Wreath of the Day – The Importance of Holly

We love to use holly on outdoor wreaths (it dries out too quickly to use indoors) but many years our holly supplies are meager.  Some holly bushes produce berries prolifically every other year, some years available holly bushes have been pruned at an inopportune time for our purposes, and some years our members with available holly have simply not been home at wreath time.  When a member who lives in Maine arrived on Thursday of wreath week with a bag of splendid holly, the decorators pounced.  She arrived around lunch time, and by the time most of us had grabbed a sandwich, the holly was gone – used beautifully in wreaths such as the one below.


Matt Landry Named as Executive Chef at Tower Hill Botanic Garden

As a champion of locally-sourced food, Matt Landry is an ideal fit as the new executive chef of Tower Hill Botanic Garden’s restaurant. Landry’s determination to provision his kitchen with produce from local farms – and even from Tower Hill’s own vegetable gardens – dovetails with the organization’s longtime commitment to horticulture and to Worcester County. Now, after a month on the job, Landry is welcoming new and returning patrons to sample his new menus in the re-energized Twigs Café overlooking the Wachusett Reservoir in Boylston.  Landry, a Johnson & Wales culinary arts graduate, began his professional career with the Ritz Carlton in Boston and at Henrietta’s Table in Cambridge before opening Chloé, an American bistro in Hudson, Mass. During his decade as the chef-owner of Chloé, the popular restaurant often received rave reviews.

Kathy Abbott, the CEO of Tower Hill, said it was Landry’s commitment to using local produce in his dishes that made him the ideal candidate to recommit Twigs Café to the sustainable food movement. Landry, a Berlin resident, brings with him a preexisting partnership with the owners of Indian Head Farm in Berlin. Since taking over Tower Hill’s kitchen, he’s also used ingredients from Tougas Farm in nearby Northborough and from Tower Hill’s own vegetable garden. There will be many more local collaborations to come, he said.

For Landry, cooking is about building community and supporting local businesses. Local ingredients are fresher, he said, and provide both challenges – such as New England’s relatively short growing season -– and opportunities, such as a hearty sausage and kale soup to warm visitors on these ever cooling fall days.
“They care about their land,” Landry said of local farmers. “And they care about the community they are serving. I see that making a difference every day.”
Twigs Café is open to any admission-paying visitors Tuesday through Sunday and holiday Mondays, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Wednesday evenings from 4:30 p.m. until the last seating at 8 p.m. In December, the restaurant is open extended hours on Mondays, Wednesday, and Thursdays, in conjunction with Tower Hill’s Holly Days festival of outdoor lighting, holiday programming, and indoor decorations. Visitors can check www.towerhillbg.org for more information.
After all these years crafting menus of New England specialties, what motivates Landry to take on new challenges and to continue to cook for the masses?
“I like making people happy,” said Landry. “At the end of the day, that is what this is all about.”  For more information on events presented by the nonprofit Tower Hill Botanical Garden at 11 French Drive in Boylston, Mass., please call 508-869-6111.

Wreath of the Day – Expanding the Concept of All Natural

Many customers request all natural accents on their wreaths.  Most of our material is gathered in yards, forests, and parks, but we do purchase some glass balls and glittery materials to give some wreaths “lift,” and we do spray paint when appropriate.  All natural wreaths, however, will not have painted elements.  The wreath shown below actually does have some artificial elements – the tiny pears on wires and the shiny red berries, which the designer felt added to the rhythm of the wreath.  Since these decorations are low gloss, we felt the customer would approve.


Saturday, December 27, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Guided Trail Walk through Fruitlands

Explore nature in early winter in this hour-long ramble across fields and glens at Fruitlands on Saturday, December 27 beginning at 1 pm. Museum interpreters will lead participants in a guided walk along Fruitlands’ most notable features – a glacial beach, archaeological sites, scenic vistas of the Nashua River Valley and a thriving forest – as we watch for signs of winter. This walk covers a mile of varied terrain and should be considered moderately easy. Trail shoes, walking stick and warm hats recommended. No registration required. For directions to the Museum (102 Prospect Hill Road in Harvard, Massachusetts) visit www.fruitlands.org. Image from www.louisamayalcottismypassion.files.wordpress.com.

