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Add a Personal Touch to Holiday Decorating at Garden Workshops
For many gardeners, store-bought is not an option. They create their own wreaths and centerpieces...and have fun doing it, too.
by Denise Cowie - 11/26/2007
Many public gardens offer spectacular displays of twinkling lights and glistening winter scenes for the holidays, but even more host classes and workshops to help revelers add their own personal touch to holiday decorations, from wreaths and door swags to tabletop trees and centerpieces.
Why do people flock back to these classes year after year? Why do we willingly add one more chore to what, for most people, is an already overwhelming holiday schedule?
There are no doubt many reasons, including the desire to be able to do something hand-wrought, from local materials, in an era when it seems as though much in our lives has been outsourced, and almost everything we buy has been imported from another country.
But there’s also the camaraderie. When a group of people – usually mostly women – get together around a common creative task, there’s a level of shared fun and good cheer that I imagine was common to the community quilting bees of days gone by. It’s certainly not something you can capture sitting in front of a computer, no matter how many virtual encounters you have.
Not long before Christmas last year, I signed up for a workshop at Morris Arboretum in Chestnut Hill to make a “Boxwood Holiday Tree With Lights” under the direction of floral educator Cheryl Wilks. This was aiming rather high, considering my level of craft skills – we actually created our trees from boxwood greenery arranged in florists’ foam before we decorated them and strung them with tiny lights.
Thanks to Cheryl’s oversight, and a judicious tweak here and there, we all acquitted ourselves pretty well, and carefully carried our creations home to be a prized part of the Christmas tableau. Mine graced a sideboard in the dining room well into the new year, and I was able to say “Oh, I made that!” to the occasional guest who asked about it.
But what I remember as much as the tree is what an enjoyable and satisfying afternoon it was, chatting with neighbors, comparing techniques, sharing ideas and tidbits of our lives. For the first time that season, it truly felt like Christmas.
And that’s reason enough to draw anyone back year after year.
Below is a list of some of the workshops available at gardens in the Greater Philadelphia area. But remember, these classes are popular. If you spot one you like, register early -- or you may miss out.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 30
LONGWOOD GARDENS: Holiday Wreath-Making, 1 to 4 p.m. Fee: $109, Passholders $100. Code: 072FDHHM. Instructor Nancy Gingrich Shenk offers students new ideas for making holiday wreaths, ranging from traditional to contemporary. Seasonal greens and cones provided by Longwood; take pruners, 4 yards of your choice of ribbon for a festive bow if desired, and any other holiday embellishments. Information: www.longwoodgardens.org, 610-388-1000.
SATURDAY, DEC. 1, and SUNDAY, DEC. 2
LONGWOOD GARDENS: Holiday Wreath-Making, 9 a.m. to 12 noon, December 1. Fee: $109, Passholders $100. Code: 072FDHHM. Instructor Nancy Gingrich Shenk offers students new ideas for making holiday wreaths, ranging from traditional to contemporary. Seasonal greens and cones provided by Longwood; take pruners, 4 yards of your choice of ribbon for a festive bow if desired, and any other holiday embellishments. Route 1 near Kennett Square, Chester County. Information: www.longwoodgardens.org, 610-388-1000.
AWBURY ARBORETUM: Wreath & Centerpiece Workshop, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., December 1. Fee: $30, Awbury members $25. Create your own holiday wreath and/or centerpiece using evergreens grown on the grounds, and decorated with seed pods, dried flowers and ribbon. Bring pruners and gloves if possible. Light refreshments. Registrations by Nov. 28 to Linda Brown, Awbury Arboretum, One Awbury Road, Philadelphia, Pa. 19138. Include payment (make check or money order payable to “Awbury Arboretum”), name, address, phone number and number of people attending. Off Chew Avenue in Germantown section of Philadelphia. Information: www.awburyarboretum.org or 215-849-2855, Ext. 15.
WYCK: Holiday Workshops at Wyck, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. December 1, and noon to 4 p.m. December 2. Fee: $42 includes all materials for 20-inch wreath. Other sizes available. Make wreaths and holiday arrangements using seasonal greens. Please bring hand-held garden shears or sturdy scissors. To register, email email@example.com. Pay at the event. Corner of Walnut Lane and Germantown Avenue in Germantown section of Philadelphia. Information: 215-848-1690. Custom wreaths and decorations also available by preorder.
BRANDWINE RIVER MUSEUM: Annual Critter Sale, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., December 1 and 2. Admission to sale in Museum’s Lecture Room is free. Famous decorative holiday ornaments made from all-natural materials by museum volunteers. Prices range from $5 to $200. Cash, check, VISA and MasterCard accepted. Proceeds benefit the Museum Volunteers Art Purchase Fund. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Chester County. Information: www.brandywinemuseum.org, 610-388-2700, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 4
MT. CUBA CENTER: Natural Holiday Wreath Birds Will Love, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Fee. $50. Create a seasonal wreath that will feed the birds. Instructors Donna Wiley, Gardener at Mt. Cuba Center, and Eileen Boyle, Education Coordinator at Mt. Cuba Center, will show how to decorate a circle of greens with dried flowers, nuts, seed pods, berries, popcorn and cranberries to make an attractive holiday present for our feathered friends. Mt. Cuba Center is located just north of Wilmington at 3120 Barley Mill Road, four miles north of Route 141 in Hockessin, Delaware. Information: www.mtcubacenter.org or call 302.239.4244.
