What is a Balsam Wreath?
Balsam wreaths are made from the Balsam Fir trees called Abies balsama, which is a native fir to New England that only grows in the colder sections of the region and into the Canadian Maritimes. The needles are generally flat and the trees tend to grow close together; which, slows the growth of the foliage giving it a natural pruned effect and a fuller branch. The balsam fir is known for its aromatic smell and is used in incense and potpourri. There are certain times of the year when the Balsam fir tree is dormant and it will hold its smell and needles longer. That time is when the weather is cold, usually two nights at temperatures of 20º F is a signal that the needles are "set". This reason alone is why Balsam wreaths are only used in the winter time and have become a Christmas tradition.
How are Balsam fir wreaths made?
The wreaths are first started by collecting the branches from the fir trees. Depending on the length, they are called tips for the shorter ones and boughs for longer branches. Because the Balsam grow so close together, as the trees reach higher for more light, the bottom branches lack light and will eventually die. Before this process starts, these branches are harvested for the wreaths. The tips are brought to wreathmakers on poles and the tips are then used to make the wreaths. Each tip is placed into what is called a bouquet, which consists of three to four pieces. Some larger ones are trimmed to give each one a uniform shape. The bouquets are then wired onto a metal ring, which forms the basis for a wreath. They are wired on both sides alternating as the wreathmaker goes around the ring, placing an average of 32 bouquets into each wreath. At the end of the circle, the greens are tucked in and a loop is formed for the hanger. Some wreaths are made with a machine that aids in the wrapping, but each bouquet is still placed on the frame by hand. It is a very labor intense process, but a skilled wreathmaker can make 6-7 wreaths an hour.
How to care for a wreath?
Wreaths are packed tightly in a box for shipping to prevent it from sliding around and damaging the decorations. It is wrapped in a waxed paper to hold in the moisture. Remove the wreath from everything and let it breath. It will generally come back to its rounded shape. You can help a little too. The wreaths do better if they are hung outside; however, many people do hang them inside. They should be treated like house plants and could use a light misting to help keep their moisture. If you hang your wreath outside, it is recommended that you not place it between a glass storm door and regular door that is in direct sunlight. It tends to create a green house effect and could "cook" your wreath. However, most people with such storm doors live in a place where the temperature seldom gets much above freezing in December. Do not worry about your wreath freezing; after all, it had to be frozen before the balsam could be picked. If you have any more questions please contact us.