An unexpected mix of materials inspires wreath making in the Hamptons this holiday season.
Clockwise from top left: “Twigs collected on a family hike are all you need to start a wreath,” say The Wreath Recipe Book authors, Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo; Dried hydrangea and gold pinecones give a wreath from The Bridgehampton Florist its East End spirit; This arrangement from The Wreath Recipe Book can be made using a honeysuckle frame adorned with holly branches; “Wreaths are the best way to represent your household character during the holiday season,” says The Bridgehampton Florist’s Michael Grim.
“The best wreaths always have an element of surprise or sense of humor,” says Michael Grim of The Bridgehampton Florist, who designs his Christmas wreaths with a few paper-white bulbs with unopened buds hidden among evergreen stems. The result: A few days later, the newly created wreath has transformed from winter themed to a promise of spring.
In Western civilization, wreaths date back to Etruscan times when rulers wore golden oak or maple stems as crowns. Greeks and Romans continued with this tradition to show that their lineage went back to their Etruscan ancestors. Wreaths became widely used as symbols of continuity in power circles, sports, agriculture, and later religion.
Christians first adopted evergreen wreaths to celebrate everlasting life during the Advent season in 16th-century Germany. But modern wreaths are hardly limited by tradition—there is a bounty of plant material from fall to spring that can decorate and even make a room fragrant. “Wreaths are the best way to represent your household character during the holiday season, from outdoors to the more intimate rooms of the house,” says Grim, who has created arrangements for notable locals such as Ina Garten and Aerin Lauder as well as prestigious East End events, including The Hampton Classic.
For formal houses, Grim uses dried hydrangeas and gold pinecones; for a sparser country feel, he favors juniper mixed with grapevines, tied with natural raffa. Unlike Christmas trees, wreaths are movable and can appear in unexpected places, from the front door to windows and mirrors, or around silverware. Mixing yellow, green, and bluish evergreens with Ilex berries give wreaths depth and texture. Grim also likes to add dried pomegranates, lady apples, kumquats, and cranberries to wreaths inspired by tin-glazed terracotta ones by Luca della Robbia, a Renaissance Florentine artisan.
Wreaths can also be a meditation on the year that is ending, and they can include souvenirs from places visited, or even from our own environment. For example, Hamptonites could add character to holiday wreaths with driftwood, seashells, and dried pods from the garden. “Cuttings from a recent pruning of an apple tree or twigs collected on a family hike are all you need to start a wreath,” say Alethea Harampolis and Jill Rizzo, authors of The Wreath Recipe Book. “A flower arrangement is unforgiving; a stem cut too short can derail your design.”
“In the Hamptons, we see a lot of fall-themed Thanksgiving wreaths because so many residents are not here for Christmas,” says Grim. “We make ours with red maple, magnolia leaves, miniature pumpkins, and bittersweet branches.” The Bridgehampton Florist, 2400 Main St., Bridgehampton, 537-7766