Wreath of the Day – Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah, the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.  We create a number of Hanukkah wreaths each year, and one of the best is the wreath pictured below.  Today is the first day of Hanukkah, and we wish one and all a joyous season.


Friday and Saturday, December 19 & 20, 8:00 pm – 10:00 pm – The Winter Solstice in Legend and Song

Welcome the Winter Solstice with haunting legends of light, evergreen traditions and entertaining tales accompanied by traditional songs and music. The event will feature Diane Edgecomb, accompanied by Margot Chamberlain and Tom Megan, and will be held at the Loring-Greenough House in Jamaica Plain on Friday and Saturday, December 19 & 20, beginning at 8 pm. Featured stories include the beautiful Scandinavian tale “Legend of the Mistletoe,” a humorous English Wassail story, and the poignant Greek Solstice legend “The Coming of the Days of Peace.” Lovely instrumental melodies, evoking the warmth of the season, round out the event. Traditional refreshments, including a Wassail Bowl, will be served. Tickets are $25, which includes traditional refreshments. To order tickets visit http://www.livingmyth.com/Solstice.

Wreath of the Day – The Yellow Rose of Texas

Often the Co-Chair of The Garden Club of the Back Bay’s Twilight Garden Party, Jane Gnazzo, is out of state visiting family at Christmas, and isn’t home to enjoy a wreath, but this year she’s staying in Boston through the gubernatorial inauguration, and ordered a pair of fully decorated wreaths for her home. Since Jane is from Texas, our designer designed a Texas-style wreath – Bigger is Better – with yellow roses, red berries, and gold ivy to draw out the colors in the bow.


Monday, June 15 – Friday, June 26 – France

Join Pacific Horticulture for an adventure through beautiful countryside, stunning chateaus, and sumptuous gardens of France, June 15 – 26, 2015. You’ll explore Normandy, Picardy, and the Loire Valley taking in botanical and historical treasures along with fine food and wine.

Linda McKendry, PHS board member, will escort this tour.  Visit Rouen for four nights, visiting the Arboretum d’Harcourt, Giverny, the Jardins d’Angelique, Princess Sturdza’s iconic Vasterival Garden, and the Gardens Agapanthe.  In Tours, you will spend time over four days at the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire, the Chateau Chenonceau, Le Jardin du Plessis-Sasnieres, Chateau du Rivau’s Rose Gardens (pictured) and Fairytale Gardens, the Chateau de la Bourdaisiere park, and Villandry. On to Chantilly, to the Chateau de Courances organic fruit and vegetable garden and park, the Chantilly Castle and Park, the Conde Museum and Museum of the Horse.  A complete, mouthwatering itinerary may be found at http://www.sterlingtoursltd.com/France2015.html. The cost is approximately $5,000 per person.

Wreath of the Day – Living Up to the Building

Sometimes we don’t know where our wreaths are destined to be hung, but in this instance we knew the matched pair would be hung on the doors of one of Back Bay’s most prestigious mansions, an imposing white stone structure on Commonwealth Avenue.  Since the customer was also a new customer, we were eager to impress.  The requested silver bows are not somber, but a cheerful polka dot, and the pearls, silver painted lotus pods, and silver tipped white pine lend a frosty look.  Touches of red keep the wreath merry – there are small children to please here, as well.


