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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Showing posts with label wreath. Show all posts
      Showing posts with label wreath. Show all posts

      Thursday, December 19, 2013


      I made the wreath from fresh greens from New Hampshire (see blog post just below) and now want to add more natural decorations. I raid my stash, buried in a large plastic box in my NYC closet: okra pods and Devil's claw pods (aka cow catcher pods, unicorn plant pods) I grew on my flower and herb farm, still perfect after 15years; locust tree pods found on the streets of Manhattan; stiff neck garlic stems from Jen's NH garden, sorghum seed heads grown on my rooftop in NYC, one stray lotus pod and a dried papaya slice from god-knows-where; a couple of pine cones.
      Materials which are completely dry will last for years, can be removed and saved as you would glass tree ornaments.
      I tuck many of these elements among the green branches of the wreath as it lays on the table, along with a few small mandarin oranges from the market that add a zap of color. Notice a new candle in the center, lower and more subtle. Will I impress my book group coming for supper tonight to discuss Lowland?

      Tuesday, December 10, 2013


      Greens and lichen from the woods of New Hampshire, schlepped to New York City after a Thanksgiving visit to Jen & Mark Hopkins in Canterbury. Jen and I cut arbivitae, pine, spruce, fir and princess pine from her back forty. I wrap short cuttings onto a sturdy 12" frame with thin wire, aiming for a wild look.
      Back in my Manhattan living room, I invert a low green bowl on my glass coffee table
       and lay the wreath over the bowl. Don't tell me how uneven it is. I like it that way.
      After placement, I insert a few loose cones, lichen and pieces of thin birch bark among the greens.
      Sure you can add a big fat candle to the center, keeping it well away from the greens, but next week I'll show you my favorite design. 

      Saturday, March 16, 2013


      photograph by ©Alan& Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.
      Pussy willow, my favorite for spring arrangements. Wind stems inside a glass container, no water; this only works when stems are fresh-cut. Add mimosa at the base of the pitcher. It will dry in place. That's it; a no brain arrangement.
      When I had my farm, I had a shrub big enough to prune and fill every vase. Here in Manhattan, I bought a bunch 5 years ago and rooted them for a month in water.
      They were ready to plant when leaves started to push forth and roots looked like this...
      I stuck a few in the soil of various containers on my roof garden and promptly forgot about them.
      When I bought new containers and transplanted almost everything, these sticks got dumped, except one planted in an old teak container that I kept.
      This March, five years later my New York born and bred pussy willow shrub looks like this...

      and some new branches are ready to grace my living room.
      Whether you buy them at a flower show or the Boston wholesale flower market as did my friend, floral designer, writer, and herbalist Betsy Williams, you can make something wonderful.
      Here I made a table wreath of fresh pussy willow and  mimosa and filled the center with egg shells.
       photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved.

      Tuesday, December 18, 2012


      At the 30th Annual wreath show at The Arsenal Gallery in Central Park  are 41 wreaths of the most nontraditional sort. Above, "Joy to the Whirl" by Denise Corley (wire, parchment and gouache).
      "If You Walked in My Shoes... You Would Know" by Vivian Jett, Willie Serrano, Desiree Pabon, and Karen Gripper of the Brownsville Rec center (shoes, wood frame, shoe laces, shoe polish, glitter, shoe horn, fabric). Written pieces on the soles of the shoes.
       "The Almond Villager Wreath" by Leonora Retsas (whole almond shells collected from grandparent's farm in Greece). Perfectly simple, perfectly evocative. Other Ellen, FYI, these are for sale.
       Ed Gormley "Yetz is Ze Tzeit to Essen" (Chinese take-out boxes, aluminum rivets, wire, plywood). I'd like it better if the containers were recycled, not new.
      See the whole exhibit FREE Mon- Fri until Jan10, closed holidays.

      Monday, December 3, 2012


      When still living in Pennsylvania I hosted a holiday home tour to benefit the public library. The rose hips from the multiflora rose, considered a noxious weed by local farmers, were free for the picking in my tree line and by roadsides. When used by handfuls they're appropriately showy. I paired the rose hip wreath with peppers from the market, placed on an apple-stacker. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
      My holiday wreaths are traditional only in that they use local materials, and my definition of local involves my grown children, hundreds of miles away where I have picking privileges.  No ribbon on this one either; evergreens from daughter Jen's place in rural NH. Birch bark from son Mike's place also in rural NH.  Osage Orange slices from my favorite tree in Riverside Park, dried in my NYC oven.
      I adorned The Lost Mitten Wreath with stuffed mittens and gloves, toys, and clumps of saved yarn from another project, in the right color tones of course. Fresh greens from Jen's again.
      And when you have no greens, do as Angela Chandler did for the Central Park Arsenal Wreath Show. She found a great use for the ubiquitous hangers from the dry cleaners. Fantastic!
      Below, not a constructed wreath on wire but a simple placement of fresh greens, birch bark, cones and dried Osage orange slices enhance this corn/cranberry relish; it's mostly stuff left over from other wreaths.
      As always, I save pruning chores for when I need the branches. Here an overgrown boxwood provided my greens, and the market all of my fruits and veggies. Notice how sparse the Winterberry; that was my whole crop the year I made the wreath. (photo © Alan & Linda Detrick, all rights reserved)
      As author of The Ultimate Wreath Book, Rodale Press, 1995, I was well aware of my influences when I created this collage for my new book, Artful Collage from Found Objects, Stackpole Books, 2012. I called it The Crown Jewels because it seemed like an ancient royal necklace, although it was constructed with locust pods, acorns and cones found on city streets. A little gold and copper spray paint helps. So I guess this is the Ultimate Wreath Collage.

