Few things are as quintessentially Christmas as a homemade winterberry wreath, and the sight of those bright red berries adorning the front door definitely says ‘season’s greetings’ to all who come calling.
Our demonstration today comes to us from Cathie Whitman, who along with her partner, Tim Hurley, runs the Timberosa Tree Farm in Pitt Meadows – 10 acres of Christmas trees, holly and horse paddocks, all in full view of our majestic coastal mountains.
Tim and Cathie have owned the property since 2003, welcoming the public during the Christmas season, particularly those questing for real trees and trimmings.
Cathie’s winterberry creations (she also makes a beautiful horse wreath for you equestrian lovers) have quickly become a local favourite and she is going to show us how to make our own in three easy steps.
• Tools and supplies: You’ll need an 18- or 24-inch wreath frame, a roll of waxed string, some rustic wire, secateurs and wire cutters.
Depending on how dense you want your wreath to be, you will need between 30 to 45 winterberry stems, with the lengths varying between 10 to 12 inches.
These will need to have any residual leaves and spoiled berries stripped beforehand; also the branch tips may have to be shortened.
Step 1 – Begin by securing your waxed string to the frame and tying the winterberry stems to it in bundles of three.
The idea here is to tie-in and bend the lower stems to conform to the frame while still allowing the berried tips to flare out somewhat.
Step 2 – Continue the process by overlapping the winterberry bundles and tying them to the frame in succession, carefully working your way all around.
Step 3 – Once you’ve tied all the winterberry sprigs onto the frame, you can use your secateurs to prune the tips in order to create a balanced wreath. Then you can make a hanging loop out of the rustic wire and attach it to the back of the frame.
Your homemade wreath should last you well into the new year.
• Growing your own: One way to defer the cost of purchasing winterberry stems every year is to have your own shrub.
Ilex verticillata really isn’t that demanding, it just needs plenty of space to grow as an average plant reaches two metres wide by 2.5 to three metres high, at maturity.
They prefer a rich acidic soil that is evenly moist and part to full sun (the more sun, the more berries).
The female plants produce the berries and two good cultivars include ‘Afterglow’ and ‘Winter Red’, just make sure they have a male pollination partner (‘Jim Dandy’ and ‘Southern Gentleman’ respectively).
The only other thing you may need is some bird netting, as our feathered friends will often pick them clean before you get a chance to enjoy them.
That said, your old wreaths can be hung in the garden after Christmas for the Steller’s jays and thrushes to feast on during the cold weather.
Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (email@example.com).