Floral designer Emily Thompson turns simple materials, like foraged branches and seedpods, into unconventional holiday wreaths that go beyond the front door.
By Melissa Ozawa
This minimalist ring is fashioned solely from branches of grevillea, an Australian native commonly grown on the U.S. West Coast. "It's one of my favorite plants for wreaths," says Thompson. "I love how the narrow leaves are green on one side and silver on the other, which creates an ombre effect." She snips footlong pieces and wires the bottoms of the branches into a metal frame (an exception, since she usually uses branches for structure) so the tips face out. As an option, she suggests adding a few yellow-green quinces.
Using rubber-palmed or leather gloves to protect her hands from thorns, Thompson twists and weaves rambling rose branches studded with rose hips into a circle and binds them together with wire. For added interest, she suggests reindeer moss, which she sprays with water (to soften it) and then sculpts onto the wreath while wet. (It can also be glued on with a hot-glue gun.)
Growing up in Vermont, Emily Thompson was surrounded by birch forests, her inspiration for this striking wreath. She makes a base of birch branches; then, to mimic the trees' silvery-white bark, she adds cecropia leaves from a bold tropical plant increasingly popular with floral designers. Since they are fragile when dry, she works with fresh leaves, which are flexible and forgiving. She places them on the wreath, covers them with paper, and weighs them down with books or bricks to keep them flat while they dry. Last, she adds dried leucadendron pods in various stages of openness.
Inspired by the open, half-moon form of a classical laurel wreath, Thompson created her own version, which looks like "feathers on a wing," she says. Using binding wire -- or fabric wire, "because it looks nice if it shows" -- she builds a base out of pear branches. She wires trios of Norway spruce pinecones together, layers them on top in a pattern that contrasts with the wildness of the base, finishes with dried eucalyptus pods, and hangs it at an angle with dramatic slashes of thick yellow ribbon. The wreath will last into spring (and can even be stored for next fall).
For a dinner party, Thompson prepared this elegant, ephemeral wreath, made from a fresh quince branch in bloom. She simply wired a branch into a circle, allowing the natural spray of twigs and pink blossoms to fall freely, added branches with rose hips for a touch of green, and hung the wreath from a light-brown ribbon. The branch is out of water, so this wreath will last only an evening, but the lovely effect is well worth the minimal effort.
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