THURSDAY, DEC. 6, to SATURDAY, DEC. 8
SCOTT ARBORETUM OF SWARTHMORE COLLEGE: Green Wreaths Workshop, Thursday, Dec. 6, Session A: 1 to 3 p.m., Session B: 7 to 9 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 7, Session C: 1 to 3 p.m., Session D: 7 to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8, Session E: 10 a.m. to Noon. Fee: $45 per session, Scott members $30. Create a unique and festive wreath with a variety of greens, under the direction of Jeff Jabco, Becky Robert, and other members of the Arboretum staff. Limited to 15 participants per session. Early registration advised. Take pruners and plastic (dish) gloves (see photo at Scott workshop). All other materials supplied. Blum Classroom at Scott, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore. Information: www.scottarboretum.org, 610-328-8025.
MORRIS ARBORETUM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Holiday Wreath Making at Morris, Thursday, Dec. 6, Section A: 1 – 3 p.m., Section B: 6:45 – 9 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 8., Section C: 1 – 3 p.m. Fee: $45, Members $42. Make a holiday wreath with Cheryl Wilks, Floral Educator, Florist and Owner of “Flowers on Location.” For those who want to make their wreath from fresh, loose boughs of greens. You’ll work with a wire ring and spool wire to construct your wreath, and there will be a selection of ribbons and decorations to make it festive. All supplies provided. Bring garden gloves and pruners. 100 Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia. Information: www.morrisarboretum.org, 215-247-5777, Ext. 156 or 125.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 8
AWBURY ARBORETUM: Holiday Greens Sale, Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Free admission. Purchase Wreaths and Centerpieces at the Victorian-era Francis Cope House, while enjoying the sounds of carolers and musicians. Children’s holiday craft activities, refreshments and more. One Awbury Road (off Chew Avenue), Philadelphia. Information: www.awburyarboretum.org, 215-849-2855.
BARTRAM’S GARDEN: Annual Holiday Greens Sale & Open House, Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free admission. Fresh greens, wreaths, centerpieces, poinsettias & more, plus free Bartram House tours, children's nature activities and complimentary hot mulled cider. At 54th and Lindbergh Boulevard, Philadelphia, or take Route 36 trolley. Information: www.bartramsgarden.org, 215-729-5281.
TYLER ARBORETUM: Holiday Greens Sale at Tyler, sponsored by The Country Gardeners, Saturday, Dec. 8, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Free admission to sale in Potting Shed. Fresh and permanent arrangements for indoors and outdoors, handmade “critter” ornaments, plus other crafts, and assorted greens for the do-it-yourselfer. Tyler Arboretum is at 515 Painter Road in Media, Delaware County. Information: For arboretum directions or information, www.tylerarboretum.org; for sale details, www.gardencentral.org/pa/countrygardeners, click on “greens sale.”
BOWMAN’S HILL WILDFLOWER PRESERVE: Wreath Workshop, Saturday, Dec. 8, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. Fee: $42, Members $38. All materials included. Make a festive holiday wreath out of native plants and natural materials, under the leadership of Executive Director Miles Arnott, who previously taught popular crafts at Callaway Gardens in Georgia. Step-by-step demonstration and hands-on instruction. Registration with payment required by Dec. 5. At 1635 River Road (Pa. Route 32), just south of New Hope, Bucks County. Information: www.bhwp.org, 215-862-2924.
TUESDAY, DEC. 11, and WEDNESDAY, DEC. 12
SCOTT ARBORETUM OF SWARTHMORE COLLEGE: Greens Sale, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1 to 5 p.m. (Members Only Shopping); Wednesday, Dec. 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (General Admission, free). Fresh-cut greens, do-it-yourself wreath kits, and completed green wreaths designed by volunteers and staff at the Scott Arboretum. Wreaths created with damp sphagnum moss to ensure a longer-lasting wreath. Held in Blum Classroom and Gardens at Scott Arboretum, 500 College Avenue, Swarthmore. Information: www.scottarboretum.org, 610-328-8025.
SATURDAY, DEC. 15, and SUNDAY, DEC. 16
MORRIS ARBORETUM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Boxwood Holiday Tree with Lights, Saturday, Dec. 15, 1 to 3 p.m. Fee: $48, Members $44. Design your own tree from long-lasting greens, then decorate it with fresh flowers, glass balls, bows and tiny lights to make a spectacular centerpiece, under the tutelage of Cheryl Wilks, Floral Educator, Florist and owner of “Flowers on Location.” Tree arrangements should last for four to five weeks. 100 Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia. Information: www.morrisarboretum.org, 215-247-5777.
MORRIS ARBORETUM OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Make a Holiday Centerpiece, Sunday, Dec. 16, 1 to 3 p.m. Fee: $45, Members $42. Learn professional tricks of the trade from Cheryl Wilks, Floral Educator, Florist and owner of “Flowers on Location,” as you create a beautiful centerpiece of assorted evergreens. Customize your arrangement with candles, flowers, fruit and accessories. 100 Northwestern Avenue, Philadelphia. Information: www.morrisarboretum.org, 215-247-5777.