Apples, Pine Cones and Artichokes: Ornamenting the Wreath

December 13, 2015 CW 213

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What is beautiful?  What is not?

Our answer is often a Rorschach test of our own personality.

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Wreathes, a most ancient symbol of eternity and eternal life, come to us from deep antiquity.

We find traces of them in the earliest evidence of civilization we can find.  Whether made from precious metals and ornamented with gemstones, carved in stone, or woven from olive branches; wreathes remain symbols of celebration and commemoration.

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December 13, 2015 CW 176

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Wreathes woven from evergreen branches mark the winter solstice holidays.  They symbolically promise that despite the ever shortening days and cold weather, life goes on and the sun will soon return.  And we decorate these evergreen wreathes with the seeds of new life.

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December 13, 2015 CW 194

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Fruits, cones, berries, cotton puffs, nuts and seed pods, our favorite ornaments for our wreathes, all bear seeds inside them.  They contain the promise of next season’s fertility.

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December 13, 2015 CW 019

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The early Virginia colonists likely brought branches of evergreen trees into their homes to mark the  Christmas holiday.  But the certainly didn’t construct the beautiful fruit laden wreathes we admire around ‘Colonial Williamsburg’ today.

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December 13, 2015 CW 166~

To quote Theobald and Oliver, writing on the official Colonial Williamsburg website in an article called, ‘Deck the Doors,’  :

“Never mind that no one in the eighteenth century would have been caught dead with real fruit tacked to his front door.  Anyone hanging fresh fruit outdoors in the middle of winter to rot or be devoured by squirrels would have been thought, at best, highly eccentric by his neighbors. “

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December 13, 2015 CW 168

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The unique handmade wreathes, swags. sprays and baskets, constructed of only natural materials and lacking ribbons and bows, were first created in the late 1930’s; after the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation opened up for business and wanted to attract a crowd in all seasons.

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They were greatly admired and photographed.  Soon a contest for the most beautiful wreathes in this style evolved, and the ‘Della robbia’ or ‘fruit covered’ wreath style of Colonial Williamsburg was launched.

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In some ways it makes sense that these beautiful wreathes, constructed of ‘found’ materials, caught on at the end of the Great Depression years in America.  Wreathes in this style may be constructed very inexpensively with whatever may be at hand.

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December 13, 2015 CW 087

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They are also a reaction, at least in part, against the commercialization of Christmas.  They feed our romantic notion of what life could have been like ‘back in the day’ before silver tinsel trees and Christmas ornaments imported from Asian factories became the norm.

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December 13, 2015 CW 118

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But the truth is, even though wealthy residents of 18th century Williamsburg might have eaten pineapples and citrus fruits imported from the Caribbean colonies, they didn’t fashion outdoor decorations from them.

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December 13, 2015 CW 120

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And the Colonial Williamsburg wreathes today ask us to broaden our thinking about what is appropriate as a Christmas decoration.  Dried okra pods?  Skeins of yarn?  Artichokes?  Why not?

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December 13, 2015 CW 027

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Beauty often transcends the materials and shines through the design, the geometry, the harmony, and the  colors used.

The making of these wreathes is a 20th Century phenomenon; not an 18th Century fashion.  But they blend so beautifully into this reconstruction and reinterpretation of a Colonial Virginia town.

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December 13, 2015 CW 091

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If you find them beautiful, please try your hand at making a della Robbia wreath of your own.  Begin with a wire, straw or grapevine base.  Gather some evergreen branches or Magnolia leaves.  Bay leaves and citrus leaves work well, too, if you have them.

Then gather things you find beautiful and meaningful:  fruit, cones, shells, pods, dried flowers, vegetables, nuts and berries.  Use wire, hot glue and floral picks to build your design.

You might even make an ‘edible’ wreath of fruits to serve at a party.

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December 13, 2015 CW 171

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The trick is to express yourself and create a wreath which has meaning for you.  Create something beautiful to ornament your own home at the holidays.

The materials don’t matter, so long as they bring you joy.

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Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a 'Star Wars' theme.....

Can you see the face? All of the ornaments on this house follow a ‘Star Wars’ theme…..

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All photos were taken in Colonial Williamsburg this December

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'Light Sabers...."

‘Light Sabers….”

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Woodland Gnome 2015

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December 13, 2015 CW 121

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar,  featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015, is  available now.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Wordless Wednesday: The ‘Time Warp’

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

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“It’s being here now that’s important.

There’s no past and there’s no future.

Time is a very misleading thing. All there is ever, is the now.

