Early December is the perfect time to connect with nature through some reflective and sensory time foraging for willow, ivy, pinecones and other natural goodies that can be added to a festive wreath. Shop bought wreaths often have fake foliage and almost always include wire, whereas our Bearing Fruit group make their wreaths with 100% natural ingredients! Rest assured that everything can be composted in the new- year or be added to a habitat pile for wildlife.
When to start
Collect willow and/or dogwood about a week before you plan to make the wreath, this will allow time to soak the stems, which makes them malleable. It is possible to make with freshly cut willow as well if this is easier, it is sometimes just a bit harder to bend the stems. You will need between five and twenty stems depending on how thick you want the base to be. It is often best to have many thin stems rather than a few thick ones (no thicker than your little finger) and for them to be as long as possible, ideally 1-2m if you can find them. These stems will be used later to create a circular ‘base’ for your wreath. Collect the other items as close to making the wreath as you can so that everything stays fresh and bright.
What you will need
Take a pair of secateurs, loppers if you have them and a pair of gloves so you don’t get spiked by thorny branches. You will need a bag to carry everything in, a large reusable shopping bag will do the job.
Stems of holly, ivy, spruce, pine and various coloured stems of willow and dogwood all work well. Try and keep as long a stem as possible on the pieces you collect as this will be helpful when weaving them into your base later. Remember the foragers code, take small amounts leaving much more than what you take. Bearing Fruit love to include teasel which is abundant at St Nicks, these impressive spiky seed heads add depth and variation. Herbs make a lovely addition and scent your home, try sprigs of bay and rosemary. Catkins, berries, dried fruits and pine cones add interest. Start drying fruits now so that they are ready in time.
Preparing the items
If you have been able to leave time to soak your willow do so for 24 hours per foot of willow. For a 2 metre length try soaking for 4 days. Use a bath if you have one, you can also try using a large bucket, soak the bottom half of the stems for 4 days, turn them over and soak the other half, voila! Remember to double the length of time if soaking in a bucket. If you have not been able to soak your stems then don’t worry! Just gently bend and flex them before you start weaving to make them malleable.
Trim the other stems of ivy, spruce and holly so that you have fresh foliage.
Making the frame
Make the frame for the wreath by choosing your longest stem and making a loop with it to the desired size and then wrap the rest of the stem around itself. You might need to hold it together while you add the next few stems but then it will start to hold its own shape. When you add in the next piece of willow make sure it is going in the same direction as the previous piece. Tuck the thick end of the stem through the circle where the last piece finished and continue weaving the thin end around the circle. Keep adding pieces like this until you get the desired thickness (the thicker it is the easier it will be to add the foliage). At this point it is okay to have pieces sticking out as it is more important to get the structure right and these can be cut off later.
Adding the foliage
To add the foliage it’s helpful to lay out the items you have and to experiment with laying them out in different patterns until you decide what you think will work best. If there’s something you have a lot of you could add this first and add things that you only have a few of later. Again it looks quite nice if things are all going in the same direction but it’s not essential, just have a play around and see what you like best. Push the stem of your chosen item through the gaps between the willow stems, it might need trying in a few different places until you find one that holds it! Things like long strands of ivy are really helpful for wrapping around the wreath to help hold other things in place too. You can add as much or as little as you like!
Finally attach a piece of string or ribbon so you can hang it up or you can also have it as a table piece of you prefer!
After Christmas you can compost your wreath or dismantle it to create a habitat pile. But you don’t have to get rid of your wreath completely, you can keep the base, ready to make another one next year. Or why not make a seasonal wreath at different times of year, including flowers and greenery in spring/summer and colourful leaves and pinecones in autumn!
We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about wreath making. Let us know how you get on, we’d love to see some photographs!
This blog was written by Ecotherapy Assistant Hannah Kenter and Bearing Fruit tutor Freya Lovett. Find out more about Ecotherapy and our Bearing Fruit group here.