Real Estate

Wreaths: a sign of something special

During Hidden Villa's hands-on class students will create wreaths from organically grown flowers

As a child, Lanette Anderson's mom would hang a wreath on the door around Thanksgiving, "a symbol in our house that something special was happening."

Today, as the horticulturist and flower farmer at Hidden Villa, Anderson will be teaching a class on Nov. 16 on how to make floral wreaths from organic raw materials, all grown at the Los Altos Hills farm and education center.

Participants will begin by constructing frames from 8 to 10-foot lengths of grape vines, which were pruned from the small vineyard. The grapes are grown for distribution through Hidden Villa's CSA, community-supported agriculture.

The vines need pruning around now anyway, Anderson said. "It's a nice value added for the farm" to re-use them as wreath frames.

The class begins outside where they have room to move their "whole body around to get it into shape," she added.

Because the crafters aren't starting with ready-made frames, each wreath will be unique, in both size and shape, she said.

Then they'll add dried flowers, which Anderson has been collecting throughout the season and drying (at home, she suggests cutting longish stems, tying a cluster together, then hanging them upside down in a dark closet, to prevent the sun from bleaching out the color).

She'll be offering fragrant lavender and Sweet Annie, with its citrus-y scent, as well as strawflowers, amaranth, papery statice, safflowers and poppy-seed heads.

"Here at Hidden Villa we have so many flowers, from asters to zinnias. We're a small, organic farm so diversity is key. That's true for flowers as well as vegetables," Anderson said.

She points to the strawflowers that she harvested today. "They're already quite dry and easy to work with because they're not brittle but dry -- and they come in gorgeous colors," she added.

Most of the flowers can be woven into the vine frame, but she prefers to wind floral wire through the strawflower stems; some blooms will be attached using floral glue. And people could add a touch of ribbon, but the emphasis is on using the flowers.

Dried-flower wreaths can last for months, Anderson said, and the frame for years. Depending on where they're hung, the flowers will start to break down after a few months; they'll last longer hung over the hearth than on the front door, she said.

They'll even keep their scent for a long time, she added.

Anderson grew up in Southern California but it was at University of California, Berkeley, where she majored in environmental policy, that she became engaged more specifically with agricultural policy. She then joined the organic agricultural apprenticeship program at University of California, Santa Cruz, through its Center for Agroecology & Sustainable Food Systems.

Anderson has been at Hidden Villa for two years, managing the gardens and growing the cut flowers that are sold at the Los Altos Farmers' Market and through Hidden Villa's CSA. She'll also do floral arrangements for special events at Hidden Villa, and she sells her own hand-made dried-floral wreaths.

The "Holiday Floral Wreath Making" class is part of the Home Farm Series of public programs. In the spring the series will include how to grow cut flowers, as well as a course on basic gardening that includes composting and soil amendments.

But, for this class, each person can expect to make two wreaths, one for her or himself, and one to give away, Anderson said. The participants can make differently shaped frames, and "play around with what appeals to them. They don't need a lot of guidance once they get started."

"It's a fun, autumnal activity to come together. We usually have some hot cider," she said.

But the best part may just be coming to Hidden Villa, she added.

"We get together at this beautiful place and spend the afternoon crafting."

Associate Editor Carol Blitzer can be emailed at cblitzer@paweekly.com.

What: Holiday Floral Wreath Making

When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 1 to 3:30 p.m.

Where: Hidden Villa, 26870 Moody Road, Los Altos Hills

Cost: $45

Info: 650-949-8650, Hidden Villa or flowers@hiddenvilla.org

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