Handmade wreaths can add to holiday decor

How do I make a wreath mentioned in last week’s garden column?

It sounds difficult but it’s easy. Here is a process I’ve had mixed with suggestions from Kim Nelson’s book, “A Desert Gardener’s Companion.”

Nelson shares her gardening experiences over the course of a year in a very warm and telling way. It has been a great source of ideas for me especially with her growing of wildflowers in our desert.

First, you’ll need hand pruners, floral wire and/or tape and a large table to work from.

Go on a scavenger hunt in your (or your friends’) yard for fresh plant material to use in your wreath. Collect whatever captures your eye. It doesn’t take long to collect a lot of material. I like using evergreens for their long- lasting ability. I’m sure your friends won’t mind you nipping at their shrubs as it’s time to be pruning anyway.

You need something like grapevines, climbing roses or Lady Bank’s rose canes to make your wreath circle. While pliable, wrap them into the form you want to work from. Nelson suggests buying a straw wreath base from a craft store, but a living vine gives a more natural beginning base.

Look for color. Right now you’ll find nandina, cotoneaster and pyracantha berries; small fruits of pomegranates; rose hips and blooms; acorns; and pine cones on plants. Nelson also likes to add herbs, ornamental grasses and pressed flowers to her creations.

Now it’s time to experiment.

Lay the wreath base on the table to begin your project.

Gather small bunches of the same kind of plants and bind them together with floral wire. Cut off the excess stems.

Lay clusters of plant on the wreath starting at its bottom end with the foliage part pointing down. Continue adding these clusters directly adjacent to the one previously applied as you carefully work your way up both sides of the wreath. Cover the base of each cluster as you add the next cluster to the wreath. I make both sides of the wreath the same to give it balance.

When you finish adding the clusters, stand back and carefully look at your wreath in the making. Like most people, you’ll be moving and adding clusters until it’s pleasing to your eyes. Have confidence in yourself and attach only what you love.

Next, using the floral wire, secure these clusters to the circle. Now add items such as pinecones, pomegranates, pyracantha berries or whatever to give it a more personal touch.

Add a bow ribbon with long trailers hanging down at the top of the wreath.

Attach a wire hanger to the back.

Nelson, sprays her wreaths with a floral preservative or clear spray-paint to retain its shape and color. If kept free of dust, most arrangements retain their fresh appearance for years. I like to do fresh wreaths every year.

Make your own wreath at a workshop at 8:30 a.m. today at the Springs Preserve, at 333 S. Valley View Blvd.

PIGEON PROBLEM

I’ve had beautiful pyracantha berries for three winters but this winter, pigeons are eating them. How can I keep the pigeons away from the berries?

Do one of four things:

■ Buy some bird netting and cover the bush to deter them.

■ Place bird food away from the bush to distract them.

■ Have a pest control operator get rid of them.

■ Harvest them and make pyracantha jelly.

Here is a recipe from my archives by the late Aggie Roberts.

Place 3 cups of washed berries in 6 cups of water and simmer at low heat for 20 minutes.

Add juice from one lemon and grapefruit to the berry mix.

Strain mixture through cheesecloth without squeezing out the berries and discard them.

Return the mixture to the kettle and add 1½ ounces of powdered pectin.

Cook at high heat until the mixture comes to a full boil and reduce heat to medium-high.

Add 6 cups of sugar to the mixture.

Boil the mixture at medium-high for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Expect a thin mixture.

Remove the mixture from heat and skim off any foam.

Pour the mixture into hot, sterilized, half-pint canning jars.

Seal the jars according to manufacturer’s directions.

Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 5 minutes and test seal when cooled.

Finally, enjoy some pyracantha toast and jelly.

Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. You can reached him at linnmillslv@gmail.com or call him at 526-1495.

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