Sunday, November 18, 2012


I think of Autumn as a whole season of giving (in contrast to just the single day of Thanksgiving).  Mother Nature graces us with abundant gifts.  Many fruits and grains are ready to be harvested.  Seeds are also ready to be collected and stored for planting in the Spring.  Those are the harvests most people think of when they think of Autumn harvest.  There is another type of harvest, one which I think is more fun because it involves hunting (not animals, though this is the season for that, too, so be careful when you walk around in the woods: wear blaze orange and make noise -- singing is also good for your spirit). Grab a pair of gloves, sharp clippers, and several large bags and head to the woods because what you will be hunting for thrives there.  But if you can't get to the woods, your yard or that of a friendly neighbor will do. 

OK, ready to find out what you will be hunting for?  Look for any vines that are strong and pliable.  I like bittersweet and grape vines.  Some people also like forsythia, honey suckle, and thornless raspberry.  They make great wreaths, and wreath making is fun and rewarding.  Now is also the time to think about Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations and gifts.  Making your wreaths in the Fall will lessen your work during the holidays.  So make a few basic wreaths with just the vines and then decorate them according to the season later. 

 basic wreath
a tad embellished

voila - bittersweet wreath ready for Thanksgiving

on your hunt

When collecting your vines, be aware of poisonous plants, such as poison ivy.  Do a quick image search online for all poisonous vines before you go on your search so you can avoid them.  The Fall is a great time to harvest vines because the leaves are still on the vines, with some vines taking on distinctive colors and making your identification easier.  If possible, make your wreaths where you find your vine supply because vines are more malleable when fresh and you can just leave the debris behind.  But if you have to wait until later, before shaping your wreath, soak the vines in warm water for at least a few hours.  Because my vines are usually quite long, I soak them in my bathtub (to my husband's chagrin).

I used to dread being dragged by my husband to go for a walk in the woods.  There was nothing for me to collect in the woods.  I am one of those people you see strolling the beach carrying a bag, head bent, eyes clued to the sand, and toes periodically tugging at some random object in the sand.  To me hunting for a beautiful shell, a piece of knotty driftwood, or a smooth sea glass makes my walk much more exciting. 
some shells and sea glass from my collection
envious? well, don't be - took me many many years 

(probably thousands of hours, but worth it!)

Since discovering that the woods are full of hidden treasures, though, I've been eager to join my husband on his hikes.  Just like at the beach, Mother Nature scatters her gifts all over the woods waiting for you to find them.  I like bittersweet vines the best, so I always try to find them.  By their nature -- they love to twist and wind, grab and cling -- these vines are ideal for wreath making because they are easy to mold and secure.  In addition, their vines are whimsical, so your wreaths look soft and natural.  However, if you decide to use bittersweet, especially the invasive variety Celastrus Orbiculatus, remember to dispose of the seeds properly because they are prolific and cause major damage to surrounding vegetation if they are uncontrolled. There are several ways to dispose of the seeds: bag them and dispose of them in a landfill, burn them, or leave them in a bag out in the sun long enough to kill them.  Another good reason to use bittersweet vines in making wreaths, especially Celastrus Orbiculatus, is that by disentangling them from other vegetation, you are giving other vegetation a chance to survive.  And by cutting the vines down, you can help curb the damage they can cause.  The other plants in the woods, environmentalists, and your neighbors will be eternally grateful.  

The whimsical looking bittersweet vines loaded with adorable little berries are deceptively powerful and destructive to surrounding vegetation, including well established trees.  Difficult to believe? Believe it!  Look at the picture below; the vines of these darling little berries pulled down a large healthy pine tree! 
down pine tree
This pine tree must have just recently been pulled down because the needles and the cones still smelled fresh.  It was a very sad sight.  At the same time, a visual feast - delicate bright little berries clinging to a strong and beautiful evergreen.  I couldn't help but bring a vestige of life's irony home with me.

alas! what a simple yet perfect composition!

how ironic that such little delicate vines can destroy something as strong as this
healthy mature pine tree! 

let's make wreaths

Wreath making is fun and rewarding.  I always feel accomplished after successfully taming the randomly winding vines into wreaths of different sizes and shapes.  Trust your imagination and your sense of proportion when you shape your wreaths.  The beauty here is that you can keep wrapping more vines around your wreath until you are happy with the shape, size, and appearance.  Remember that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  If you like your wreath, then it’s beautiful.  Be kind to yourself and have fun.  It’s very easy to make a wreath, but knowing a few basic concepts and tricks will make your experience a pleasant one from the get go.  There are a few good websites on this topic.  Watch this video demonstration by Martha Stewart and you will see how easy it is to make a wreath: 

I would like to add one minor suggestion.  I find it easier to even out my wreath if I don't always start wrapping a new vine on the same side each time.  I also find that some vines just naturally wind from a certain direction and if you follow their natural tendency, they look more natural as they wrap around other vines.  Be flexible as to which side to begin each time you add a vine.  Let the vines and your eyes lead you.  Relax.  Have fun.

just do it! you know you want to

BTW:  Always wear gloves when you work with plants you are not familiar with.


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    1. Hi Mary Beth, thank you for your nice comments and for sharing my blog with your friends. I would love for them to visit too and I hope they will enjoy the pictures and the info. If you want, you can subscribe to my blog or join me as a member/follower so you know when I publish a new post.