How to create your own floral wreath for Mother’s Day – The Irish Times
Scroll through the social media feeds of great gardeners and florists and what strikes you is that wreaths aren’t just for Christmas anymore. Instead, with a little clever tweaking and some use of Kokedama-style moss, they are used to decorate our homes year-round.
These seasonal floral creations don’t have to rely on using eco-harmful floral foam (or Oasis as it’s often called) to keep the stems fresh. Instead, by using a set of hardy spring bulbs in bloom, a few small flowering plants with their compact root systems hidden in damp moss, and some hardy evergreen foliage, you can create a “living” wreath that will keep looking good for at least a few weeks. After the best of its seasonal floral display has ended, it can then be ‘unwrapped’, giving those same bulbs and plants a suitable permanent place in your garden or allotment, making it a gift that keeps on giving. Since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make it special.
What is needed:
- A 14″ or 16″ wire wreath base (see oneillsflowers.ie, this can be used again and again for future projects).
- A spool of fine strong twine (also known as Oneillsflowers.ie or strong green garden twine).
- Some moss, respectfully collected.
- Some mixed stems of evergreen foliage and branches. For this wreath I have used ivy, Portuguese laurel, willow and some spring blooms, but other suitable evergreens commonly grown in Irish gardens include Pittosporum, Bay Laurel, Boxwood, Viburnum, Sarcococca, Dromys and Pseudowintera. Whatever you use, make sure the stems are well conditioned by stripping off the bottom leaves and placing them in a bucket of water overnight. For very woody stems, use a vegetable peeler to strip off the outer layer of rind, which will help keep them fully moisturized.
- A pot or two of small spring bulbs in full bloom. There is a wide range to choose from in garden centers this time of year. Suitable examples are grape hyacinths, snowdrops, crocuses and mini daffodils, all of which have small bulbs that are the easiest to hide. But with a little practice it is also possible to use some species with larger bulbs, such as the common hyacinth.
- Four-five small seedlings using species with fibrous rather than fleshy root systems. In this wreath I’ve used various species of spring saxifrage and flowering forget-me-nots and mille-grass, which I bought from my local garden center as small potted specimens in 9cm plastic pots. Both bulbs and potted plants should be given a good watering a few hours before making your wreath to fully hydrate their root systems.
Step 1: Cover your wire wreath base with a thick layer of damp moss on both sides and secure by repeatedly wrapping binding wire/garden twine tightly around it, starting with one end of the wire/twine firmly attached to the wire base. The goal is to hide the circular wire frame and provide a donut-shaped moss cushion to which you can then attach foliage, plants, and flower bulbs. The finished mossy wreath base should be firm, but not so rigid that it would be very difficult to tuck the ends of some branches into it. To prevent it from loosening or unraveling, tie the wire/cord in a few knots after you’ve worked your way around the entire base, but leave it still attached to the base so you can then continue to use it Can use to hold your plants, leaves, etc. and bulbs in position.
Step 2: Remove any small flowering plants from their pots and gently flatten their root balls vertically as much as possible without damaging them. Then take a small handful of damp moss and wrap it lightly around the root ball of the first plant you plan to place on the mossy wreath base. Similar to Kokedama style plants, this moss hides and protects the plant’s root system and helps seal in moisture.
Position the plant on the mossy wreath base, then secure with spool wire/garden twine, gently wrapping it over the mossy root ball and around the wreath base a few times. Re-tie the wire/string with a few knots but leave it still attached to the base so you can continue to use it to secure more plants, leaves and bulbs in place.
Step 3: Take some short stems of evergreen leaves and branches (10cm to 15cm long) and position these next to the plant that you have already attached to the moss covered wire base and use them to hide the moss covered root system. They should be placed so that their ends are all pointing in roughly the same direction (either clockwise or counterclockwise) and so that some stems are pointing to the inside of the wreath, some to the middle, and some to the outside. This will give your wreath a nice full look and help conceal the moss base.
Again, use the tie wire to secure these in place, wrapping it tightly over the base of the stems and around the mossy base several times to secure the undersides of the stems in place. Be careful when doing this so you don’t accidentally damage the plant that you’ve already attached to the wreath.
Step 4: Remove 2-3 individual bulbs from the pot and gently pull them away from the clump, making sure their root systems remain intact. Lightly wrap each of the bulbs and their root systems in a thin layer of damp garden moss, then tuck them between the foliage you just positioned, making sure to tuck their bulbous ends as deep into the wreath as possible.
Again, position them so that the flowers are all pointing in the same direction as the foliage. As before, use the tie wire/twine to secure these bulbs in place, being careful not to accidentally cut the bulbs or flower stems.
Step 5: Methodically work your way around the base of the wreath, repeating steps one through three so that each new section you add is placed to match the work of the previous section (e.g. fresh layer of flowers and foliage.
Step 6: Finish off your spring wreath with some beautifully wild sprigs and/or sprigs of spring bloom by pressing the end of each stem deep into the outer edge of the mossy wreath base. If you spot any obvious holes in the design, take a few short leaf stalks and push the ends deep into the base to hide them. If you think you might want to add a few more flower bulbs, use the closed blade of your secateurs to poke a few small holes in the moss-covered soil for you to stick the bulbs in. Finally, tie a piece of pretty ribbon to the top/back of your wreath, making sure it’s absolutely secure (last thing you want is for it to come loose and your wreath to fall on the floor).
[ Why everyone, even feminists, likes Mother’s Day ]
[ At Sanctury Convent in Cork, a very different Mother’s Day for Ukrainian refugees ]
This week in the garden
Plant onions and shallots in weed-free, not recently manured or newly dug soil, making sure to give them a sunny, open spot and well-drained but fertile soil. Because they don’t produce much leaf growth to quell weed germination, both plants can easily become choked with weeds during the growing season, resulting in poor growth. For this reason, it’s a good idea to plant onion and shallots in small holes that have been cut or burned into a weed suppression membrane.
The soft, young shoots of herbaceous plants emerge from the ground this month, so keep an eye out for snail damage and take appropriate precautions if necessary. Certain species are particularly susceptible to this type of damage, including hostas, delphiniums, echinacea, dahlias, and lupins.
Appointments for your diary
Tuesday 21 March (7pm), Kilkenny Castle, The Greedy Gardener: How to Have Color at Every Season, a talk given by Rose Maye on behalf of OPW as part of its annual free gardening talk series, see kilkennycastle.ie
Thursday 23 March (8pm), Northridge House, St Luke’s, Castle Rd, Mahon. T12H970, An Approach to Garden Design, a talk by Linda Murphy of the National Botanic Gardens on behalf of the Cork Alpine Hardy Plant Society, all welcome, admission €10