Creating Christmas Wreaths From A Variety Of Greenery

Posted: December 07, 1986

In late summer, it is as difficult to get into Alberta Fuss' basement and garage as it is to figure out what she is going to do with all the dried artemisia, basil, tarragon, rosemary and other herbs hanging from the ceilings.

By early December, Fuss is hard at work making wreaths, potpourri and other wonderfully fragrant holiday gifts, wishing as she works that she had saved more of the bounty from her summer garden.

Wreaths in the Fuss household come in four types - two made with herbs, one with eucalyptus and the last with evergreens for Christmas. For her "true" herb wreath, Fuss uses a straw base. These are widely available in craft shops and other supply houses, and Fuss recommends buying the 12-inch diameter to make a generous wreath.

On this base, Fuss likes to combine Silver Queen or Silver King artemesia with German statice in little bunches. She pins them into the wreath with fern pins, which resemble large staples. German statice (Goniolimon tatarica) is hard to find, unlike common statice (Limonium sinuata), which is readily available in blues, yellows and other colors. If you can't find a supply, Fuss suggests you try Robert Thayer's Weed Barn in Quakertown.

Once the base is in place, Fuss adds the greenery, using dried rosemary, thyme or marjoram. All are fragrant, but she especially likes thyme and makes sure there is at least one sprig in each wreath. She also saves seedpods - basil, bergamot, oregano, love-in-a-mist - throughout the summer for decorating the foliage.

If you plan to make wreaths next winter, check seedpods on your herbs frequently during the summer and save them in all stages of ripeness. As they ripen, they change color, providing many different shades to work into the wreath.

Fuss uses globe amaranth as a final touch and, for Christmas wreaths, rose hips. Strawflowers or Pearly everlasting, a wildflower she collects in the Poconos, are some of her other favorite decorations.

Fuss also makes herb wreaths using a single wire crimp ring, but she often finds it hard to obtain her favorite size - 10 inches in diameter. (Bobby Nice, buyer for Thayer's Weed Barn, says the rings range in size from 8 to 36 inches.) The crimp ring has accordion-style pleats in the wire to make it easier to hold the materials in place. Fuss uses green spool wire to attach the bunches of artemesia and German statice to the wreath, then she touches it up with strawflowers.

While Alberta Fuss is making wreaths in North Wales, her two daughters are busy making theirs in New England, and it was they who got her started making eucalyptus wreaths.

For this one, she uses an 8-inch crimp ring, bending it into a heart shape before wrapping it with green florist tape. As a base, she twines two pieces of eucalyptus, then wraps them onto the frame with spool wire. The process, she says, requires patience, but it's worth the trouble for the fragrance and the gray/blue of the eucalyptus foliage. For decoration, Fuss adds globe amaranth and baby's breath.

For evergreen wreaths, Fuss and her husband, Harold, prune yews, junipers, arborvitae, even small pieces from the neighbor's balsam fir as a base. They wrap the greens onto a double-wire frame with spool wire and trim them with seedpods, cones and a bright red bow. Wreath-making is a 10-month process, lasting from the time Fuss sows the first seeds in February until she has completed the last wreath the week before Christmas, but it provides her with enormous satisfaction.

WHAT TO DO THIS WEEK

Winter is hard on your house plants. In most houses, the factors that cause the most distress are lack of humidity, high temperatures and excessive watering by the over-eager gardener. To provide additional humidity, group plants together and place the pots on trays of damp pebbles. Turning the thermostat down in the house at night will make things easier for the plants, as will watering with discretion. When temperatures are cool and light levels low, plants use much less water than they do in summer. Don't water on a schedule; water when the soil feels dry.

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