Fresh from the garden: Holiday Wreaths

Every year, the UBC Botanical Garden's volunteers assemble hundreds of stunning wreaths to celebrate the festive season.

Credit: Terry Guscott

Holiday Wreath

Festive wreaths for the holidays

The “Friends of the Garden,” affectionately known as the FOGS, are hard at work. Each year, these committed folks are involved in a labour of love, creating hundreds of high-quality wreaths to be sold through the festive season. Also available: evergreen baskets, mini-trees and stylish swags. All profits are donated to the garden.

Most greens come from the botanical garden itself, the backbone generally being Thuja plicata (western red cedar). The Pinetum and Alpine gardens provide different types of pine, cedar, eucalyptus, Chamaecyparis, Hebe, Leucothoe, Nandina (heavenly bamboo), Cryptomeria and Ilex (holly).

Holiday Wreath

Camellia sprigs are popular with the FOGS, probably because the flowers sometimes bloom on the wreath if kept well watered. Other greens are donated by greens-keepers at Point Grey and Shaughnessy golf courses, and more are gleaned from construction sites, vacant lots or the volunteers’ own gardens.

“Don’t be surprised to see the FOGS skulking around in the bushes at night, pruners in hand,” says Moya Drummond, head of wreath-making activities that take place during the last week of November through early December. The wreaths will last until February if kept watered. Moya recommends placing them flat in the rain overnight as needed.

Holiday wreath

Every wreath is rigorously tested, including hurling it to the floor suddenly. This way, says Moya, the wreath will survive the opening and closing (and occasional slamming) of a door. The throw test is quite a surprise for new volunteers.

The secret to the strength and longevity of the wreaths, says Moya, is moss, which both binds the greenery bundles to the wreath and keeps the greens moist. The FOGS are sensitive to environmental issues and attend a workshop on correct moss-harvesting methods. Some FOGS even have little moss “farms” on their own properties. They also encourage people to recycle moss from wreaths of previous years; this is easily done by removing it from the wreath and placing it in a shady section of the garden to continue growing.

Holiday wreath

Otherwise, moss is harvested from areas due for demolition, such as building or road sites, or from the botanical garden. Most is collected in November, usually from vine maples where it hangs, fringe-like. The moss is trimmed gently (like a haircut), leaving lots on the branch to regenerate. The moss that is removed would normally fall to the ground and decompose into the soil.

If kept moist, moss will live a long time and may be used over and over again. Even if it dries you can give it a good soaking in water and it’ll green up in a week or two.

If wreath making isn’t your bag, make a swag in 15 minutes or less. Go out to your garden with clippers in hand. Gather branches, fasten them with wire, tie some ribbon on, and hang it on your front door. Or visit the botanical garden and buy a wreath for yourself, and a couple for gifts. Wreaths are evergreen to symbolize “everlastingness” – the one on your front door is an icon of welcome, and a celebration of joyful spirit.
What a fitting way to observe the season, and support the garden.

Holiday Wreath

Most wreaths in the photos contain western red cedar (Thuja plicata) as well as the following plants:
Artemisia (wormwood) – zone 7 • Ilex aquifolium ‘Bacciflava’ (yellow-berried English holly) – zone 7 • Eucalyptus longifolia – zone 8 • Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar) – zone 6 • Cupressus arizonica var. arizonica ‘Blue Ice’ – zone 7 • Osmanthus heterophyllus (false holly) – zone 7• Leucothoe axillaris – zone 6 • Camellia japonica (Japanese camellia) – zone 7 • Ilex aquifolium variegated cultivars (variegated English holly) – zone 7 • Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese cedar) – zone 6 • Leucothoe axillaris – zone 6 • Eucalyptus longifolia – zone 8 • Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (corkscrew hazel, Harry Lauder’s walking stick) – zone 3 • Picea pungens (blue spruce) – zone 3 • Callicarpa bodinieri ‘Profusion’ (beautyberry) – zone 6 • Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’ – zone 6 • Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) – zone 8 • Variegated English holly – zone 5 • mini pine cone Variegated and green English hollies – zone 5 • Chamaecyparis obtusa nana aurea (golden Hinoki cypress) – zone 4

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