Holiday Spirit at GMF
The 16th annual wreath-making workshops on December 3 and 4 introduced over 60 new and returning participants to locally sourced greens gathered by GMF staff earlier in the week. The greens came from various conifers at Great Mountain Forest and the abutting Coolwater Estate, some of which had been planted for sale as Christmas trees or research. The workshop instructors included craftswomen, healthcare professionals, farmers, foresters, and educators, showing widespread interest in making beautiful wreaths. The materials provided included:
Veitch Fir (Abies veitchii) – This fir species is native to Japan. A graceful tree with soft, flexible branches, its dense foliage is lustrous dark green above with two chalky white bands (stomata) underneath. The needles are flat compared to spruces, and the tips are blunt and rounded.
White Spruce (Picea glauca) – Native to the northern U.S., this spruce is a hardy tree that can endure heat and drought better than most. The needles of spruces are sharp at the tip, differentiating spruces from firs.
Oriental / Caucasian Spruce (Picea orientalis) – This spruce appears in various sites along the main forest road running east to west at GMF. Native to Europe’s Caucasus and Pontiac Mountain, the spruce has short, shiny, deep green needles that lie close to the twig.
Eastern White Pine (Pinus strobus) – Native to the northeastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, this soft pine is the only pine east of the Rockies with five needles in each fascicle, or bundle, as opposed to hard pines, whose needles grow in bundles of 2 or 3.
Northern White Cedar/ Eastern Arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) – This tree is native to the northern lake and northeastern states, from eastern Canada to higher elevations of the Appalachian Mountain states. The common name of this species is misleading as it is not a true cedar but an evergreen conifer in the cypress family. The foliage forms in flat sprays with scale-like needles, making it a beautiful feature in wreaths. The name arborvitae or “tree of life” dates from the 16th century when French explorer Jacques Cartier learned from the indigenous tribes how to use the tree’s foliage to treat scurvy.
Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia) – This common, understory woody shrub is native to the eastern U.S. with distributions west to the Mississippi River and eastern Canada. The evergreen characteristics of the leaves make it a perfect candidate for adding dimension to wreaths.
Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticullata) – The green in our wreaths was broken up with the vibrant red berries of this native shrub. The leaves of common winterberry are not shaped with sharp teeth like other hollies and are not evergreen. Winterberry is a deciduous holly native to eastern North America. It typically occurs in swamps, damp thickets, low woodlands, and along ponds and streams; the berries provide food for birds in winter.