I love when people tell me something that makes me laugh out loud. For real, not the “lol” kind. Last week, my friend Gerry told me, in response to the newsletter, that the reason he feels humans “settled down” from a nomadic life was so they could plant things that could then be made into beer. I did actually laugh out loud when I read that. And there is probably much truth in his theory.  Also, if we group women and men respectively into roles as “gatherers” and “hunters,” in addition to their new “domestic” roles post-nomadic life, there is room too for a sub-group “brewers.” Gender unspecific.

To say that women are still gatherers is probably a fair statement and there have been plenty of jokes made about it already so I won’t take space for that here; my defense for the x group is historic even though I’m sure there were probably quiver-donning gals just as there were basket-toting gents. This weekend I gathered from the garden what I will make into wreaths, garlands and holiday decorations. It is a fun activity and it allows me to continue to celebrate the garden over the winter, share with friends, make something out of what I’ve grown myself so it’s special, engage in a creative exercise –all good! There are so many beautiful things to gather from the garden even now.  When you head out to do this yourself, here are some tips. First a few notes for safety:

1. Garden gloves–protect yourself from cuttings that have thorns or spikes; they might even be sharper than during the season now that they are dry;
2. Be sure to watch your step–sometimes when the ground is covered with leaves it is harder to tell if there are dips and groves in the ground and no string of berries is worth a twisted ankle or a step into concealed dog poop;
3. Sharp cutting tool. Hand pruners are great and so are kitchen shears;
4. If you are out on a country walk and would like to gather somewhere other than your own garden, be aware of property lines, rules and hunters–always be sure you have permission to gather. Bittersweet is an invasive exotic vine that grows wild in many places. It is a truly beautiful vine but is a huge problem in the natural environment. Please if you must gather it, once you have it home, do not leave berries for the birds; use it indoors only and discard in the trash, not the composter.

A bit about the botany/purpose of seeds. Some of what you will be gathering right now will be a seed of some sort. By their nature seeds are designed to continue the species. Some –like nuts–are buried by squirrels for winter keeping and then left, other seeds take to the air and are very fragile, others hang on to a plant pretty firmly if they are designated bird food for dropping at some point further. You will need to take note of this as you gather because you do want things that are sturdy and will last for a few months at least. Unlike plastic and/or manufactured items, your decorations of gathered materials are natural–they may not last for years and years. There is an upside too; you can change it up when it begins to fade away.  Just don’t go crazy with the glue gun so you can pull it apart.

In the wreath pictured, the elements are:
1. Pods from the golden rain tree–papery and a bit fragile;
2. Seed heads from Sea Oat grass;
3. Pine cones;
4. Cones from Hemlock trees;
5. Dried pomegranate  (these did not come from my own garden.)
The grapevine wreath is purchased as well as the silk-satin ribbon, simply tied. Other good things to use: rose hips, dried hydrangeas, acorns of every shape and size, spiky balls from sweet gum trees (most folks are glad for you to take as many of these as you want,) bayberry and pretty much any evergreen, winterberry holly, herbs like lavender and sage and artemisia, heavenly bamboo stems and berries, berries from Liriope, any ornamental grasses, ivy and winter creeper Euonymous,  seed heads from coneflowers and black-eyed Susan small and supple tree stems with next year’s buds in place make nice gatherings. I’m sure you can come up with tons more as you make it your own.

Want to learn more? Head on over to one of the three wreath workshops I’ll be having this season:
1. Burlington County December 5, 2015. Cost is $30.00–you will learn about the process and take home the wreath you make. I should have this link with details and registration information in a day or so and I’ll send out another email as soon as I have it. I will also post it on my social media sites and my website under “events”;
2. Little Portion Wellness Center, Collingswood, NJ, December 8th, 2015 6:30pm-8pm. This will also be a hands-on class PLUS a talk about how to improve your winter garden. Cost is $45.00. To register for this class call 888-LOURDES or click here;
3. At my SoHa First Anniversary Event–Wednesday, December 9th 2015from 7pm to 9pm–this is a free demo-only event. You will also have an opportunity to be first to shop my garden studio for the season. To register for this event please call or send me an email: (856)217-5100 or jean@greenjeangardens.com.

Please feel free to call or send an email if you have any questions about these events. I hope to see you at one of the workshops! Also, if you have ideas for gathering you would like to share, please post in the box below. 

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