Decades of fresh wreaths
Posted: November 17, 2012
The Winchester Star
Winchester — Blandy Experimental Farm is once again bringing a natural touch to Christmas with its wreath-making workshops.
The program, which has been held almost every year since 1972, offers people a chance to make handcrafted wreaths from fresh greens, berries, pinecones and other natural adornments, said Koy Mislowsky, events and volunteer coordinator.
“For many people it is a tradition. It is the way they kick off their holiday season,” Mislowsky said.
The workshops will be held from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Dec. 1 and 1:30 to 4 p.m. Dec. 2 in the library.
The farm also will offer a traditional corn husk angel workshop from 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 6 in the library.
The wreath-making class is the longest-running public program at the farm, said Tim Farmer, public relations coordinator. It has happened all but three years in the last four decades.
The workshops have lasted so long partly because participants like the fact that the greens they use to make a 12- or 20-inch wire wreath are incredibly fresh, he said. Fresh greens such as fir, white pine, holly and arbor vitae come from the grounds of the farm.
“Most of these are cut just days before the classes, so they are very fresh greens,” Farmer said. “It is not like you make something and you take it home and it withers within a couple of days. These will last through the holiday season.”
Only the American and English boxwood trimmings, which are donated by the Virginia Boxwood Co. in Charlottesville, are not from the farm, Mislowsky said.
“Part of what they do is trim people’s boxwoods. It is sort of a nice way for them to recycle what they cut,” she said.
The classes also have lasted so long because they are a social, fun activity to do with existing friends or a way to make new ones, she said. She has one group of seven women who will come down from Pennsylvania for the second year in a row for a “girls day out.” They will make their wreaths and head back home, stopping to shop along the way.
Two Winchester ladies have a tradition of making their Christmas wreaths that Saturday and doing their holiday shopping the next day, she said.
“Really just the whole process of making and getting into the holiday spirit is what people really enjoy,” she said. “We always play Christmas music, have decorated Christmas cookies and coffee and cider. It is just a festive feel.”
As part of the class, instructors will walk participants through making a wreath using fresh greens, learning good lengths for the trimmings, how to wire them to the frame and design an overall look, Mislowsky said.
Once the greenery is in place, participants can decorate them with natural adornments such as sumac, juniper berries, pine cones and holly berries, she said.
The only change to this year’s class is that the participants will make the bows at the end instead of the beginning, Mislowsky said.
“The reason we are going to do that is some people last year were saying after they had made their wreaths, ‘I don’t think I would have picked that bow for this wreath,’” she said.
While the corn husk angel class is a new addition this year, it is an old tradition, Farmer said. Pioneers adapted whatever materials were at hand, including corn husks, to make playthings for their children.
Participants will use the natural corn husks to make the bodies and dried flowers and other items for adornments, he said.
“It is a very traditional ornament. It is the kind of thing you might see at a farmhouse,” he said.
The classes fill up fast, and last year were slightly overbooked, Mislowsky said. Organizers try to keep them small because it makes them more intimate so people have time to get to know each other.
“Everyone ends up being friends and talking to each other,” she said. “It is really a feel-good, fun event.”
Costs for a 12-inch mixed evergreen wreath is $30 for members of the Foundation of the State Arboretum and $35 for others. A 20-inch wreath is $40 for members and $45 for others. The corn husk angel workshop is $20 for members and $25 for others. For more information or to register, call 540-837-1758, ext. 224.
— Contact Laura McFarland at firstname.lastname@example.org