We can gain experience from the past,

but we can’t relive it;

and we can hope for the future,

but we don’t know if there is one.”

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George Harrison

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December 13, 2015 CW 096

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“I give you this to take with you:
Nothing remains as it was. If you know this, you can
begin again, with pure joy in the uprooting.”

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Judith Minty

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December 13, 2015 CW 081

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

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“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar,  featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015, is  available now.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Shells in Christmas Decorations

Colonial Williamsburg

Colonial Williamsburg

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Sea shells may not seem like a traditional Christmas decoration, but they certainly can be lovely ones.

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December 13, 2015 CW 153

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Shells are commonplace for those of us who live near the coast; especially those shells left from a meal of oysters, clams, or scallops.  These wreathes on display now in Colonial Williamsburg feature shells as an important part of their design.

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December 13, 2015 CW 151

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We’ve probably all seen scallop shells transformed into angelic tree ornaments and white starfish hung from ribbons.  The della robbia wreathes at Colonial Williamsburg incorporate many surprising and commonplace materials, including shells, dried flowers, fruits, vegetables, vines, cotton, seed pods, nuts, cones and berries, as well as evergreen stems and leaves.

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This wreath hangs at Chowning's Tavern, in Colonial Williamsburg.

This wreath hangs at Chowning’s Tavern, in Colonial Williamsburg.

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These are unusual and playful decorations for the Christmas season.

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I used shells and pearls in  decorations for a ladies’ luncheon earlier today.

My ‘vase’ held branches pruned from our Mountain Laurel shrubs, dusted with gold; ‘flowers’ made from Lotus pods; white seashells; and sprays of fresh Magnolia.

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Carved wooden birds perched in the branches of the arrangement.  Several of the small Christmas trees on the tables were made entirely from shells and pearls.

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Christmas decorating is far more fun when we can take a light and playful attitude. It is fine to change things out a bit year to year, trying out new ideas and revising old ones.

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Another Colonial Williamsburg wreath.

Another Colonial Williamsburg wreath.

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This is especially true in the fabulous wreathes which come from the  CW workshops each year.   Walking the old city streets each December is an adventure, as new and creative designs manifest year after year.

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Woodland Gnome 2015

A Colonial Winter Garden

December 13, 2015 CW 034

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Those fierce souls who founded our nation knew the importance of taking care of business.  And their business always included raising food for their own family’s table.

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Our country was founded by serious gardeners.  Even  luminaries such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington maintained gardens, tended orchards, had fields of crops to use and sell, and raised those animals needed to keep meat on the table.  Although they, and others of their class kept slaves in those days; they still took a very active hands-on interest in their garden.

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Colonial Williamsburg maintains many gardens, but this remains my favorite.  It is a very well maintained colonial vegetable garden tended in the 18th Century style.

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It looks even more lush this December than usual.  But that is likely due to our fair weather these last few months.  It is a pleasing mix of herbs, flowers and vegetables.

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Fruit trees may be found around the edges.  There are vegetables growing from tiny seedling up to ready to harvest cabbages and collards.

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These vegetables are used in the CW kitchens.  They are lovingly tended up to the moment they are authentically prepared and gratefully consumed.

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We strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street on Sunday to enjoy the ingenious Christmas wreathes.  But as you might guess, I was distracted for quite a while by the garden.

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It was  a grey day, completely overcast and damp.  A few drops spritzled as we were leaving.  But it was warm and comfortable; a great day to enjoy the wreathes and seasonal decorations on every building.

I’ll share a few with you each day for the next few days.

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December 13, 2015 CW 042

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I’ve not yet made any wreathes myself,  this year. 

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But there is still time before Christmas Eve, and a dear friend gifted me with a bucket of Magnolia branches later Sunday afternoon.  We used some of the Magnolia while decorating for a community luncheon we’re hosting tomorrow.

And yes, there is a vase.  I just haven’t photographed it, yet!

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December 13, 2015 CW 035

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Evergreen Magnolia is one of my favorite native plants.  They grow wild here in Virginia, and my friend has a wild seedling grown large in her garden.

You’ll see lots of Magnolia used at Colonial Williamsburg in their holiday decorations.  It has wonderful color and holds up for the several weeks of our festivities.  One can’t eat it, but it decorates many holiday dinner tables and sideboards.  We spread it liberally around our buffet table and the beverage tables for tomorrow’s gathering.

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December 13, 2015 CW 142

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Which in a round about way brings us back to my neglect of wreathes this season.  Our  front doors are graced with old ones from ‘the wreath collection’ which hangs in our garage at the moment.  They are fine from a distance, with red silk roses and moss on a grapevine base.

