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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Making Wreaths

Air Date: Week of

Living On Earth's Green Garden Spot correspondent Evelyn Tully Costa explains to listeners how they can make simple, attractive handcrafted holiday gift wreaths, straight from their gardens.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth. I'm Steve Curwood. The holidays are upon us along with the frenzy of preparations. We all know shopping to buy mountains of presents can take the fun out of the season, not to mention a chunk out of our bank accounts. Many people are rethinking this commercialization and are seeking calmer, more intimate ways to celebrate the winter holidays. Setting limits on gift giving, and emphasizing time with family and friends. Part of this return to simplicity is the return of handcrafted gifts. And here today with gift ideas straight from the garden is our Green Garden correspondent Evelyn Tully Costa. Happy holidays, Evelyn.

TULLY COSTA: Happy holidays, Steve. Bet you thought you were going to get off the gardening hook this time of the year.

CURWOOD: You mean I'm not?

TULLY COSTA: No. I thought that we'd take you outside, bring you back in, and have you make some holiday wreaths.

CURWOOD: Ooh, that sounds great. But you mean those really fancy holiday wreaths you see in the stores for a lot of money, or catalogues?

TULLY COSTA: Well, yeah, but I'm not talking about buying them. I'm talking about making them.


TULLY COSTA: Last year, for instance, I went through some of those catalogues, kind of gasped as the prices and decided, I can do this. I copied the wreaths. I made my own. It was incredibly inexpensive and it was fun and they were gorgeous.

CURWOOD: Hey, by the way, why are wreathes like something we do this time of year?

TULLY COSTA: Oh. Well actually, we humans do it all times of the year. Circle symbolism is incredibly important to all cultures that bother to watch the sun and the moon.

CURWOOD: Uh huh.

TULLY COSTA: Which is how a lot of us mark the seasons. So you think about birth, regeneration, the cycles of life, death, mourning, and you think about circles.

CURWOOD: Ah, so it's the circle of the seasons. It's really the circle of life.

TULLY COSTA: Yeah, it's the circle of life. And also, I mean, just think of the ancient Greeks who bestowed laurel wreaths on their best athletes, or the Roman emperors who wore wreaths and also gave them to the pure Christians that they tortured and then threw to the lions. Everybody had 'em.

CURWOOD: (Laughs) Wait a second, that's not exactly appetizing. How about, you know, something that's a little closer to home?

TULLY COSTA: Well, something a little nicer might be, of course, the Hawaiian leis, which are bestowed upon people to signify welcome. And Native American dream catchers and medicine wheels.

CURWOOD: But now, in our culture here, we seem to be stuck on evergreen. I mean, we use the pine boughs. But there's other things that we can use, right?

TULLY COSTA: Well, yeah. And if you live in other parts of the country where you don't have evergreens, you know, you can use a lot of different things that bramble up and go into nice circles. But really the point here about wreaths is we're talking about a circle, and we're talking about putting things on it.

CURWOOD: All right. Now, I notice you brought some things here today. Let's bring them up here on the table. What are these things here?

TULLY COSTA: Okay. The first and the basic thing is the frame that we're going to use to put the things onto, and this is a honeysuckle bare branch wreath. it's very thick and it's got plenty of brambles that we can stick other things into it. The other items are, very simply, ferns that we're going to use to build up a little base around the circle, and some very beautiful bittersweet, a shrubs that bears very bright, beautiful berries with yellow hoods on them.

CURWOOD: So this is a red and green, the Christmas colors, but really different, huh?

TULLY COSTA: Yeah. And it's natural, and it's really simple, and you literally just insert the materials right into the brambles. So the more bramble you have, the easier it is to make these wreaths. I would also say get the kids involved in this, because they'll run around outside and find all sorts of things that you can insert into these wreaths.

CURWOOD: Well you see all kinds of things at my house that would be useful. I do have grape vines out in the yard.

TULLY COSTA: Perfect. Perfect.

CURWOOD: And we have milkweed. And we have some corn husks. And there are lots of dried flowers.

TULLY COSTA: Well there's dried herbs you can use. Even dried fruits, gourds. You can make bells. Use old ribbons from last year when you unwrap packages from birthdays across the year. Just keep the ribbons.

CURWOOD: Uh huh. You mean there's a use for all this junk?

TULLY COSTA: Yeah. Don't throw it out. Use it during the holidays. And also you can keep these wreaths. If they're really beautiful and you had fun putting them together with your kids, why not just put them in a box and bring them out next year?

CURWOOD: Ah. Okay. One thing, though. You know, a lot of folks live in the city, and it's a little hard to find bittersweet down at the park, or nearby, so what should they do?

TULLY COSTA: Well, probably what we did. And that's go right down to the corner florist and get what I think is a very beautiful honeysuckle vine that was only about $7, and we bought some ferns for about $3, and the bittersweet for about $4. So we're talking about something that was about $16.

CURWOOD: Wow. But in the store, or he catalogue, we would pay --

TULLY COSTA: Oh, you'd probably pay about $50 or $60, $70 for something like this. Especially if you're New York.

CURWOOD: So it's a way to save money, get connected with family and friends.

TULLY COSTA: And nature.

CURWOOD: Of course. And speaking of nature, of course it's your nature to bring us some more information on this.


CURWOOD: You must have a book that you could tell us about.

TULLY COSTA: I have a wonderful book that I found, and it's called The Natural Christmas by Tom Pritchard and Billy Jarecki, and it's published by Clarkson Potter. And it has a lot of holiday ideas, including recycling. Bring the outside in, and take some old things you have around the house and turn them into wreaths. And not spend so much money.

CURWOOD: Thanks, Ev.

TULLY COSTA: Yeah, so happy holidays and good luck, Steve.

CURWOOD: Tips on going lightly on your pocketbooks and the planet from our Green Garden Spot correspondent, Evelyn Tully Costa.



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