Tuesday 10 December 2013

The spirit of midwinter . . .

Just a quick effort - heart shapes are SO difficult to do!

 UPDATE:  As you can see, I had a little play around with some willow twigs and strands of ivy, both of which were growing by my front gate, so I didn't have to walk far.  I hadn't a CLUE how to fashion the heart shape - I had seen it in a magazine and then lost the magazine (my OH probably started the fire with it).  Anyway, I found I had to bend the central twigs at the top, breaking some, and then tieing together with string.  Ditto on the bottom "angle", which is hidden by the gold ribbon.  That came with a gift of home-made boozy fruits a few years back, and I saved it for just such an occasion . . .  The red cord at the top is the handle of a gift bag, which is out in the Back Place with seeds in . . .  Waste not, want not.

Below:  The 2008 Christmas wreath with ivy leaves and seedheads, some yellow oak leaves and a garland of twists of Christmas fabric.

At this time of year there is very little colour in the landscape, and it is drab and monochrome from the low light levels.  Here in Wales we have so many ash trees - they predominate in the woodland mix - that once they have dropped their leaves, winter colours arrive early.

In the hedgerows there are splashes of colour from the last hawthorn berries and rose hips, bramble leaves which are still holding yellows and cranberry reds, and even the deep deep green of the holly and ivy leaves shows as colour against the drained browns and greys of twigs and bark.  How different from just over a month ago in the photo below, taken in Somerset, when there were still plenty of colourful leaves on the trees - think these yellower ones are field maples, but too far away to identify properly.

It is about this time of year I normally go and collect the twigs and greenery for the Christmas wreath.  This has become a tradition in our family over the years, and normally T would go with me to gather the greenery, but she won't be home until just before Christmas Eve, so I will make a start, today or tomorrow. She's asked me to wait until she's home so we can make the main wreath, so I will gather some bits to try and make a heart-shaped one . . .  (See photos added to top).  There is something absolutely magical about walking along by the river (as we nearly always do) in the depths of winter, looking for Alder catkins and or cones, and bits of greenery which can be incorporated in this year's creation.  It isn't a tradition I grew up with, although our family never had money for a "proper" tree when I was little, and I can remember going out with my mum and cutting down a branch of gorse or else a small branch of Silver Birch (we had a big tree growing in the back garden hedge.)  We would then make up a flour and water paste and paint the branches with it ("snow!") and then, whilst it was still wet, sprinkle it with glitter and later hanging it with little glass baubles.  So I guess there is the tradition of bringing in something from the wild and "domesticating" it!

The base is always woven willow, and I have a bush by the gate which needs trimming back, and has some lovely long wands on it.  This forms a circle and is then embellished with long ropes of ivy (usually found hanging from the trees down by the river), little sprigs of ivy flowers/berries, whatever catkins I can find (Alder are pretty as they are a deep beetroot red), and one year some sprigs of gorse in flower, which lifted the wreath with its colour.

Here's one I made earlier (MUCH earlier - 2009 in fact!)

 The basic wreath - woven willow, held in place with string (which gets hidden).

Dressed with lots of strands of ivy, and oven dried slices of orange.

Tempararily in place on the Hergom.

 Our eldest daughter studding an orange with cloves.  It is then dusted with orris root and hung in the kitchen.

Drab and drear the landscape.   You have to search for the little miracles hidden in the dead grass and leaves.

Like this Navalwort, which clings to the slate rock which forms a little canyon as you climb the hill.

But with just a little bit of sunshine, you have amazing tree-sculptures . . .

Mind you, it isn't REALLY Christmas unless it snows . . .


  1. Your post today has really got me into the Christmas spirit - can do without the snow though.

  2. Heart shape does look nice .. and I love the one with the orange slices.

    Vicky x

  3. Pat - I don't mind it for a couple of days - after that it becomes a problem!

    Vicky - I hadn't a clue how to start it off, and it looks nothing like the one I'd seen in a magazine which was just bare twigs (glued together?!) and some red beads woven into it, but I enjoyed it all the same. The orange slices are easy to do - cool oven for a while, until they are dried right through. I usually use a wizened orange which has been forgotten in the fruit bowl, and it's half mummified to start with!

    1. I was thinking about making something and you have got me in the mood now!

  4. The wreaths are so gorgeous. I MUST try and do one this year. I say I'm going to and never do!

  5. Em - I am sure you could find plenty not far from your cottage to get you going. Enjoy!

    Kath - Glad I've set you off. I look forward to seeing what you and Em conjure up.

  6. Looks lovely BB - and what a lovely tradition of making the wreaths together. We all create our own traditions which are precious in the greater scheme of family life. I am on holiday next week am well behind with the preparations despite starting early fortunately I have got quite a bit on the food front done now it is the house to sort and the decorations are coming out next week. I will get there one way or the other, but may be burning some midnight oil. I have Ivy and Bay in the garden and ribbons and some pretty Christmas picks in the back bedroom somewhere so I intend to have a play. Your little wreaths have perked me up no end made with such love and simplicity. Thank you. Catch you soon.



  7. Beautiful wreaths - I love the heart shaped one and what a lovely family tradition :) I love the idea of the orange studded with cloves - we used to do that when I was little. I might try and have a go this year and having seen the dried orange slices on a tree at a NT property I'll try and dry some of those too. A really lovely post :)

  8. Love the new winter scene photo for the blog. A very Christmassy blog-your decorations are wonderful-how creative. Love the twisted tree sculpture in the sunshine.

  9. Hi Pattypan, Ragged Robin and Suzie - glad you all enjoyed the post. I think it's the family things done together which make Christmas. When the children were small, it was dressing the tree (I only ever got to UNdress it and shove it out the window!!) Now we all bring something of our own to Christmas.

    I reckon we should all go to Pattypan's anyway, as she has a feast and a half laid down in her larder!!

    Happy wreath-making, all.

  10. Love your new header photo and the photo of Navalwort. They look like Nasturtiums leaves with I adore.
    The wreaths are lovely.
    I make small wreaths all year with the filler from flowers and what ever I find. Just tiny ones. there is just something about a wreath.
    Lovely post

    cheers, parsnip