It's April! The birds are singing, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming...not even close. This is April in Maine, which means that it's cloudy, cold, and supposed to snow this afternoon. There is nothing blooming and we still have a significant snow pack. But it's not all doom and gloom, the sun is getting stronger and we are supposed to get into the 50s later this week. Mainers truly appreciate those (relatively) warm days, and I will probably have to work to convince the kids not to wear shorts to school that day. This is the time of year when I feel most impatient and the least like living in the rhythm of the seasons. I want to drink iced coffee, plant the garden, and ditch the sweaters, but it's going to be a while. I'm working to embrace all that is good about this time of year, which is not the mud - so much mud, it's things like seeing the buds on the trees, taking the time to plan a garden, and remembering that soon enough it will warm up and really be spring-like. Then it will be a busy time of planting and soaking up all the outdoor living we can cram into those precious days. For now, patience. And making wreaths out of the available spring-heralding materials: pussy willows. (Drat that name, right?)
Pussy willows are abundant this time of year, starting in late February, until they bloom in a few more weeks. You can usually find this kind of willow tree near swampy or wet areas, and I prefer the branches of older trees, as they usually have more catkins on them. I harvested an armload of the branches, in all their wild glory, and cut them down to make a cheerful wreath.
To make my wabi-sabi little wreath, I started with a grapevine wreath that is approximately 6 inches in diameter. I cut the branches into sections ranging from 6-8 inches long, and chose to pre-wire little bundles of branches and then wire them onto the wreath. The project took about an hour from start to finish, and is now happily handing in the kitchen.
- 6 inch grapevine wreath
- 65-80 pussy willow branch sections, each 6-8 inches long
- Paper-wrapped floral wire
- Floral wire (I used a very thin and pliable, 26 gauge wire)
First, make coffee. Not for the wreath, just for enjoyment. Then, trim your willow branches into 6-8 inch sections. Gather the branches into small, fan-shaped bundles with 5-6 branch sections in each, and wire together near the base, using the floral wire, or whatever you have on hand that will do the job. I found the thin wire to be flexible and easy to work with, but strong enough to hold the finished product. Mine is hanging in the kitchen, not exposed to wind, so you may want something stronger if yours will be outdoors. Once you have all the bundles put together - I used 14 bundles in my wreath - begin assembly. Start by laying one bundle on the wreath, and using the paper-wrapped florist wire to secure it to the wreath. I wrapped the first section twice to firmly secure it. Begin layering the wreath by placing the next bundle over the wired section of the first, so it hides the wire, and wrap it in place. Add the next in the same manner, and so on. Some of your bundles may be fluffier and fuller than others, so try to alternate those. Keep taking a look at the whole picture so you don't end up with sections that are packed too densely. (That's a "do as I say, not as I do" piece of advice. I have one section that I wired too tightly with too-thin bundles and I don't recommend it. Live and learn.)
After you've secured all the willow bundles to the wreath, snip your wire, leaving a 3-4 inch tail to twist into a hanging and loop and secure the end into the wreath. Look at the wreath and fluff and adjust the bundles to even it out. You can tuck in extra single branches if you have any particularly bare spots. The wreath is done and ready to be enjoyed. I recommend hanging it somewhere where it won't get bumped and jostled too much, as some of the catkins may fall off.
Let me know how it goes if you try it, or if you have any questions.