire around it and stuffed it with well-soaked sphagnum moss. Then I cut off the succulents and pushed them into the moss. This wreath is a work in process. When I made it, I did not have many succulents on hand and so left space between the plants. It looks best if the succulents are close together. Eventually they will root and cover the frame.
Last but not least, save a piece of wire to make a hanger for your wreath. You can then hang it on your front door or in a window. It will last longer outside. A wreath of this type is not permanent. You will need to take it apart as the plants dry and die. Save your base so you can make a fresh one next year.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will host a workshop on “Creating Holiday Wreaths” on Sunday, December 11, from noon to 3 p.m., at the Yountville Community Center, 6516 Washington Street, Yountville. Learn what plants in your garden could make good wreaths for decorating. Learn how to choose and prepare plant materials so they will look good for a long time. Learn tips and tricks for designing and making easy wreaths for the holidays or any time. Participants will create their own wreath to take home, made from locally collected plant materials. $20 for Yountville residents; $23 for non-residents. Register with Yountville Parks & Recreation or call 707-944-8712.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.