WALNUT CREEK -- When the temperature drops and the sweaters and boots come out, Patrice Hanlon is ready.

Even though she now calls the Bay Area home, the Pennsylvania native said the holidays bring back fond memories, especially times spent making natural holiday ornaments and wreaths made from living plants. She recalls visits with her mother to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. that features acres of gardens, woodland and meadows.

"When you go the conservatory at Christmas time, it's filled with wreaths and natural ornaments," said Hanlon, who now lives in Concord. "My mom was into that."

Hanlon brings her holiday tradition of making natural holiday wreaths using living greens straight from the Gardens at Heather Farm, where she works as garden manager.

She will teach her annual wreathmaking class on Dec. 9 using greens mostly from The Gardens. Then the public is invited from Dec. 10 through 13 to choose from a wide range of plant materials that are long-lasting and will add a natural touch to holiday centerpieces, swag or wreaths. A donation of $10 will help support The Gardens' ongoing therapeutic programs for adults and children.

"Leftovers" from the wreathmaking class will be available for the public to purchase to make their own wreaths at home.

Some of the plants available for wreathmaking include California native plants, lemonade berry and Manzanita; Variegated False Holly, a Mediterranean non-native; and

Acacia subporosa or Wattle, an Australian non-native plant.


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Pine cones, and various berries such as holly, toyon and myrtle, can also be added to wreaths, she said.

"The plants are already going to be cut," Hanlon said. "There are all kinds of stuff you can add to your wreath. This is a good way for people to learn about plants."

Because the garden is abundant with festive greens, wreaths can be made for various occasions all year round, she said.

"Rosemary and lavender make a great base for a wreath because they're pliable," Hanlon said. "You can take an entire wreath, soak it so it rehydrates."

Hanlon said she usually combines three plants in her wreath.

"I teach how to design it so it doesn't look like a mishmash of plants together," she said.

The ideal plants for wreaths are those which are thick, waxy, leathery and don't lose moisture. "There are so many different Mediterranean plants that are fabulous for wreathmaking," she said.

Hanlon said the wreathmaking tradition dates back to the Greco-Roman era, when laurel wreaths were used to crown victors of the Olympic Games. Advent wreaths have been traditionally used by families during the holidays.

Conifers, pines and other evergreens have traditionally been used to make wreaths, but Hanlon said she hopes people will venture out to the gardens for the Dec. 10-13 holiday greens gathering to customize a wreath made from the local garden.

"Wreaths symbolize the Winter Solstice as well as a celebration of the sun returning. They symbolize all that's evergreen, alive and never-ending. Wreaths represent the circle of life."

Holiday WreathMaking and Garden Greens Gathering
WHEN: Wreathmaking workshop, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 9; Greens gathering, Dec. 10-13
WHERE: The Gardens at Heather Farm, 1540 Marchbanks Drive, Walnut Creek
INFORMATION: $15 wreath making materials fee; $10 donation for greens gathering. Call 925-947-1678, or go to www.gardenshf.org