And I just may recycle the Magnolia leaves off the buffet table into a stunning garland to hang round the front doors this year.  Southern Living Magazine has any number of fine projects featuring Magnolia leaves this December.

If you are a Virginia neighbor, you might have been admiring the December issue right along with me.

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December 13, 2015 CW 217

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It still all comes down to ‘taking care of business’ for our family and our community.

As modern as our lives might feel at times, our foundation remains in hearth and home;  friendship and family; good food and hands-on self sufficiency.    It is part of our heritage not just as Virginians or Americans;  it is part of our human heritage and a fundamental value around the world.

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December 13, 2015 CW 095

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May you take time for those things which bring you real joy this holiday season.  And may you take care of business such that you assure yourself and your loved ones of a very Happy New Year, too.

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December 13, 2015 CW 048~

Woodland Gnome 2015

Photos from Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

Sunday Dinner: Hope

December 13, 2015 CW 012

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“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge.

That myth is more potent than history.

That dreams are more powerful than facts.

That hope always triumphs over experience.

That laughter is the only cure for grief.

And I believe that love is stronger than death.”

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Robert Fulghum

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December 13, 2015 CW 020

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“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.  Listen to the don’ts.

Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never haves,

then listen close to me…   Anything can happen, child.

Anything can be.”

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Shel Silverstein

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December 13, 2015 CW 015

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“The world is indeed full of peril,

and in it there are many dark places;

but still there is much that is fair,

and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief,

it grows perhaps the greater.”

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J.R.R. Tolkien

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December 13, 2015 CW 219

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“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
Whispering ‘it will be happier’…”

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Alfred Lord Tennyson

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December 13, 2015 CW 207~

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2015

December scenes captured at Colonial Williamsburg

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“A Forest Garden 2016” gardening calendar is now available, featuring some of our favorite photos from 2015.  Write to me at woodlandgnome@zoho.com for details.

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December 13, 2015 CW 005

 

 

By the Numbers

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

12/13/14.  Have you noticed the date today?  My partner tells me this date won’t repeat this century.

Our world is structured by numbers in so many ways.  Even the ancients explored the mysteries of number, and expressed their understanding through architecture, music, sculpture, and engineering those monuments which have survived for centuries or more to intrigue us still today.

And this wonderful technology we use is all based on numbers.  Not that I understand binary code. 

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Frankly, it seems like modern day “magic” to type this on my computer and know that a friend in Belgium, Indonesia, or Australia can read it as quickly as my friends down the street.  And what pure pleasure to come to my computer at any hour of the day or night and enjoy photographs and ideas  just posted from people all over the planet!

 

December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 074

 

I began this morning by sharing photos of the dragonfly which visited LiJiun’s garden, with my partner.  It brought back such warm memories of the time I spent photographing dragonflies in our garden this summer.  (Dragonflies don’t startle easily, and don’t mind having their photos taken, I’ve found.)

Now in the WordPress Community, the link I just created for you to see LiJiun’s photos is called a “pingback.”  WordPress bloggers frequently create these to link the reader to another interesting blog we want to share with you for some reason.  And up until recently, they’ve always worked just fine. 

And part of the way they work includes sending a message back to the other blog’s author, so they are aware of the link you’ve created.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

I’ve asked fellow bloggers who want to participate in the Holiday Wreath Challenge to just create one of these “pingbacks” in their own post about wreathes, so I know they are participating.  Then I’ll include  links back to their blog  in a post early next week;  so we can all find and enjoy one another’s photos of the wreathes we’ve made this year.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

And then last night, my friend Barbara sent me a message in the comments  about her beautiful post.  And she had a link in her post back here to Forest Garden.  But no pingback ever turned up.

And that is when I realized that the pingbacks aren’t working properly on WordPress in general.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Some of us have been aware that WordPress pingbacks haven’t worked properly for some of their own challenges in recent weeks.  But now I realize that pingbacks aren’t working at all…. and probably haven’t been for some time now.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

It’s all in the numbers….  My guess is that the volume of traffic has grown so much on WordPress in general, that the sheer number may have overwhelmed this part of the system.  But that is only my guess.

But it leads me to wonder whether I might have missed some of your posts about your wreath and holiday decorations…..

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you have posted, and created the pingback I suggested to join in, just know that I didn’t get it.  Please follow up with an email or a link in the comments.  I’ve responded back to everyone whose posts I’ve found thus far.

I hope you are planning to share in this holiday wreath challenge. 

