Handmade holiday wreaths reflect Virginia’s seasonal cycles
While wreaths are often hung during the holidays, some Virginia wreath makers create them for every season.
Blooms, pods, shells, husks and grains that flourish and fade within Virginia’s seasonal cycles become a lasting landscape snapshot when woven into wreaths.
Wreath designer Agnes von Stillfried of King and Queen County said she’s inspired by natural materials. She transforms sliced magnolia pods into miniature pineapples. Pecan shells are painted like delicate robin eggs, and spring daisies are fashioned from slices of hand-painted corn cobs.
Also known as Virginia Wreath Maker, Stillfried’s favorite wreath is a thick lock of weeping lovegrass braided like a head of hair.
“It’s fun to make and so sturdy,” she said. “If you buy it today, it will be there in 15 years because it’s a heavy-duty sea grass—an amazing material.”
Wild mushrooms, tree bark, pine-needle ropes, turkey feathers and the rough underside of magnolia leaves lend organic textures to Stillfried’s original designs.
“All of the stuff I work with is from Virginia,” she noted. “Farmer friends let me cut grains like wheat and barley.”
Virginia’s natural scenes are summarized in the wreaths, which historically represent the unending cycle of life. Stillfried, who holds a master’s degree in floral design, also creates traditional greenery wreaths.
“For me, good technique is important,” she said. “It needs to be made so it’s holding up at least through the holidays.”
Traditional wreath maker Roberta Clouse at Clouse’s Pine Hill Christmas Tree Farm in Frederick County has mastered her technique for selecting greens arranged into fragrant 18-inch wreaths that enhance front stoops throughout Northern Virginia.
She gathers an assortment of fresh-cut fir and pine greenery, then overlays them in sections of a circle, clamped by metal claws with the stomp of a foot pedal.
Customers often pick up a seasonal wreath when they cut Christmas trees at the farm. Clouse can create up to four wreaths an hour, and she made more than 200 of them last season.
“They will last through Christmas, depending on how you treat them,” Clouse said. “Between a storm door and a front door with the sun shining on it––they’ll be cooked in about a week. But if you hang it outside without too much direct sunlight, it will last through February!”