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Into The Woods You Go, To Emerge With A Sustainable Wreath

The following is a regular column that addresses basic issues facing the ever-inquisitive back- and front-yard toiler, proffered by someone who knows best; one of the master gardeners from the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, Brian Cruey.

Here at the Berkshire Botanical Garden, the first signs of the holiday season come with the volunteers and designers who descend on the Garden to make hundreds of wreaths, centerpieces, boughs and swags for our annual Gallery of Wreaths. Each year during Stockbridge’s Christmas on Main Street (this year December 6 and 7) we decorate the exhibit hall to the nines and turn it into a showplace of local craft and food vendors, the highlight of which is our wreath expo, designed to raise money for the Garden.

It’s festive for sure, but seeing all of the work and thought that goes into making these unique and inspired evergreen creations is also inspiring. The real beauty of these wreaths is that the majority of them are made completely with seed pods, bark, branches, fruit and other items that are all found locally in the garden and forest. We spend months collecting items that we can use in our wreath workshops and it’s remarkable what these talented designers can do using simple, everyday organic material. 

As you finish your garden cleanup or take a walk in the woods, look around. Why not try your hand at your own homemade decorations this year? Buy a wreath frame or, if you don’t feel like starting totally from scratch, buy a plain wreath and add the bells and whistles yourself. Some of the materials that our master wreath makers find the most useful in their work are things like dried wild mushrooms, feathers, acorns and nuts, fern fronds, dried protea, honey locust seed pods, small branches, sumac seed pods, and of course, pine cones of every shape and size.

As you collect, make sure that you are doing so safely and responsibly. Like everything we do here at the Garden, we try to do it in a way that’s as ethically and environmentally sound as possible.

Here are some tips to ensure that your efforts collecting in the woods are safe AND sustainable:
• Collect from your own property, from family or friends or ask permission of landowners
• Be selective — NEVER collect rare and endangered plant species and only collect things that are abundant. If you question whether or not you should be taking it, then you probably shouldn’t! 
• Collect from the ground. For example, you never want to take bark off of live trees. The best foraging comes from downed branches and materials that plants discard naturally or things you cut back in your own garden at the end of the growing season. If you do take things like evergreen branches off trees, make sure to use the proper tools and make the right kind of cuts to encourage new growth.
• BE SAFE! Know when hunting season is and dress in hunter’s orange. Stay away from roadsides and highly trafficked areas and steer clear of poisonous plants. 
• Avoid invasive materials such as bittersweet vines and berries or burning bush fruit. They may look pretty, but don’t forget — they are seeds and you don’t want to introduce these species into your garden or anyone else’s.

As always, respecting the environment and preserving the natural beauty of the region is a shared responsibility we all need to be conscious of.

Want to get some ideas and inspiration for your own holiday creations? Stop by our Holiday Marketplace on December 6 and 7 and visit our Gallery of Wreaths at the Berkshire Botanical Garden. 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 11/19/14 at 12:06 PM • Permalink