Wreath Week was as lovely as ever. I'd been looking forward to it for months. On Sunday night, as I collected my apron, pruner, pliers, and other items, I felt as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve.
Some of my stuff, including gardening gloves, plastic gloves for spray-painting, and first-aid tape to protect my fingertips from holly and thorns.
It was an inspiring, entertaining, exhausting week. By the end of yesterday, I felt like every muscle in my body hurt, mostly because I'm not used to being on my feet from 9 to 7. Despite some very long, warm, soapy scrubs, I still have traces of pine tar under my nails. My face, hair, bag, socks, and bed were dusted with of glitter and pine needles, and my boots were splashed with gold spray paint.
My hands didn't hurt as much as I expected. When they threatened to start aching badly, I worked more slowly and carefully, and took breaks. I'd started taking Aleve the previous weekend, and that probably helped a lot. Other women in the club have similar problems and they shared their stories and remedies with me, from warm soaks to special wraps and tape.
My first wreath was deceptively easy. My speciality is outdoor wreaths with all-natural materials, so I get lots of those orders. Some of us are more comfortable with pinecones, pods, greens, fresh berries, and so on, while others are all about glitter, fake fruit, and glass balls. Some designers, including all the best ones, are at home in both worlds, and can even mix major glitz and natural items on the same wreath in ways I can only dream about.
I can do indoor wreaths, of course, but better designers can use all sorts of delicate dried flowers and other fragile things, which I tend to destroy as I'm wiring them onto the wreath. I'm better with heavy-duty stuff like pinecones. (You'd think I'd be good at using lots of fake materials, which tend to be indestructible but, no . . . I usually go overboard and create some nightmare of tastelessness.)
So, my first wreath order specified all-natural materials and a bright red bow:
I used holly, rose hips, cedar, many pinecones, and milkweed pods and lotus pods. I also found something new for me: yucca pods — dried, woody buds that were able to withstand my pushing and poking. It looked like I sprayed them gold, but I didn't.
The next wreath was a "designer's choice," which means you can do anything you want — within reason. I picked a shimmery brocade ribbon that reminded me of Venice, and found some fake fruit with similar colors, since I was feeling brave and foolhardy enough to use some big, fake stuff. Pale green fake berries blended with cedar, rose hips and those tough buds, which I think are sprayed gold this time. I love anything that is hard to break.
Those green fluffy pom-poms are fresh — and in the dianthus/carnation family, I heard. Their stems look exactly like those on carnations. I'd never seen them before.
The next wreath was all-natural again. The plaid bow went well with rose hips. They are easiest to use when they are at their freshest, on the first day of Wreath Week. By Thursday, they are already fading and drying out in the church basement's warmth.
I seem to have been in the mood to use lotus pods, along with eucalyptus, cedar, and more of the bright green carnation-y stuff. I wanted to add something purple or dark blue because of that bow, but we didn't have anything natural in those colors. I did find another very tough, woody flower with interesting petals:
My last wreath for the day was yet another all-natural outdoor wreath. The customer picked this bow, which is edged with gold beading. I added sprays of pine, some excellent holly, yarrow, and two kinds of pinecones.
We fully decorated about 180 wreaths, or so I heard, over four days, and just added bows to many more. They are already up around the neighborhood and they stand out from all the other ordinary (I'd say "garden-variety" but we're the Garden Club) wreaths — not only because of our distinctive bows but because we do a better job of decorating.
The women who run this annual operation and everyone who volunteers — to decorate, deliver, make bows, clean up, and keep everyone organized — are uniformly friendly, supportive (and downright charitable to me), and lots of fun to be around. And, as always, I'm surrounded by decorators who continually stagger me with their creativity and artistry.