Floral designer Natalie Bernhisel Robinson turns her green thumbs loose on wreaths, transforming wire rings into lush loops of life.
By Brad Mee, Photos by Susan Barnson Hayward
You’re not hanging hoops of dried eucalyptus or grapevine around your house anymore, right? Good. Don’t get us wrong, we love wreaths, but if it’s dead and catching dust, it has no place in the home. Here’s a fresh thought: Go live. Floral designer Natalie Bernhisel-Robinson did exactly that when she created her new book, Living Wreaths (Gibb Smith).
“Everybody loves wreaths and everybody loves plants and flowers, so I just combine them,” says Bernhisel-Robinson. Her published creations are vibrant, verdant rings that reach far beyond, but include, lush circles covered in fresh ivies and mosses. Imagine wreaths planted with blooming impatiens and alyssum, lavender and even culinary lettuces, herbs, strawberries and tomato plants. “I love setting a lettuce or herb wreath at the center of a table and providing dinner guests with small snippers used to clip greens to top their salads,” Bernhisel-Robinson says.
The designer also uses succulents and cacti to transform simple wire frames into living art. “”I’m obsessed with succulents, their colors, shapes and textures,” Bernhisel-Robinson says. Pulling them straight from her yard and occasionally from a garden store, the designer favors them as much for their low-maintenance, easy-care personalities as their sculptural beauty. “If you don’t want to baby-sit your wreath, consider succulents,” she says.
Granted, grapevine wreaths make no demands on their owners, but nurturing a living version with occasional watering and suitable light doesn’t involve hard labor either. “They may be a little more work, but they are so spectacular and really fun to watch grow,” Bernhisel-Robinson says. Thanks to the talented designer’s new book—filled with beautiful photographs and step-by-step instructions—anyone can reap the rewards of creating and growing a live wreath.
How to: Sculpt with Succulents
1. Start with a damp moss-covered wreath base and assorted succulents.
2. Make a hole through the moss into the wreaths core using a screwdriver or skewer. Using forceps, insert a succulent cutting or plant roots into the hole.
3. If necessary, use a U-shaped pin to help keep the succulent in place. Support the plant, but don’t puncture it.
4. Lay the wreath flat for five to six weeks to allow the roots to take hold.
From Living Wreaths by Natalie Bernhisel-Robinson, reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith.