We choose products for the Food52 shop not only because we're obsessed with them (always) -- most of the time we're just as inspired by the creatives who make them. And we listen up when those makers share their own insight and tips for smarter living.
Larry and Carol Umbarger started growing and selling flowers and herbs in Monterey County, CA, to get their kids through college. When Smith & Hawken called needing wreaths in a pinch, they dove right in, learning how to make a wreath and subsequently making 3,000 in their kids’ playroom over the next 3 weeks.
Flash forward 25 years and the family business has grown: Creekside Farms now makes 3,000 wreaths in a matter of days, instead of weeks, but each is still very much made by hand -- some even by the same employees.
Mercedes Islas made one of the first Creekside Farms wreaths decades ago. Here, she takes us through the process of making a boxwood wreath:
First, materials are gathered: All that’s needed is a metal ring and boxwood clippings. The boxwood Creekside Farms uses is cut and kept in a cooler until ready for forming the wreath. Mercedes then gathers a bunch of boxwood in her hand and trims the tops and bottoms according to the size she wants the wreath to be. “She makes it look easy,” Teri Umbarger of Creekside Farms said, “but you have to know just how much to gather and cut. There isn’t a machine helping you.”
Mercedes gathering boxwood and placing it over the wire frame; Mercedes clamping the boxwood in place.
Then, the gathered bunch gets laid over the metal ring and clamped into place using the clips that are on the metal ring. Mercedes repeats the process, working her way around the entire ring. The boxwood is minimally fussed with, only trimmed to fit and secured in place with metal rings.
The result is a fresh wreath, which then gets packaged and shipped. As the wreath travels, it will start its drying process, which is part of its beauty. In this way, no two wreaths are the same. Once it’s hung on your wall, it will dry fully, adopt its own organic look, and can be left for up to a year.
Dried, a boxwood wreath brings nature into your home in a zero-maintenance way (as someone who kills succulents, I see this is a huge plus). But even after it has dried, it can breathe new life into a space. A boxwood wreath can be a canvas for your creativity: Add flowers, fruits, and plant clippings that you find in your yard or at your florist as the seasons change. In the winter, dry citrus slices and hang them like ornaments in the wreath. In the spring and summer, find flowers and plants to embellish the wreath. And in the winter, gather pine and pine cones.
Teri also suggests laying the wreath in the center of a table and putting a hurricane candle or low vase with flowers in the middle. “A wreath is a simple art,” Teri says. Simple, sure, yet endlessly inspiring.
Maker images courtesy of Creekside Farms; all others by James Ransom.