Wine Country Wreaths
Hand-made Holiday Wreaths
The holidays are upon us - why not forage for some natural local material and make your own holiday wreaths. SCMG Gauis Robinson shows how:
Making the Wine Country Wreath-base
The use of a square shape to create a round grapevine wreath is not something you might think of when you contemplate making one to decorate for the holidays. Many grapevine wreaths we find for sale are now made in China—with Chinese grapevines. They are certainly inexpensive, but with the right tools and technique, you can make your own for free with local vines. Many of us here in wine county have “wild” grapes that volunteer in our gardens, little “gifts” from our bird friends that can be annoying as vines climb into trees or shrubs.
This time of year grape leaves turn a bright golden yellow or are rich in burgundy tones. Besides the vines, you will need only a few other items to make a grapevine wreath that will last for years and be a good base for any holiday décor. Here’s what you need:
1. Four sturdy stakes. It is best if they are all the same size and at least 18 inches long. Don’t use the flimsy bamboo stakes.
2. 6 to 8 grapevines at least 6 feet long. They look best if you have a variety of thicknesses. Be sure and leave on all of the little tendrils, but remove the leaves. When you hold them all together in a bunch, they should have a combined diameter of about 2 inches. They must be pliable, not brittle and stiff.
3. Natural colored twine.
6. Tape measure
You can determine the size of your wreath by the length of your grapevines and how thick you want the finished wreath to be. If your vines are very skinny, you will need many more than 6 or 8. You will have to eye-ball the amount you need.The next step is to pound the stakes into the ground in a perfect square. Use your tape measure to be sure the stakes are equidistant, making a perfect square. Usually a 10-inch square works well.
Tie your grouping of grapevines with a small amount of the twine at each end. Lay one end of the grapevines next to the corner of the stakes you have put in the ground. Wrap the length of grapevines around the exterior of the four stakes. You should be able to loop this around at least two times or more. Slip the already tied end under the pile of vines when you come to the end. Use another piece of twine to secure the end into the newly formed wreath. For extra security, tie two more separate pieces of twine around the newly formed wreath in equidistant places, binding the vines together. Let the wreath dry on the ground for several days, then remove and decorate for the season.
Decorating the Grapevine Wreath
The first thing to consider, after making or buying your grapevine wreath, is where you intend to hang the wreath. If you intend to use it in a sheltered or indoor spot, you have many more choices in decorations. If it is to be exposed to the elements, everything needs to be waterproofed. Your wreath will need a solid attachment to the door, window or railing on which you intend to hang it. If it is to be attached to the center of a balcony railing, both the top and bottom of the wreath should be secured with a heavy gauge wire or chenille. Chenille is a florist’s term for pipe cleaners, which are available at floral supply stores in many colors. Moss green works well. The fuzzy coating protects your painted surfaces. It is also great in a pinch to make quick ornament hangers for your tree, should you run out of the standard type.
The mechanics are what holds your wreath’s decorations onto the wreath. Mechanics are not to be seen. It would be similar to wearing your underwear on top of your clothes. Your wires or glue should not be visible from the front of the wreath.
Wire comes in many lengths and gauges. The gauge you use is determined by the weight of the decoration. A number 20 gauge wire, cut 12 inches, is a good basic wire to use for medium to heavy pine cones. A 24 gauge wire, cut 12 inches, is good for silk flowers, small pine cones or other lightweight materials. You use the wire to wrap around the base of the decoration and then insert the wire and wrap the ends onto the grapevine wreath. It may take some practice to secure the decoration without showing the wire. This is the most secure way to attach decorations to a wreath, but can be tedious if you have decided to completely cover your grapevines with décor.
A faster method is using a glue gun. Be prepared when you use this handy tool. Don’t wear nylon or polyester clothes. I’ve ruined several slacks when the hot drips of glue fall on my clothes and melt the fabric. Have a glass of ice water handy in case you drip some of the glue on your skin. It hurts, as the temperature of the glue is 250 F in the low temperature glue guns. If your outside temperature gets below freezing, the hot glue can pull away from your grapevine, and a heavy decoration may fall off.
Wiring and gluing can be a helpful way to secure heavier decorations. If the glue is showing when you are done, a tiny piece of moss can be fixed onto the visible glue spot and will cover your mechanics very well. If you are using small bunches of dried material, cover a section of the ends with brown floral tape. Just an inch or two of tape should do it. Then take a fine grade wire (#24 or #26) and wrap it securely. Cut all but 3” of the wire. Glue the bundles onto your wreath, taking care to hide the wired end of the bundles in the grapevines. If you still see the mechanics, cover with moss or other decorations.
The creative part of decorating your wreath is the selection of material you use. The choosing of decorations for your wreath is limitless. You are only limited by your imagination and budget. In the rural beauty of Sonoma County, florist treasures abound. Mossy branches, pine cones, rose hips, buckeye fruit, acorns, or small fallen bird’s nests can embellish a rustic wreath. A shot of gold or silver floral spray paint can enliven any of these. Floral spray paint dries more quickly and is more delicate than regular paint. Last year’s Christmas cards can be used if you cut out figures or designs that please you. Dried materials such as hydrangea blooms, seed pods, agapanthus wands, etc. are gorgeous if sprayed gold, silver and then given a final coat of glitter spray. Artificial flowers, all sorts of ornaments, wooden spoons, cinnamon sticks, chilies, artificial birds, feathers, and ribbons are just a few more ideas for decorating your wreath. Pick a theme, glitzy, traditional or rustic. The wreath is your expression of the season.