December 15 is National Wreaths Across America Day. Wreaths, being the circular arrangement of plant twigs, leaves and fruits that they are, have been ubiquitous with Christmas. Historically, however, the wreath has long been representative of Mother Earth and the sun. With no beginning and no ending, the circle itself is symbolic of infinity. Today, wreaths reflect the holiday and serve as a welcome to visitors at our doorstep.
Wreath arrangements are as varied as the imaginations of the people who put them together. Needled evergreens are the green elements to provide the backbone of a wreath, being symbolic of the earth’s promise of a return to spring after the winter months have passed. Grape vines, ivy, and bundles of dried ornamental grasses and curly willow are also a nice touch for the wreath base. Keep in mind that ornamental grasses aren’t just tan in color. Subtle variations in golds and reds, such as the native little bluestem, lend an unexpected element to wreaths. Broadleaf evergreen leaves, such as holly and mahonia, can be layered in an overlapping pattern around the wreath, along with the coppery colors of oak leaves. Whatever is used, evergreens, twigs, vines, leaves and grasses provide the neutralizing color to make added adornments really stand out.
Fruits of all kinds make nice adornments for wreaths. Stems of crabapples, holly berries, rose hips, quince berries and bittersweet are natural choices but if you don’t have access to these fruits, consider dehydrating cross-section slices of oranges or apples. Once dried, the slices can be strung together with heavy string and tied onto the wreath. Another option is to add bunches of colorful twigs, like the redtwig dogwood. The youngest redtwig dogwood stems will be the brightest red, with the older stems more mahogany in color. Stem bunches can be of mixed ages or chosen for consistency of color. Cones from pine, spruce and fir make great additions to wreaths, lending a woodsy element and connecting them to the symbolism of the promise of spring.
Once the holidays have passed, the timeless nature of a wreath makes it a natural choice to leave in place over the winter months and changing out the adornments as spring approaches. Another option is to place the wreath in a nearby tree to allow birds to make use of the berries. Pine cones can be spread with peanut butter and rolled in bird seed to add more food for our feathered friends.