Seasonal wreathmaking workshop with Laura Dowling

Seasonal wreathmaking  workshop with Laura Dowling
Susan Gwozdz holds up her completed wreath for review. (Photo by Louise Krafft)

Photos and Narrative by Louise Krafft

The first in a new series of quarterly workshops was held Sunday afternoon at the headquarters of the American Horticulture Society, River Farm. Former chief floral designer at the White House Laura Dowling led the sold-out class in a seasonal and holiday wreathmaking workshop. Dowling introduced the group to updated Williamsburg-style wreaths using layers of greens, berries and flowers. All of the participants received copies of Dowling’s new book, “Wreaths: With How-to Tutorials.”

To begin, the materials were assembled. For the greens, port orford cedar, oregonia and asparagus plumosa fern were used. Fruits and flowers included hyperecum, rosehips, nandina and Dutch hydrangea. Floral supplies included a wrapped hay wreath form, 18-gauge rustic wire (for hanging), floral craft wire for securing the greens, wired sticks for adding the berries and flowers along with gardening sheers.

Starting with the base green materials after securing the 18-gauge wire for hanging, floral wire is wrapped and tied as an anchor around the wreath. Using one hand, small bunches of stems are gathered and held against frame while the other hand crosses the wire over the base of the stems to secure them in place. This process is repeated until the frame is covered. After securing the selected berries and flowers to wired sticks, the embellishments are added to complete the wreath.

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Materials are set out for the making of a seasonal wreath.
The oregonia branches are trimmed to 5-6 inch lengths, the cedar a bit longer and the plumose fern 10-12 inches.
Laura Dowling demonstrates how to secure the greens to the wreath form using a continuous length of floral craft wire and wrapping the stems securely. Starting with the oregonia as the base and adding the other greens for texture and depth.
Hyperecum perforatum (St. John’s-wort) and Dutch hydrangea.
Hyperecum perforatum (St. John’s-wort) and Dutch hydrangea are combined on a wired stick and inserted through the green base for anchorage in the hay wreath form.
A finished wreath from Laura Dowling’s seasonal wreathmaking workshop.