May 27, 2020

A Wreath Never Goes Out of Style

A balsam wreath

Janine Pineo Photo | A balsam wreath

Editor’s note: First published in the Bangor Daily News in 1994.

• By Janine Pineo •

‘Tis one week before the night before Christmas, so sugarplums are still a bit premature.

Seed catalags are not.

Dec. 5, it arrived, the back page slightly bent, but otherwise a true feast for the mind and the soul yearning already for damp earth and sprightly green shoots of promises yet to be fulfilled.

The wonderful IT was the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog out of New Gloucester, Maine. I’ve had enough of holiday catalogs filled with faux-garden twaddle to tide me over until next November. There’s just so much I can take of visions of costly amaryllis, forced tulips and pewter garden tool pins dancing in my head before I start tossing the stacks out with the trash.

This year’s annual garden reprieve has had me longing for some new plant life, so I’ve got a few basil sprouts — and even fewer Greek oregano plants — struggling along. The paperwhites are getting a little gangly, and my bargain-basement amaryllis is just starting to shoot into the air.

While houseplants are great — and I certainly have my fair share — just a few basil and oregano seeds tossed into a pot is not my idea of getting good and dirty during a full day of gardening. So my sister and I have braved the cold for our hanging of the greens around the Pineo yard.

Not that this sort of task could be construed as dirty, unless you count fir needles in your hair and on your clothing as dirt.

I am a Christmas person. I’m not sure how it happened, but I adore this season. This time of year, the outdoors can be a bleak brown or a nonending white, but I always try to give a little of summer’s glory and fall’s fire back to the world with my red ribbons and green wreaths.

Wreaths speak to me of home and holidays and traditions, offering a welcome to all who chance upon them. Why else would one be wreathed in smiles?

The first of December saw me Down East, visiting relatives and buying holiday treats. I could have found the wreaths and poinsettia in Bangor but felt more satisfied buying them in Machias because they were something from my birthplace. An unexpected treat was a short visit to a wreath-making business, Whitney Originals. It was worth the few moments to stand in the room where all the balsam fir tips awaited their destiny as my senses were flooded by the scent: warm, green and pure Maine.

Back home in Hudson, my sister and I armed ourselves with wreaths, twine, lights and a bagful of ribbons, then set out to place bursts of color around the yard. Eight wreaths punctuated with bright red bows have lent a warmth that comes only this time of the year. And I think the birds appreciate the effort, since they have wreaths to play in and their feeders sport new red accessories.

As for me in these days before the night before Christmas, I plan to kick back in the rocking chair, admire the decorations, prop open my first seed catalog and dream of spring coming to my little plots of land.

But first, I wish you the merriest and the happiest.

And a stocking full of seed catalogs.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in December 1994.