Martha's Vineyard Garden Club Report : Frugal and festive holiday arrangements
Over 45 members and guests of the Martha's Vineyard Garden Club filled the Wakeman Center to attend the club's annual and most popular program: the November Holiday Creations Workshop. Introduced by programs chairlady Kitty White, the "most talented" from the club, Laura Lee, Nancy Cabot, Sue Silva, and Judy Bryant demonstrated how to make creative and beautiful centerpieces, floral arrangements, wreaths, and kissing balls all from materials found "out and about" in our walks and fall gardens.
Laura Lee, the self-styled "amateur" of the group, began saving perennials like astilbe and sedum from her garden last August in preparation for a Thanksgiving centerpiece. Salvaging a leftover container from a church event, Laura found "a wealth of product" all around her. Careful not to make her arrangement too tall for the table, Laura considers cone flower, the dried tops of day-lilies, dark red astilbe, weeds like sweet everlasting, autumn joy sedum, garlic chunks, and a variety of grasses - "perfectly beautiful somethings to work with."
In keeping with a theme of the program, local artist Nancy Cabot used local greens like arborvitae, euonymus, English ivy, red and white pine, cedars, holly, spruces, Leland cypress, a silvery lavender, boxwood, and ilex verticillata - the seasonal winterberry - all found within walking distance of her house. For her greens arrangement, Nancy used a square glass vase and crisscrossed "good thick cedar" with the lower branches left on so as to hold everything else in place. Ms. Cabot recommends checking winter arrangements every day for water as our houses tend to be so warm and dry. A day or two before the holiday, miniature white or red carnations might be added to the greens for festive color. For those planning a special Chanukah centerpiece, Ms. Cabot showed how to anchor a lichen-covered larch branch in a tall glass vase weighted with rocks. She suggests layering the vase with rocks and topping it off with nuts in shells, cranberries, or marbles. A blanket of lichen made for a most interesting creation. Around the base of the vase, painted pressed leaves, gold covered coins, and Chanukah toys added to the effect. But it is only when Ms. Cabot fastened "bitty" colored balls to the larch branch that a festive Chanukah bush stood tall for all to admire.
"Something for the birds" was the overall theme of Sue Silva's wreath-making demonstration. Advising her audience to "make bunches of clipped-off berries first" when fashioning a multi-flora wreath that birds will love, she also advised the best technique for twisting florist wire into the base of a pine cone. Like the other presenters, Ms. Silva relied on a minimum of store-bought products. Using string, bits of wire, and a wreath frame fashioned from switch grass, she created a grapevine and bittersweet wreath, and an herbal wreath of thyme clippings, purple sage, rosemary, purple basil tied in bunches, tiny peppers grown in her garden, bayberry, and "shrubby looking" garlic. But don't be fooled, Ms. Silva warned, into using poison-ivy berries in your holiday arrangements. Instead, look around for sumac, wild rose, and invasive rosehips, sorghum, and little mini-corn for a non-green wreath.
Judy Bryant ended the program with a step-by-step demonstration of how to make a kissing ball. Ms. Bryant prefers boxwood for outdoor balls, but she warns against using that material indoors because it "smells bad." Balsa is wonderful in the house, along with balls made from evergreen and blue spruce. It's best to use a circular frame for referencing the placing of boughs into a prepared oasis block, tied at either end with a red ribbon. She demonstrated how to hang the prepared oasis and cautioned against destroying it as you put as many things as possible into it. The aim is to make the smallest hole possible when inserting a trimmed bough of greenery.
The entire Martha's Vineyard Garden Club delights in sharing this holiday program with all readers and hopes many will decide to become a member in the coming year. Happy Holidays.
There is no December meeting.