Herbal Holiday Decor
By Joyce Driemeyer
(This article was first published in The Gateway Gardener December 2006 issue)
The omnipresent wreath has become a major statement seasonally. It no longer manifests itself just at the holidays, but now trims entries year-round with ornamentation and color appropriate to the season.
Wreaths have an ancient history dating back to the early Greeks, who adorned successful warriors with crowns of bay leaves (Laurus nobilis) for valor. The Greeks also wore garlands of rosemary to improve memory and concentration. Although parsley adorned Roman heads, it was feared by the Greeks. Brides historically used crowns of myrtle (Myrtus communis), orange blossoms or rosemary.
The circle and sphere have long been symbols of immortality and eternity in Christianity, represented by the Christmas wreath. Fresh evergreen wreaths of boxwood or blue-berried juniper, pine or noble fir can be made using hollow wire or straw-based 8-12” circles and by securing the greens with picture-hanging wire. For a less time-consuming approach, buy ready-made fresh basic wreaths and decorate with fresh sprigs from the garden. Add cuttings of red-berried holly, rosemary, bayberry (Myrica spp.), or juniper and pine cones. I use the red berries of my deciduous hollies (Ilex verticillata).
Although I personally prefer fresh greens, if you are pressed for time, some of the unadorned artificial green wreaths are extremely handsome and can be save for future years. Ornament them annually with pinecones, holly or pomegranate and clusters of cinnamon sticks.
Small ornamental kitchen wreaths can be made using dried Artemisia as a
base, and adorning with bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, rosemary sprigs and whole nutmegs. Secure the ornaments with a glue gun. Wreath is for décor only.
Kissing balls are easy to assemble. Start with a 4-inch Styrofoam ball, insert 3-4” cuttings of boxwood to completely cover the base. Attach a small ribbon with wire to the top of the ball for hanging, and add a sprig of mistletoe to the base of the ball.
Small rosemary or myrtle topiaries make attractive tabletop accents or gifts. Rosemary is tricky inside the house, and is unforgiving if allowed to dry out. At the same time, do not allow it to sit in water.
Photos: wreaths made by Webster Groves Herb Society. Plain wreath is Artemisia. Other wreath is Artemisia base with dried herb décor.
Joyce Driemeyer is retired after more than 25 years as a professional landscape designer. She is a master gardener, and volunteers, lectures and conducts classes at Missouri Botanical Garden, and has served actively in both the St. Louis Herb Society and the Herb Society of America.