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Making a picture-perfect wreath.

George Lewis produces 200 wreaths each December You can use his simple techniques and plants from your own garden

Wreath-making isn't necessarily simple, but the time-tested technique shown here comes close. For the last 19 years, George Lewis, superintendent of Descanso Gardens in Southern California, has made more than 200 wreaths every December. You can follow his method, shown here, using materials from your garden.

The wreath diameters can vary. Mr. Lewis likes 12-inch versions for table centerpieces; he also makes very large ones, up to 3-1/2 feet in diameter, for special display situations.

For each 12-inch-diameter wreath, he gathers about a medium-size trash bag full of evergreen snippets. He also buys #9 galvanized wire and two spools of #22 florist's wire.

Mr. Lewis forms the hoop frame from a 42-inch length of the galvanized wire bent into a circle. He overlaps ends about 4 inches then spot welds them or twists them with heavy pliers. Florist's supply shops sell ready-made hoops.

You could also fashion the frame out of pliable branches. One finger-thick, 3-foot branch might bend into an even hoop; or wrap two or three branches together with # 16 galvanized wire.

Choose evergreens, fruits, nuts, berries Collect in the morning, while plants are freshest. Clip soft tips of plants. If you sprinkle cuttings, you can store them all day in a plastic bag in a cool place.

Evergreens Mr. Lewis recommends include bay, boxwood, camellia, cedar, eucalyptus, Douglas fir, juniper, pine, redwood, and yew. To accent wreaths, he suggests citrus, crabapples, walnuts and filberts (drill holes in them for wiring), various seed pods, and berries.

Set everything on a table of comfortable height. Wrap and knot florist's wire several times over area where hoop is spliced. Take a clump of same-size clippings and hold against the hoop, then wrap the wire around it. (Mr. Lewis draws wire from under the spool to easily pull it tight.) Use the same wire spool to wrap continuously around the ftame until wreath is filled in. Add decorations, such as sprigs of berries, with every other clump, Use wire to attach final touches, such as citrus and pine cones, to the finished wreath.
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Date:Dec 1, 1988
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