Introducing Christopher Cook, Commissioner of Parks & Recreation

Christopher Cook, 37, is Boston’s new Commissioner of Parks & Recreation.  A native of Plymouth, he now lives in West Roxbury, and will be in charge of more than 200 City parks and playgrounds.  Although he is new to the field of parks administration, he can count on the support of the multitude of not for profit Friends groups and park advocates throughout the City.  He studied at Suffolk University and previously served as Arts Commissioner under former Mayor Menino.  Lawrence Harmon of The Boston Globe wrote an interesting article about the new Commissioner which may be found at http://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2014/09/13/cook-good-choice-for-parks-head/2NN0K3Ki7Ru6texgrZAxzI/story.html

We look forward to meeting Chris Cook in the coming months.  Our hands-on work with the trees of the Back Bay demands a close working relationship with the Parks Department, and our public-private partnership with the City is of paramount importance. Both previous Parks Commissioners, Justine Liff and Antonia Pollak, created a positive cooperative environment for our organization, and we anticipate that spirit of friendship and shared goals will continue under the new administration.


Wreath of the Day – Making Up for Past Mistakes

We welcome feedback from our wreath buyers.  Obviously we love hearing that the product delivered is superb, but we also know that there are years the customer may be dissatisfied for one reason or another.  We can sometimes tell the problem by reading between the lines of this year’s order – “small bow, please” means we oversized the bow last year.  In the order shown below, we were asked to “very fully decorate” the wreath.  Clearly we erred on the minimalist side last year.  We got a call following delivery – “Best wreath ever!”


Saturday, December 27, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm – Wilderness Survival: Winter Skills

Join REI Outdoor School for a wilderness survival class focusing on Winter Skills that could save your life. During this class you will learn practical tips and strategies that every outdoor traveler should know, including: winter emergency priorities; how to make an emergency shelter; and how to make your own emergency kit with all the essentials. You will also participate in interactive scenarios to practice and hone your skills. This class is designed for anyone who spends time outdoors during the winter.

Skills you’ll learn:
As a result of this class, participants will gain knowledge regarding
Winter Emergency Kits/Essentials
Winter Emergency Priorities
Winter Emergency Shelters

The class takes place Saturday, December 27 from 9 – 3 at Rocky Woods Reservation in Medfield, Massachusetts. REI members $65, nonmembers $85. For more information contact NewEngland-OS@rei.com.

Wreath of the Day – The Tale of the Lost Wreath

Delivering our wreaths is just as much a work of art as decorating our wreaths.  In this instance, a customer requesting a cream bow and copper accented wreath had failed to remember to remind her housekeeper to answer the door when we buzzed.  We returned to home base with the wreath, and telephoned.  The buyer said she was definitely there now, if we could return, which we did.  Needless to say, she wasn’t there.  We called again, from the address, and she instructed the crew to leave the wreath in the vestibule.  Since there was a nail, we hung the wreath on a nail beside the front door.  At 8:30 pm, our Delivery Chair received a call asking when we were delivering the wreath.  We were naturally convinced the wreath had been stolen, but the deliverer decided to go back to the address the next morning to check.  The wreath was there, right on the nail.  Following a few more calls, the owner repeated her assurance that the wreath was not there, and now we began to question our sanity.  So back again (fifth time) we went and rang the bell.  The customer’s husband was home, and was shown the wreath, hanging beside the door.  He admitted he never thought to look there.  Happy holidays to all our delivery crew – they are the best, most competent, and most even tempered of us all.


Wreath of the Day – Old Talent

While we love to promote our new designers, as yesterday’s post showed, we always pay tribute to our experienced ones, who each year mentor and train our “first years” by teaching them balance, color harmony, and mechanical techniques.  We rarely identify our decorators to the public, for good reason.  Special requests by customers for one decorator or another can overburden the system, and there is the opportunity to receive a wonderful surprise each year if the designer changes.  The customer here ordered a wreath with burgundy and gold bow and gold accents.  A very experienced and loyal designer created the wreath below.


Saturday, December 13, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm – Holiday Wreath Making Workshop

The Ashland Garden Club will sponsor Paul Split on Saturday, December 13, as he instructs us on how to make our own individual holiday wreaths.  After selecting from a table full of fresh seasonal greens and creating your wreath, participants can choose from an assortment of decorations to personalize the wreath.  Bring your own bow if you wish to attach one.