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

What fun if we could travel all around the world sharing the beauty of the season with one another, through the magic of the internet and our vibrant blogging community.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you have already posted, please just send me your link (again) even though you created that “pingback.”    If you plan to post sometime this weekend, please just send me a comment or email with your link.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

If you don’t have your own blog, you can still join in.  Just attach your photos to an email.  Please tell me know whether it is OK to use your name and location in the photo credit.

The excitement builds little by little all through December.  Each day brings us closer to the beauty and fun of the Christmas season.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

 

Please watch for a compilation post of photos of all your beautiful creations, and links to your posts about them,  by next Wednesday, 12/17/14.  

Let us all share in the joy and beauty of the season.

 

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Woodland Gnome 2014

woodlandgnome@zoho.com

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday

December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 068

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

3x3x3

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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Have you noticed that art, like music, is mostly mathematical? 

As you scratch even a tiny bit below the surface of either discipline, you find yourself awash in numbers, fractions, ratios, and the metronome ticking of constant counting.

Take this beautiful wreath, for instance, hanging now in Colonial Williamsburg. 

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At first glance, you might register the color and complexity of design.    But if you take a deep breath, and hold your focus on the details for a few moments, the “3s” begin to pop out at you.

How many sets of “3” can you find?

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 151

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I only mention this in the hopes of getting your own creative juices flowing a bit. 

(You see, I can count on my fingers those blogging friends who have suggested they might send me a photo of a wreath they’ve made, or a link to their own post about making a wreath.)

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 150

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Until you’ve made one, it looks hopelessly complicated.  That is how I felt when facing my first dress pattern and yards of cloth back in Jr. High school!

But step by step, bit by bit, making a wreath like this isn’t as complex as it might appear.

Yes, you can do it, too!

Do you notice that there are three artichokes, three lotus pods, and three groups of  three oranges?  There are four pomegranates, just to throw us off a little, and five pine cones. The wreath is worked in only five colors:  green, red, orange, brown, yellow, and cream.

This wreath is composed from fruits, vegetables, dried flowers, pine cones, lotus pods, and evergreen branches.  It could be made on a straw, Styrofoam, or wire wreath base.  Any of the three would work, but Styrofoam would be the easiest to use.

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A similiar design hanging a ways down Francis St. from the first.

A similiar design hanging on Duke of Gloucester Street.   Drumsticks and Cinnamon sticks ornament this wreath, made on a grapevine wreath form. The components are attached with light weight florist’s wire and floral “picks,” and possibly hot glue.  Did you notice the three pomegranates, three artichokes, and three groups of three oranges?  See the triangles formed in the design? The color scheme is basically the same as the first wreath.

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Once you had all of the components assembled, it would take you less than an hour to pull this wreath together.

When working with a wire wreath base, thin, flexible wire is first attached to all of the components, and then those wires are twisted onto the base.  You would attach the branches first, then the large cones and fruits, finishing off with bunches of dried flowers to fill in the bare spots.  Small wooden skewers, already attached to thin wire (florist picks) are used to wire the artichokes, pomegranates, and oranges to the wire base.

This lovely wreath features mostly dried flowers and seed pods.  You could make this easily with a hot glue gun.

This lovely wreath features mostly dried flowers and seed pods on a grapevine base.  The green comes from dried hops.  You could easily make this with just  a hot glue gun.

 

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I prefer working on straw bases or Styrofoam.  I use long wire “staples” to attach the green branches to the base, and pieces of thin bamboo “shish-kabob” skewers (from the grocery store) to impale the fruits or vegetables and attach them to the base.  Wire little bunches of the dried flowers together, and attach them with the wire staples, too, as the finishing touch.

Some people use hot-glue in the assembly.  This works, too; especially for the light elements of your design.

I’m doing the mental work tonight on two wreathes I plan to construct tomorrow.  If they turn out well, I’ll share photos in a later post. 

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This fairly unusual wreath we spotted last week on our walk through Colonial Williamsburg inspired my design idea…

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Early December tends to be a creative time of the year for many of us.  We’re decorating, cooking, and maybe even making a few gifts.

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This wreath is formed on grapevines and a hollowed out gourd.

This wreath is formed on grapevines and a hollowed out gourd.  Okra pods, berries,  oranges, and dried flowers add color and interest to the design.  This hangs on Francis Street, west of the old Capitol.

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We enjoy making things for the coming holidays. 

Actually, the lights and evergreens help distract me from the grey skies, fog, and cold winds this month brings.

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By focusing on beauty, it makes the wintery reality of December a little easier to endure.

What are you creating this December?

