But Christmas has passed we hear you cry. Well, sorry but garlands are going to be big all year round in 2014. You heard it here first. If Plant Curator was ever tempted by an alternative career it would be that of a garland maker. Pulling together lots of discarded or sustainably sourced plant bits into a seasonally fresh, length of vegetative joy, seems like a lot of fun. Then with festive cheer you get to knock on the door and hand it over to the buyer hoping that they don’t think…… I could’ve done that. So how hard is it? Is a change of career possible without too much training? Is all that you need some craft wire and plenty of plant material? With Spring Equinox, Easter and numerous other religious and pagan festivals on the horizon, it’s an ideal garland making time, Plant Curator investigates.
Garland: a wreath of flowers and leaves, worn on the head or hung as a decoration (synonyms – festoon, lei, swag, chaplet).
Wreath: an arrangement of flowers, leaves, or stems fastened in a ring and used for decoration or for laying on a grave.
Swag: an ornamental festoon of flowers, fruit, and greenery.
Plant Curator was lucky enough to visit the National Trust’s Cotehele House in Cornwall last December to see their record breaking 90ft long garland. It included something like 40,000 dried flowers collected from the garden during the summer and took two weeks to construct by staff and volunteers. Last year was bigger than before, as in previous years it had been 60ft and used half as many flowers, but due to the 2013 bumper flower crop its length was extended. Cotehele has 2,000 different species growing there, some cultivated specially for the garland. Flowers used included ornamental grasses, Everlasting Sand Flower, Straw Flower, Paper Daisy, Paper rose and Statice. Cotehele has been making these garlands since the 1950’s and annually display them for the month of December. If you get the chance to visit Cornwall at that time of year it is a spectacular sight. In terms of our own garland making, replicating this may be slightly ambitious, but as a source of inspiration for a scaled down version it is perfect.
Fake garlands tend to be quite popular if the number of tutorials on video sharing sites are anything to go by, but we are interested in the real thing. Either dried or fresh, flower or pine, with cones and fruit, it doesn’t really matter, just as long as it is organic. The following tutorials were chosen based on these pre-conditions. Try to ignore those with a Christmas focus, the Easter ones only seemed to consist of stringing together eggs. It’s the techniques that we are exploring so we can transfer what we learn to our Springtime garlands, wreaths and swags.
Garlands by hand