Paul has been part of the Green Industry since 1971.  He has been principal of Walden Gifts and Nursery, and is the Director of Horticulture at the Comcast Center for the Performing Arts.  He is a teacher, lecturer, and nationally recognized horticultural consultant.  He has served as judge at the New England Flower Show, Rhode Island Flower Show, and Central Massachusetts Flower Show.  He is an instructor for the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Master Gardeners Class and at the Natick Community Organic Farm.

The class will be held from 1 – 3 at the Ashland Public Library, 66 Front Street in Ashland, and light afternoon refreshments will be provided by Garden Club members.  They suggest your bring your own mug for coffee to help the environment.  $35 fee includes materials. If you wish to attend, email info@ashlandgardenclub.org to reserve a spot.


Wreath of the Day – New Talent

Our veteran decorators are thrilled each year to discover new talent.  Members try their hands at decorating for the first time and bring their unique perspectives to our materials.  This season a brand new member took charge of a ribbon style we’ve never offered in the past.  The ribbon was wide, with a crocheted look and openings large enough to tuck glass balls inside.  The customer asked for a bright silver accented outdoor wreath which would be visible from a distance since it would be hung in a cemetery.  This one will gleam, without a doubt.


Tuesdays, January 6 – 27, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – Botany for Gardeners

This is a Berkshire Botanical Garden beginning course in plant anatomy and physiology that covers a wide range of topics. The relationship between structure and function of seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers and fruits will be addressed. An understanding of how plants grow and respond to their environment is fundamental to the successful planting and cultivation of this enormous class of organisms. The series of classes, to be held Tuesdays, January 6 – 27 at the Education Center at Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, can be taken as a core requirement for the Horticulture Certificate Level I program, or each session may be taken as an individual class.

Instructor – Joyce Hemingson, Ph.D. earned her degree in Botany from the University of Connecticut on the pollination biology of Clethra alnifolia (Sweet Pepperbush). She worked for many years as Director of Publications for White Flower Farm, located in Litchfield, CT. She is an active gardener and a longtime member of the North American Rock Garden Society. $165.  To register, call Berkshire Community College at 413-236-2127, or BBG at 413-298-3926.  Image from www.kulabotanicalgarden.com.

Wreath of the Day – Harlequin

Today’s wreath shows that simple design can be spectacular.  Not that this wreath was simple to make.  If you look closely, you’ll see various greens enriching the basic balsam, and the positioning of the very dramatic bow is echoed by the sprays of gold pearls.  The designer names each of her wreaths, and this one is Harlequin.


Sunday, December 21, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm – Dune to Tavern, a Solstice Stroll at the Crane Wildlife Refuge

Join The Trustees of Reservations for a leisurely hike through the dunes of the Crane Wildlife Refuge in Ipswich to celebrate the winter solstice. On this, the shortest day of the year, we’ll take advantage of the dark with a stroll beneath the stars. We’ll warm up after our walk with hot cider and refreshments in the Tavern at the Inn at Castle Hill: the perfect balance to counteract the bustle of the holiday season! Please note: We will be hiking up and down dunes, through soft sand, for approximately 2½-3 miles. Dress for the weather to maximize comfort and minimize misery! Water is always good to have along. $20 for TTOR members, $25 for nonmembers. Pre-registration required at 978-810-5892, or email dantczak@ttor.org.

Wreath of the Day – Advent Purple

We generally don’t disclose names of clients, but in this case the client’s identity is key to understanding the design.  King’s Chapel maintains administrative offices on Beacon Street, and wished to hang a matched pair of wreaths with an Advent purple color theme.  We purchase many burgundy ribbons in preparation for wreath week, but our supply of purple was, bluntly, non-existent.  A trip to Jacobson’s Supply on Albany Street yielded this purple and green ribbon, which was either going to be wildly successful or just plain awful.  Our mother and daughter team of designers accented the wreaths with juniper, white pine, gold painted lotus pods, pine cones, and pomegranates, and tucked in sprigs of purple eucalyptus to tie in the purple color.  Wildly successful, definitely.


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