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!)
Dressed with lots of strands of ivy, and oven dried slices of orange.
Tempararily in place on the Hergom.
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 . . .