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Anything-goes wreaths.

Anything-goes wreaths

In an artist's hands, natural materials from the garden can form Christmas wreaths with real character. But you don't have to be an artist to make wreaths like the one pictured at right; we asked artists, craftsmen, and plant fanciers who are known to make handsome wreaths if they would share their wreathmaking secrets with us (one of them, Ray Wong, is pictured here).

Below we show some of their techniques. By following them, even an amateur can make an attractive, long-lasting wreath in about an hour: just use the right tools and choose greens that age gracefully. Feel free to use untraditional greens for practicality and to add interest: "If I can't use the plants in my own garden, forget it,' says Mr. Wong.

Small, leathery-leafed greens hold their shape and keep their color longest; these include camellia, manzanita, Pittosporum tobira, and raphiolepis. In the Northwest, try golden hinoki cypress, Daphne odora, golden Pfitzer juniper, rhododendron trusses, and sprigs of blue spruce (wreathmaker Marge Badger from Kent, Washington, uses all of these together in handsome wreaths). In the desert, try grasses, desert hackberry, devil's claw, even cholla wood.

At a crafts shop or florist's supply store, buy a straw wreath base ($2 for 10-inch-diameter, $3 for 14-inch, $4 for 18-inch), pole or florist's pins (about $1.60 per package), and florist's picks with wire attached (about $1.60 for 50). You'll also need wire cutters and a spool of sturdy wire--plus heavy twine, a pipe cleaner, or a coat hanger to serve as a loop or hook for mounting the wreath.

Tie a length of twine around the top of the base and tie a 1-inch hanging loop in back (or attach a loop of pipe cleaner to the twine at top back). On smallest wreaths, you can bend a wire coat hanger to fit the wreath; attach it to the wreath's back with pole pins.

Snip the greenery into pieces about 3 to 6 inches long. Attach them as shown at left, working in one direction; tuck snippets as close together as possible. To finish, decorate with fruits, berries, or ornaments. ("Ribbons hide a multitude of sins,' Mr. Wong comments.) If possible, choose fruits with stems; they're easier to attach, and will stay fresh longer if their skins aren't pierced.

If you mist the foliage wreath with water every few days, it will look fresh for up to a month. Smallest-leafed wreaths will fade as they dry, but can hold their shape well into the new year.

Photo: Lei-maker Ray Wong of Honolulu uses his favorite lei faliage in wreaths. His technique, at right:

(1) Place sprigs of greenery close together around outside perimeter of wreath base; secure with florist's pins. Repeat on inside.

(2) Add greens to front of wreath, mixing in different colors and textures

Photo: Wire florist's picks to softstemmed elements to secure them to straw base without breakage

Photo: Wrap wire of florist's pick around fruit stem. Poke pick into straw base to secure

Photo: Shape ends of woody-stemmed materials to a point with pruning shears, then poke into straw base

Photo: California wreath on our cover consists of camellia leaves, fruits, and animal ornaments (see page 130)

Photo: Tropical wreath combines little-leafed lehua (Metrosideros) clippings, spikes of Norfolk pine, crimson lipstick tree (achiote) pods
COPYRIGHT 1986 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1986 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Dec 1, 1986
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