Take whatever comes to hand, and please, make something beautiful!

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Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

 

WPC: Gone, But Not Forgotten

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

Colonial Williamsburg, 2014

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In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Gone, But Not Forgotten.”

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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 077

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Holiday Wreath Challenge 2014

Holiday Wreath Challenge

Last year's creation.

Last year’s creation.

I love making holiday wreathes.

Wreathes date back millennia as one of our most ancient floral decorations.

They symbolize eternity.  Wreathes, as perfect circles, have no beginning and no end.

They symbolize the circular progression of the seasons;  our Earth’s orbit around the sun.

Traditionally made from cut greens, they symbolize eternal life.

Wreathes have been given as trophies to the victor.  Wreathes have been hung around the necks of horses, worn as a head dress, hung on front doors, used as table centerpieces, and sent as gifts.

Wreathes may be made of living plants, cut greens, vines, straw, wire, cloth, paper, plastic, porcelain, or fruit.

This week, I’ve been  planning and sourcing materials for  a set of wreathes which I’ll construct later in the month.

And I am interested in seeing what wreathes you make, this holiday season, as well.

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And so I’m issuing a “Wreath Challenge” to my community here at Forest Garden.

Post a photo of a wreath you make this holiday season  by December 13.   Tag your post, “Holiday Wreath Challenge,” and include a link back to this post.

Please let me know in the comments that you plan to participate so I can be watching for your post.

I’ll pull together a “holiday blog hop” of all the posts you create.

Your post can show how you constructed the wreath and describe the materials you used, or can simply include a photo.  It would be great for you to describe your wreath and explain why you chose the materials you did.

November 29 Thanksgiving 010

In fact, for this Holiday Wreath Challenge, there will be two separate categories of wreathes. 

One category will be of wreathes made entirely of natural materials.

There is a strong tradition in Colonial Williamsburg of fresh, living wreathes hung on each building.   Visitors come from all over the world each December to view these unique wreathes.

Made entirely of fresh, living materials, our “della Robbia” wreathes include: evergreens, fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts and cones, feathers, herbs, seed pods, leaves and twigs, shells, and dried flowers.  

The wreathes often include symbols of a particular person or trade.  Since they are made from whatever is close at hand, they are very personal and use materials in novel ways.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

A della Robbia wreath displayed in Colonial Williamsburg in December of 2013.

The della Robbia wreathes displayed each year in Colonial Williamsburg are inspired by engravings  of 18th Century Virginia holiday decorations, and are made only from materials available in the 18th Century.

Ribbons traditionally are not used on these wreathes.

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

A second category will be for wreathes which include modern man-made materials.

If your wreath includes ribbons, floral picks, Christmas ornaments, and other fabricated items it will fall into this other category.

You may use any materials you like to enter a wreath in this group, and may be as creative and unconventional with your  wreath as your imagination allows.

Many of the wreathes I've made over the years begin with grapevines.  This one includes silk ivy and  porcelain birds.

Many of the wreathes I’ve made over the years begin with grapevines. This one includes silk ivy and porcelain birds.  I can keep this one and use it year to year.

I’ve included a few links to inspire you and get you started with your own wreath making:

Step by step instructions on constructing an evergreen wreath maybe found here, along with photos of a wreath I made last year.

The history of wreathes, and more photos of wreathes I’ve made are here.

A tour of della Robbia wreathes from Colonial Williamsburg may give you some ideas. (Two separate links)

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center.  The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Wreathes and wreath bases are offered at our Homestead Garden Center. The staff has already begun work towards the hundreds of hand made wreathes they will sell this season.

Now, I feel as though I’m leaving some of you out.

Some of my blog visitors don’t have a blog of their own.  You might want to share your wreath, but not know how to do it.

And I want you to include you, too. 

So for you non-bloggers, please email photos of your finished wreath to me at :  woodlandgnome@zoho.com  and I will include photos of your wreathes in my post.  Please tell me in your email whether I may use your name and where you live.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.

The Homestead Garden Center, last December.  Each live Christmas tree  has its own little water dish to keep it fresh until it is sold.

Ready or no, here the holidays come, once again.

Whether you love them or endure them, they are as perennial as mosquitoes in a Virginia summer.  So lets just decide to enjoy them this year, plan ahead, and have some fun. 

I hope you will accept my challenge to make a beautiful wreath for yourself this year, and share it with the rest of us.

Who knows, you might have so much fun that you decide to make a bunch of them!

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Colonial Williamsburg, 2013

Woodland Gnome 2014

 

Our Forest Garden- The Journey Continues

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