Celebrating the holiday season with the help of nature’s bounty is a comforting break from going from store to store. I really like the simple act of collecting things outdoors. It gives you a chance to pay attention to what’s there in the still winter woods and fields.
Our exhibits coordinator, Martha Daniels, and I were talking the other day about the pleasure of making our own wreaths. I’ve done them now and then for years, but knowing Martha, I suspected (correctly) that her wreaths had more style than mine. She was about to put a new one together, so I asked her to send me a photo so you could get a sense of it.
Grapevines that you gather in the woods can be just woven together to form a circle for the basic form. Cedar boughs can be stuck into the vine to add shape and and a great smell. If you find some with the blue berries, that adds more color. Pine cones, leaves and the red seedheads of sumac can be wired or glue-gunned on. Martha mentioned that she had collected some great feathers from a pheasant hunt one year. Of course, if you wanted to be a purist you wouldn’t need to add a ribbon…but that may be carrying earthiness a bit too far.
If you don’t have grapevine handy or don’t want to put a wreath together, you can still go out and collect cedar and other things for simple collections on the dining table. One tip a retired forester, Gene Brunk, told me: female cedars have softer needles—they’re much easier on your hands. (The article I linked to on cedars earlier suggests it’s other factors that affect the sharpness, but all I know is I pay attention to what I’m cutting now before I take cedar home for wreaths or the table.)