Nature gives us a wreath for every season

betsjukofsky@aol.comOctober 21, 2012 

  • James. T. Farmer III will discuss "Wreaths for All Seasons" during a Savannah Book Festival luncheon at noon Nov. 1 at The Plantation Club in Savannah. Tickets are $50 and include lunch and a copy of the book. Details: 912-398-8440, www.savannahbookfestival.org

Each season, nature gives us a change of colors. How many times have you heard friends say their favorite season is spring, or summer, or more often, autumn? Homeowners often will change the wreaths on their front doors to correspond with seasonal flowers and foliage.

This set me to thinking: What is with this "wreath on the door" thing? Growing up, door wreaths were seen on two occasions, at Christmastime and to signify a death in the family. The funeral wreath was store-bought, the holiday wreath was fashioned -- most often by the lady of the house. On a cold and snowy day, my mother could be seen out in the yard, cutting branches from the cedar trees, collecting small pine cones that had fallen on the ground. She fashioned these around a wire coat hanger and attached a red bow. The cold winter temperatures in Missouri kept the wreath fresh until Easter.

When I met up last week with acquaintances, I asked if they'd grown up in houses that had wreaths on the front door. Their answer was attuned to their age. Door, head and table wreaths were only for celebratory occasions. This is too bad, because these folks were missing out on one of life's greatest joys -- the use of flowers, fruit and vegetables to beautify ourselves and our homes.

Author James Farmer III knows this. In his newly published book, "Wreaths for All Seasons," Farmer shows us how to beautify home and table using the bounty from our landscape, cutting gardens, fruit trees and farmers market. Farmer writes in this beautifully illustrated book that evergreen wreaths associated with Thanksgiving and Christmas are lovely in symbolism themselves, their name and color suggest "ever living." From cypress to cedars, hollies, pines and podocarpus, evergreens yield their green when much of the landscape is brown.

A native of the Deep South, Farmer is young and a fresh voice for his generation. He's a gardener, floral and interior designer, a cook and garden-to-table lifestyle expert. He is editor-at-large for Southern Living magazine and has appeared on NBC's "Today." He is great fun to talk to. He said he is influenced by the land and flora of his family farm, an old plantation in Kathleen, Ga., just outside of Macon. Farmer graduated from Auburn University; he earned a degree in landscape design and opened a landscape design company in 2005.

What with being a farmer's daughter who grew up surrounded by cattle and other animals, I had to know what was on the Farmer farm.

Cattle and pecans, Farmer told me. Angus and Herefords. And a buffalo.

Turns out the buffalo was a gift from Ted Turner to Farmer's dad.

It's difficult to visualize the outdoor farmer with the author of four books that are filled with beauty and inspiration. In "Wreaths for All Seasons," the reader is taken right through the process that leads up to some of the most beautiful wreaths I've seen. My favorite is Les Jardin Des Fleurs, with dried flowers of gomphrena, clover, yarrow, larkspur and hydrangea. And because I'm a big fan of living wreaths, his "how-to" guide is timely. I'm inspired to attempt Farmer's living wreath using roses and rosemary with halves of Meyer lemons and grapefruit, the perfect Thanksgiving table arrangement.

Farmer is also the author of "A Time To Plant," "Sip and Savor -- Drinks for Party and Porch" and "Porch Living."

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