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Master Gardener: Use landscape cuttings to make a natural Christmas wreath
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Master Gardener: Use landscape cuttings to make a natural Christmas wreath

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Last weekend, our youngest daughter came over to the house to finish a project she actually started on Father’s Day. You see, on Father’s Day she gave me a wreath frame made of wire so that we could have an all-natural Christmas wreath this year. Since it’s about that time, she came over to put the wreath together.

As our daughter, her husband and I walked around the yard, we gathered clippings from plants that seemed like they might make a nice wreath. Fortunately, we have quite a few plants that fit the bill: golden euonymus, yew and laurel among others. We also still had some pretty pink gomphrena blooms to add to the collection.

With the wire wreath frame, floral wire and all the cuttings in hand, she began to craft them into the wreath you see in the photo. Total investment: probably less than $10. And the good thing is that we can save the frame and reuse it each year. Frankly, I’ve never seen a more beautiful Christmas wreath, but that may be just me.

While admiring the completed wreath, I began to wonder where the tradition of Christmas wreaths began. I did a little research and learned a few things I found interesting. I am guessing you might them interesting, as well.

The use of laurel branches in head-worn wreaths dates to Greek mythology and a story involving Apollo (the son of Zeus) and his affection for a nymph named Daphne. As the story goes, Daphne did not feel the same way about Apollo, so she asked the river god Peneus for help. Peneus’ solution was to turn Daphne into a laurel tree. This sounds like an extreme tactic to get out of a relationship to me, but to each his own.

After that unexpected turn of events, an apparently lovesick Apollo began to wear a wreath made from laurel leaves on his head. It seems he figured that if he couldn’t have her, at least he could have her close. Because of this, laurel wreaths took on the mythology associated with Apollo of victory and achievement.

Wreaths of laurel were later used to crown the winners in the earliest Olympic games. And university students at graduation in Italy continue this tradition today. It’s not that it’s required to wear the laurel wreath at graduation, but parents apparently like to have at least one photo with their graduating student wearing a laurel wreath. I confirmed this last bit of information with some friends of ours from Italy.

Here in the United States, we have a tradition you are probably familiar with where the president or his designee places a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This tradition no doubt harkens back to Apollo’s original mythology when wreaths signified victory, honor and achievement.

Christmas wreaths can be traced back to 16th century Germany, when people began to bring evergreen trees into the house for their Christmas celebrations. When preparing the tree to bring in indoors, oftentimes the tree would need to be trimmed. The trees would be trimmed not only to help them fit in the house but also to make them more triangular. These triangular trees were used as teaching tools to explain the Trinitarian foundations of Christianity. And, since these were times when nothing was wasted, the trimmings were typically shaped into wreaths and hung on the door or wall.

Somewhere along the line, wreaths became part of the Christmas Advent tradition. Credit for this is typically given to a German Lutheran pastor by the name of Johann Hinrich Wichern, who first used the wreath as a symbol of Advent. Candles were placed and lit in these table wreaths to help celebrate the approaching of Christmas Day. Many churches continue this tradition today.

So, to start your own tradition of making a holiday wreath, you just need a few supplies: wire wreath frame, floral wire, a small pruner and some greenery. Most of us have a variety of plants in our yards that will work for this purpose, but if you don’t, you probably have a friend or neighbor that would be happy to let you use a few cuttings for your wreath.

There are various strategies to gathering your cuttings. You can stick to a kind of monoculture, if you will, gathering cuttings from the same plant, such as an evergreen for the more traditional-looking wreath. Or you can go rogue by gathering clippings from a variety of plants for a slightly different look. This is the approach our daughter took.

Once you have your clippings, you can release your inner creative self and start to put your wreath together. My daughter started by sorting the clippings by variety and then proceeding to pick one here and one there to group them together, wiring the groups to the frame with the floral wire. I think the whole process took less than an hour, and I could not love it more.

So, this year as we have been reminded of the importance of family and friends, maybe it’s time to start a new family tradition. I know we have. See you in the garden.

Featured video:

Tulsa World's James Watts and Grace Wood talk An Affair of the Heart; Read Southall Band at Cain's; former Miss USA Olivia Jordan; and the opening of Howdy Burger.

You can get answers to all your gardening questions by calling the Tulsa Master Gardeners Help Line at 918-746-3701, dropping by our Diagnostic Center at 4116 E. 15th St., or by emailing us at mg@tulsamastergardeners.org.

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