      Friday, November 27, 2009


      Our family tradition when I was little was to take a Sunday drive in the country, leaving West Philadelphia for the rural atmosphere of Rosemont Pa, hunting for 'The Bittersweet Man'. He stood by the big curve on Montgomery Avenue, arriving in late September, selling bunches of bittersweet and Japanese lanterns. He'd remain for a few week's then disappear until the following year.
      My Mother had a pottery pitcher with a shiny brown glaze that was the only container she'd ever use for the orange berries. Now I insist on cutting my own bittersweet every fall, from the roadsides in PA, NJ, NY or my favorite place, a certain backyard in Ipswich MA. Yes I know it's an invasive scourge to many people, but I'm actually doing a community service when I cut stems when the shells are bright yellow, just before the berries, open to bring indoors.
      These days I often make
      a simple wreath with the
      stems. Here's how.
      1.Cut stems in full berry,
      three to four feet long.
      2.Take one stem and
      wrap it around itself,
      tucking in the end. Now
      you have the base of
      the wreath. Even a six
      year-old can do it with-
      out help.
      3.Take another stem and
      weave it in and out
      around the circle. Tuck
      in any small branches
      that jut out.
      4.The trick is to harvest
      the stems just before
      the berries open, mid
      September around New
      York City, second week in October around Ipswich, and make the wreath the same day you pick the stems. That way you'll have almost no droppage of berries. Hang the wreath indoors in a spot that doesn't get brushed against, or on a door that doesn't get slammed. Prop on a shelf, or lay flat on a coffee table out of reach of the dog's tail. Lucy is very proud of her wreath, and I'm proud of mine.

      I'll keep it until just after Thanksgiving on my coffee table (top of the post) then replace it with something else; but my little yellow pitcher with extra stems, sitting on a shelf in the bathroom, will stay until spring.

      Sunday, December 14, 2008

      Wreaths at Home, New York City Style

      photo© Alan & Linda Detrick, Ellen Spector Platt design
      I never shear my boxwood but keep it shapely and in proportion by pruning when I need some stems for design work. Above I paired boxwood with fresh babies breath and fresh berried eucalyptus (from a florist) to make two delicate wreaths on wire bases. All three materials dry readily in place. For the wreath on the door I added dried lotus pods that I've had for years and keep repurposing. (double click on image to see more detail)
      Wire fresh stems of Southern magnolia leaves (every florist sells these) to a straw wreath base. Buy small pomegranates, poke a wire through and tie each wire tightly to the wreath. Or poke a florist wood pick through the bottom of the fruit and the other end securely into the wreath. Wipe up dripping juice before you hang on your nice white wall. Use only classy ribbon like silk or satin if you choose to add a bow.

      To the right a similar
      magnolia leaf base. Add
      pine cones, dried lotus
      pods, and small arti-
      chokes sprayed to com-
      pliment the underside
      of the leaves. I find food
      markets to be invaluable
      sources of decorative
      materials any time of
      year. In this season, I
      also favor bright orange
      kumquats, lady apples,
      small lemons, and turnips.

      The Arsenal Gallery of the New York City Parks Dept. 5thAve. and 64th St. sponsors a holiday wreath show every year with a display of imaginative work. Here designer Freddie Piscina presents 'HD Power Wreath 2008' made of Harley pistons, connecting rods, sprockets, and chains. The exhibit is on until 1/7/09. For more information go to www.nycparks.org

      Monday, December 8, 2008

      Time to Prune Your Evergreens

      wreath photos©Alan & Linda Detrick, design Ellen Spector Platt, cookies Judy Benson

      Advice is pretty unanimous among experts at University Extension Services in colder regions. “Prune in late March or early April before new growth begins. Light pruning may also be done in late June or early July. Avoid pruning evergreen shrubs in the fall. Fall pruned evergreens are more susceptible to winter injury.” (Iowa State Extension Service)

      I’m not trained as a horticulturalist but as a farmer who learned the hard way. I sold distinctive evergreen wreaths at my
      Meadow Lark Flower &
      Herb Farm, all greens
      coming from judicious
      pruning in mid to late
      November. We pruned
      more if we sold more.
      Even in zone 5 in NE
      Pennsylvania, I never
      had shrub damage.
      Here in New York City, I
      still prune as I need the
      materials. This year it’s
      for a few centerpieces
      and the tree pits in
      front of my building.

      1. Trim some ever-
      greens,and some ivy.
      Try for a variety of
      greens and golds,
      some needle and broad leaf branches and some ivy. Cut each stem from an inconspicuous spot, shaping the shrub as you harvest the materials you need. Buy to fill in where necessary.
      2. Stand materials in a bucket of tepid water overnight.
      3. Stand short branches in tree pits. They’ll look as if you planted dwarf evergreens.
      4. To make a long-lasting wreath for a centerpiece, buy a ring of flower foam like Oasis. It comes with a plastic bottom that protects your table. Soak in a sink filled with water for fifteen minutes, drain carefully and dry the bottom. Add greens around the exterior first, then the top, and don’t forget smaller pieces on the interior so no foam is visible.
      5. Here master
      baker Judy
      Benson con-
      tributes ginger-
      bread cookies
      baked on lolly-
      pop sticks to
      add extra in-
      terest to the
      6. Depending
      on the temperature of the room, the wreath will look great for a month or more if you take it to the sink, and carefully add water every three or four days, wiping the bottom each time. If you choose to hang the wreath, hold upright over the sink first, as more water will drain out.

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