After the crazy winter we had (long and cold), it seems that our spring is getting shorter each season. Our spring crops like flowering cherry, snowball viburnum, apricot, plum, and lilacs ended up being about two weeks behind a normal season. Our late portion of curly willow and pussy willow ended up in demand for wholesalers and retailers, which helped clean up a few rows of product in the field. The weather cooperated with our tulips, iris, and peony. Peony went very well at markets for four weeks.

Looking forward myself to the ASCFG National Conference October 19-22 in Delaware. We have an interesting line-up of speakers and farm tours for this conference. For the newbie or seasoned grower, everyone will pick up new information to bring back to their farms.

If you are involved with social media like Facebook, Twitter or blogging, lots of chatter has been going on and some very interesting topics. Seems that those who follow us have been interested in knowing about our wreaths that we design for farmers’ markets and customers directly. 
We design three types of wreaths: dried flowers, fresh wintergreen, and willow.

I’ll run through the basics with you on how we offer them and construction.

Dried Wreath

Two sizes, 24” and 36”, are made using an 8” metal clamp ring. Our farmers’ market prices are in the $50-75 range for the 24”, and $75-125 for the 36” wreath. Difference in prices for each size depends on the amount of material used. For several years back we used chicory for starting the base and the last four years changed over to pennycress. The pennycress gives us a thicker wreath to start with. As some of you know, I don’t use a wreath-making machine to construct the wreaths. I have been looking into finding a machine (foot pedal) and will be getting one this fall. I found a manufacturer about an hour away and they also make the metal rings in several sizes.  I’m still doing them the old-fashioned way with pliers and a hammer. I still have all my fingers!

I’ve gotten some friendly ribbing (comments) on Facebook as to the  way I make the wreaths. It’s all good folks.

With the base made, take eight bunches of pennycress (1 bunch per clamp section). We let our mood go with the picking out of materials, colors and textures to use in each wreath. Starting in the spring throughout the season I hang extra crops grown just for wreaths up in the barn. They are just hung on first floor and second floor rafters. I try to gather 200-300 bunches of pennycress each season. Pennycress dries to a nice straw color, so sometimes I enhance the color to more of a basil tone. Some flowers may fade in the drying process so the natural color maybe returned with a floral spray.

Wintergreen Wreath

Same as the dried flower style: 24 or 36 inches. The new property needed some windbreaks. I decided to use white pine, spruce, Douglas fir, and balsam fir. After about 5-7 years, when they got some height to them, I decided to make some money on them. I began the last few years offering white pine, Douglas fir, and balsam fir bunches to wholesalers and retailers.  Our basic wintergreen wreath has a base of boxwood, pine, arb, fir, and balsam. To that combo I add accents like  dusty miller, dried peony, bittersweet, sea holly, rose hips, dried peppers, and cones.

Oh, by the way, “No Ribbon Bows “ on our wreaths. I was in retail before growing and everyone wanted a bow or some sort of ribbon added to their wreath, got so burnt out. So if someone wants a ribbon treatment they can do that themselves. Our prices for the wintergreen wreaths are in the range of $30-50 for the 24”, and $50-75 for the 36”. Depending on your market , prices may vary as to the amount added to the base mix. Each season we do more and more for the holiday season. It’s great to have customer purchase every year. Sometimes we’ll do special wreaths such as all boxwood or all holly.

Willow Wreath

Willow wreaths are our largest seller and we’ve been offering them for the last 7-8 years. We offer them in three sizes: small, 24”, medium, 36”, medium 40-52”, and large, 60-72”. We have been shipping these to several repeat customers over the years for their homes, businesses and holiday house walks. Small, medium and large are made with the 8” ring. Custom sizes we’ve done are in the seven to ten feet diameter. These are made on a 36” ring and are for commercial orders.

Take a look at the photos and if anyone has any questions drop me an email. Our wreaths are an income that I did not consider when I started to first grow flowers. The last few years, they have been an important part of our offerings at the farmers’ markets mix of product. If I forget to bring a few wreaths to the summer markets, customers will ask “Where are the wreaths?”, or “I thought you made wreaths.”

If you are not offering wreaths at your markets, give it some thoughts to adding them. At the beginning few weeks when our product is low at the market, I’ll hang them from the van side. Later (June – November) I purchased a 16’ cattle panel at the local farm supply store, cut in half (8’) section and use them running down the sides of our booth spaces at the market. Can hang 3-5 per panel depending on size. When the market moves inside for the holidays, I zip tie both panels together so they will stand on end (8’) high . Then you can use both sides to display your wreaths.

Seems that most of our customers who pick up a wreath are getting them for gifts to others. We always move a few each Saturday off and on at the outside market. The majority of the wreaths move from October through December.

Have a great summer!

Kent Miles

Illinois Willows

Kent Miles Illinois Willows Contact at [email protected]