Another Garden Club "Wreath Week" has come and gone. I believe that a good time was had by all of us decorators and our "management team," and I'll bet the drivers and their partners who deliver many of the wreaths had fun, too, since they often get all the credit for the wreaths.
As for me, I ate far too many chocolate-covered Belgian cookies, slices of lemon pound cake, and tiny chocolate-chip muffins. I did manage to curtail my mini cinnamon bun consumption, which is something, since I used to eat one before beginning each wreath, to fuel my endeavors. Keep in mind that I used to make a LOT more wreaths each day than I do now, back when I didn't have joint issues.
I wasn't enthusiastic about how my first wreaths turned out this year, but as I look at them now, they don't seem so bad.
The first wreath always takes forever. For one thing, materials need to be gathered, and there are lots to choose from, and everything is fresh and wonderful. Then the bow has to be made, and there's no point in trying to decorate a wreath without a bow, so one often uses that time to catch up with everyone and maybe have a little piece of coffee cake or Danish or lemon poundcake or, if the bows take long enough, all three. Then one realizes, too late, that one should spray the pinecones with gold or with glitter, and that takes a while. And while they dry, there's more conversation, often at the buffet table.
I like the bow on that wreath — a no-nonsense Christmas plaid. We ran low on red ribbon this year, which was too bad, because red bows and plaid bows are popular requests. This customer got lucky.
As you can see, we had fresh holly with bright, perfect red berries, and umbrella pine sprays on the first day. Umbrella pine is that light green stuff that projects from the surface of the wreath and looks a bit like fireworks if you're in a fanciful frame of mind.
Almost all of the wreath orders I get are for outdoor display and all-natural materials, unlike others people who specialize in "glamorous glitz." I am best left to pinecones and other indestructible materials that rarely clash. Give me too much freedom with the fake stuff and things will get out of control. It's harder to ruin a pinecone-based wreath although I manage to do it from time to time.
I also used white pine, cedar with yellow buds, pinecones I collected locally in the summer, and some little, hard flower-shaped pods that I sprayed gold.
I had a new can of spray paint and it misbehaved, dripping gold all over one of my boots. At that moment, I realized they were not the old ones I meant to wear, but my (formerly) nice new ones. But, fortunately, as I pointed this out to some friends, I spoke within earshot of the woman in charge of graffiti removal for the neighborhood association. She told me to try Goof Off on a Q-tip, which would not have occurred to me — and it worked perfectly. The garden club and the neighborhood association are filled with smart and talented people and it is great to know them.
The next wreath was for a friend with a dark red door, and she chose the bow. I forgot to photograph this one on my easel, but you can get a sense of it here.
This wreath uses a lot of the same materials as the previous wreath, substituting rose hips for holly. Her entryway is a little dark, so I used bigger, lighter pinecones that would be more visible from the sidewalk. And this wreath didn't have to be all natural so I added sparkly "crystal" branches ("ice"), tiny red glass balls, and a snowy owl named Hedwig.
On the next "all-natural" wreath I used yucca pods, which are flower-shaped and hard, but still easy for me to break and ruin. I sprayed them with glitter. By this time, we were already low on umbrella pine and holly, so I began using magnolia leaves and fake berries, which are allowed for color on all-natural wreaths. This wreath also has slender twigs with buds, also sprayed with glitter.
It's important that you understand that I am surrounded by incredibly talented decorators when I'm making my feeble efforts. For example, the woman at the table next to me quietly and swiftly made these indoor wreaths for some lucky household.
Among other materials, she used dried roses, hydrangea, and babies' breath, in colors that perfectly complement the champagne metallic bows. If I tried to use any of those fragile flowers, I'd end up writhing on the floor in a pile of crushed petals and stems. I have so much respect for all the other wreath decorators. After many years, I know my capabilities, and that I'm surrounded by inspiring companions way beyond my league.
I'm better off handling a few sturdy sticks:
I can wire sticks onto wreaths without destroying anything. These sticks are dotted with pinecones, and I like the effect, plus it saves me having to wire more pinecones, too.
I cover the tips of my thumbs and index fingers with surgical tape so I don't get as many wounds from pine needles, holly leaves, and the nasty little thorns that hide on the stems of the rose hips. By the end of the day, I'd made four wreaths and my hands were not too filthy, but they were covered with tiny, invisible cuts. I should wear gloves, but they make me clumsy.
I went home determined to be faster, more productive, and more creative the next day.