Wreathed in Smiles

Colonial Williamsburg, December 2017

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We had to laugh and smile when we saw these deer themed Christmas decorations along Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg yesterday.  The cheeky population of deer over-running the neighborhoods is a frustration shared by so many of us living around this area.

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Herds of them rampage through the ravine behind our garden.   Drivers stay on their guard, knowing a deer could run out into the street at most any time, especially at dusk.  We find hoof prints and deer scat in the garden, a calling card for the  lonely doe or fawn who snuck in for a snack.

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The floral designers at CW showed a mischievous sense of humor in their designs this year.  Beyond the staid circles of pine needles ornamented with apples or pomegranate, there were a few energetic and amusing creations that caught our attention.

We know that whoever created these deer themed pieces must live nearby and have their own deer tales to tell.

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Ironically, more deer live in James City and York Counties now than in the Colonial era.  These beautiful animals were prized by the Native Americans who once claimed this rich region of coastal Virginia.  Every part of the deer was useful to them, and so the deer were freely hunted.  Colonists valued the deer as well for their meat and fur.

With no natural predators, the deer population in Virginia is held in check these days only by recreational hunters.   Although development continues to carve slices out of their habitat, the cunning deer have adapted to live quite well in our neighborhoods.

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A troupe of costumed minstrels played and sang as they rode through the streets of Colonial Williamsburg in an ox drawn cart yesterday afternoon.

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We rarely see deer wandering the streets of old Williamsburg, but we did see quite a few horses, and even a team of oxen yesterday.   There are always lots of dogs to admire, even one with this troupe of interpreters entertaining us yesterday.

Often, we’ll find small herds of sheep or even bulls grazing in the CW pastures.

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The workshops of Colonial Williamsburg aim to keep the old everyday arts of artisanal manufacture alive.

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Many of the wreathes serve double duty as advertisements, cleverly luring curious customers into the shops.

Someone asked me the other day, “Do they re-use the wreathes at CW year to year, or are there new designs each year?”

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That is an interesting question.  While much stays the same in terms of style and materials, there is a fresh interpretation and presentation every year.  The wreathes are freshly made from scratch each November, and hung in time for the Grand Illumination, which boomed and thundered the holiday season into our community last Sunday evening.

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We have thus far photographed only a fraction of this year’s offerings.  We started near Merchant’s Square and explored only as far as the Governor’s Palace.  We intend to return throughout December, and I will share the best of them with you, as we also enjoy the wreathes of Colonial Williamsburg  this month.

 

Woodland Gnome 2017
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This deer themed ‘chandelier’ is hanging on a Colonial Williamsburg porch, near the deer themed wreathes. Male deer lose and re-grow their antlers each year. Discarded antlers are sometimes found on walks in the woods.

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For the Daily Post’s
Weekly Photo Challenge:  Cheeky

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Will you join this year’s Holiday Wreath Challenge?

 

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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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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 152

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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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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 034

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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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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 030

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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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December 3, 2014 CW wreathes 035

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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

 

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.

Nov 9 wreathes 005

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

 

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