Somerset Willow Wreath
Willow wreaths at Common Farm Flowers are made with whips we cut fresh from our farm. When we arrived here, thirteen years ago, we struck willow stakes which were given us by a neighbour, into a band all round two sides of the farm. The land was very boggy, and our plan was that the willow would help drain the land. It did, and it grew tall and lanky, and eventually we started pollarding the trees we now had.
Willow plays a vital part in the survival of almost as many different species as does oak, as it was one of the first trees to recolonise the British Isles after the retreat of the last Ice Age. Most noticeable for us are the clumps of black aphids which overwinter in the crowns of our pollard willow, making a fabulous feast for the charms of goldfinches which skit about the farm in the winter months. A charm of goldfinches in flight is called a 'volery,' meaning a flight (from the French.) Of course it could also mean a thievery (voler is to steal in French) which I think would suit them just as well as they're noisy gangs marauding as well as beautiful to watch.
So each of our willow wreaths for Christmas is cut by hand, carefully, to preserve these pollard willow crowns and the environment where those aphids and the greedy gangs of goldfinches flourish. Then we weave their gorgeous colours into a heavy circle (the whips, being fresh, are full of sap, and surprisingly weighty) before binding them with shorter, thinner whips to stop them bursting open while they're hanging on your door. Our wreaths are so fresh that, should you like, you could unwind them after Christmas, cut off a couple of inches of the thick end of each stem, and strike them into boggy ground, and they've very likely root there.
The other thing I love about working our fresh willow is that the stems are covered in a kind of waxy cuticle which makes your hands soft and smooth after a day's work, rather than ripped to shreds. And we kid ourselves that the salic acid squeezing out from the willow stops any wintry aches and pains (aspirin was originally made from salic acid.)
The garlanding is made with all sorts of foraged goodies, from faded hydrangea heads, to grasses, crab apples, mistletoe - no two are the same, and we use whichever ribbon colour we think goes best with each finished wreath.
Order yours via the link below, or book a last minute place on one of our Christmas wreathing workshops next week. Go on, treat yourself! And pat yourself on the back that in ordering a willow wreath for your door at Christmas you're supporting the maintenance of a willow wood which feeds all sorts of birds throughout the winter. And thank you!