Here’s a weird thing: 11 months of the year our doors stand naked, adorned only with a brass letterbox or chrome doorknob; possibly a tiled number if we’re feeling continental. Then comes December, and we get an urge to drape our entranceways in boughs of greenery. What’s that about?
It seems that several millennia ago, our ancestors brought into their caves and huts evergreen branches from the woods around to remind them that spring would come again. Holly, ivy, pine, spruce, and fir – ancient trees celebrated in song and myth, representing rebirth, life after death and continuing cycle of Nature. Nice stuff, really.
Their vibrant colour and woodsy fragrance still brightens our technological urban lives, even now. If you live in a nice neighbourhood where hooligans won’t pinch it from your door, why not make a wreath to hang? (And if your ‘hood is not so nice, hang it inside, where you can enjoy it.)
There are various methods to wreath making; garden centres and florists offer courses at this time of year too. Try one of these three ways of forming your base.
1. Buy a ring of florist foam, and drop it in a bowl of water until it sinks to the bottom. Modern foam will soak in a minute, and doesn’t need pushing down either. If you use foam, the greenery will last longer (it’s got all that water) but the wreath will be heavier (it’s got all that water). If you fancy making a tablecentre instead, this is the easiest way to do it. (Though if you value your furniture, put a placemat underneath.)
2. Get some chickenwire from the shed, and roll a strip into a sausage. Bend the sausage into a ring, and fasten the ends together. The mesh holds the greenery and is lightweight.
3. Buy or make a willow/vine ring. This gives you a base to tie the foliage onto (practical) and looks very Sunday supplement lifestyle (chic). You also need less foliage, as you can leave the willow on show (unlike less-pretty foam or wire.)
Once you've chosen one of these three bases, cut your seasonal greenery into lengths (longer for wire or willow, shorter for foam) and push into the foam/ through the wire/ between the willow. Try to insert at the same angle each time, working round, so the wreath looks smooth and flowing. Remember Camilla’s hat at her wedding? The grey one, with the halo? That’s the effect we’re looking for.
If you’ve got ivy in your garden, a few looped trails of that soon fills the space. Keep going until you get to a point you like (or you run out of foliage.) For options 2 and 3 you will need to tie the greenery in occasionally, to keep it in place.
You may prefer a plain green wreath, a poem in texture and pattern. Or you might want to jazz it up a bit. Slices of orange, oven-dried; cinnamon sticks; pine cones; clusters of rowanberries – whatever you fancy, you can attach. Have fun, and enjoy the smells and colours of the season.