A handmade holiday garland is a labor of love. There is so much involved. Expect to need lots of zip ties, and nimble fingers. I do buy my mixed fir garlands already made up, at my local farmers market. But that length of cut boughs all strung together with twine is just the beginning. We routinely add our own cut branches to the existing garland, so it is very thick. Warm for winter is a given. For this 50 foot garland, we split the garland in two, flipped one side, and reattached the two pieces at the center. This makes the direction of the greens face down equally on both sides. I am not a fan of a garland whose branches go up one side, and down the other. That roller coaster approach disturbs the visual rhythm. All up facing branches, or all down facing. Decide which look you like. A garland is too much work not to take seriously.
Lots of our garlands are wrapped with grapevine. A 50 foot evergreen garland will take a pair of 35 foot rolls of grapevine. Yes, we roll the vines around the garland in opposite directions, from the center. Grapevine is incredibly strong and resilient. We zip tie the loosely wired evergreen garland to that grapevine every few feet. This creates a garland that is very strong, no matter how many pine cones you pile on. That grapevine is incredibly strong. It is a great vehicle for a string of lights. One 72 foot strand of 1000 warm LED garland lights will completely illuminate a 50 foot garland in one fell swoop. We attach the lights to the grapevine. The grapevine stands proud of the evergreen garland. The light encircling the evergreen garland will illuminate it.
A garland needs to be properly scaled to whatever architectural feature it means to celebrate. Big garlands are incredibly heavy, and require a number of people armed with ladders to install. It is my good fortune that Buck sends his fabricators from Branch over to me for several weeks, during garland hanging season. Their fabricating jobs at Branch has given them a good idea of what it takes to accomplish a solid construction and a great finish. Once they hang a garland, they rearrange every element we have attached to it in a pleasing way. Everything we wire on a garland is loosely wired, so we can rearrange once the garland is aloft. I can construct the most complicated work in the studio-those Branch men know how to get it up in the air, beautifully.
Hanging a long and heavy garland may take four people. Yes, we do drill and set screws where we need to. A winter garland is a beautiful way to celebrate the winter season. It needs to stay in place the entire winter, through the snow and winds. Do I leave garlands up all winter? Oh yes. A garland can tell a story about a garden, and a gardener. A thick garland adds a lot of warmth to a garden season which is dormant and cold.
A garland framing a doorway is welcoming and festive at this time of year. I would not do without a winter garland over my doorway at home. I often think about how any gesture in the garden is so much a response to a gardener’s relationship with nature. The garland framing my doorway tells all who enter that the garden welcomes them.
What I think about when I see this detail of a garland we install is about the relationships have been forged over the gardening season past. These materials reflect the taste of my client. Our good relationship makes it important to me to represent them as best I can. The winter is no gardeners favorite season, but there are lots of ways to celebrate and enjoy the off season. Warm and generous comes first.
We do all of the construction of our garlands in our garage. The approach to the work is such an important element of construction. We set all of our garlands on a string of cardboard boxes, at a height which is comfortable. These artificial garlands to which we have added other elements will be installed indoors for the holidays have gotten a personal signature based on the taste of our client. Red, green, and white, she says. We are happy to oblige.
These bleached ponderosa pine cones are a major element, both in size, and in color. They are the organizing metaphor around which every other element – the sage green eucalyptus, the tallow berries, and the red berries – provides a supporting cast.
Those elements which get attached to a winter garland are wired together. We decide in advance the frequency with which we attach them. Typically, the spacing at the top is closer together than the spacing at the bottom.
At the top of this archway, every color and texture element essential to this garland is massed together. That density will fall off as the garland descends. I do not mean to imply any rule. This is a construction which I think looks good to my eye. Every gardener needs to trust their own eye, and proceed accordingly.
Every year I install a garland on the shop of one type or another. Once the snow comes, our building looks snug and warm. The garlands over the windows are eyebrows of the garden sort. The best moment of any garland is what nature bestows in the way of winter weather. This is my idea of great winter garland. Yours might be entirely different. No matter your idea or construction, a winter garland is a way to warmly wreathe, and breathe, over the winter to come..