An afternoon of cocktails, nibbles and DIY wreath-making fun with Native Poppy's Natalie Gill
Every December, Bonnie Rush—wife, mom, homeschooler and A Golden Afternoon blogger—hosts a DIY wreath-making affair for friends. This year, we asked Bonnie if we could join but let Bonnie be a guest and have Native Poppy founder Natalie Gill (who happens to also be friends with Bonnie) plan the whole party and show us—and you—how to host a stress-free wreath-making bash.
Natalie enlisted Marie Brawn of Root Cellar Catering Co. to put together the most amazing charcuterie spreads, invited Taylor McMullen of Folklore rentals to outfit the space (so we didn’t scatter garden clippings all over Bonnie’s dining table) and gave us all a fun wreath-making tutorial that anyone (seriously, anyone) can do. It’s practically impossible to make an ugly wreath, and everyone feeds off each other’s creativity. Plus, everyone leaves with something they can display in their home or give as a gift.
Natalie created a party that was all about connections—connections guests made with one another and connections they made with nature as well. To encourage guests to explore Bonnie’s amazing Bonita property, Natalie set one table in the orchard and filled it with the floral elements, various wreath forms, finished wreaths (for inspiration) and some clippers so attendees might wander from the table and clip something from the yard (with Bonnie’s blessing, of course).
Guests collected their branches, leaves and fillers outside then made their way to the kitchen table to assemble the wreaths and add berries, ribbon and other details. It’s wise to designate a glue gun area away from where people are assembling so there won’t be any accidental burns.
Greens, Florals, Fruit and More
She advocates visiting a variety of sources to get different items and objects. In San Diego, she suggests going to Wholesale Flowers and Supplies on Metro Street, visit any craft shop, grab some fresh herbs and fruits at the grocery store or farmers market, hit the nursery and check out the offerings online.
Cover the basics including traditional juniper, cedar and other conifer branches. “I always ask friends to bring cuttings from whatever’s growing in their yards,” she says.
Besides greenery, look for offerings that add texture and depth. Pick up baby’s breath, succulents, air plants, straw flowers, bunny tails, decorative wheat, berries, pomegranates, oranges and preserved fruit. Forage for things like pampas grass, pinecones and lotus pods.
“I found antique bells at the swap meet,” she says. She suggests popping into thrift stores to find pretty vintage ornaments.
TIP: For softer elements, offer silk or chiffon ribbons for a feminine touch on these rustic wreaths. Natalie loves the hand-dyed silk selection from Tono + Co., or Bellame Ribbon, which sells chiffon ribbon spools in a myriad of colors.
TIP: Natalie suggests olive branches, dried statice, pampass grass, spiral eucalyptus, seeded eucalyptus, bay leaves and ilex berries. Group the options in pretty storage baskets for easy picking.
Consider having the event catered, which will mean you too can fashion a wreath and hang with guests instead of filling plates and drinks all afternoon. Natalie partnered with Root Cellar Catering Co. to create appetizers and a light lunch shared family style.
Bonnie greeted guests in her sweet vegetable garden with tiered trays of Venissimo cheeses, Root Cellar signature pickles, marinated olives, farm fruits, herbs de Provence artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, meats, fresh-baked breads, artisan crackers and chips, and fruit spreads—all artfully displayed. She also put one of her signature drinks, the cranberry gin gin fizz (recipe below) in each of her attendees’ hands when they arrived. (For the kiddos, she omitted the gin.)
After everyone had some time to walk the grounds and pick out their decor elements, Bonnie served lunch. Root Cellar created a simple salad with tomatoes, figs and goat cheese; rotisserie chicken; and veggie side dishes featuring squash, snow peas, purple beans, various shades of cauliflower, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts.
If you must do the food yourself, Natalie recommends fare that allows you to work while you eat—small bites and nibbles as opposed to meals that require lots of sauces or special plating. “You also want to serve something that feels casual and informal that people can sort of pick at as they go,” she says.
TIP: It’s all in the display. Try tiers that can be accessed from all sides so people can gather, chat and eat. From there, fold meats into flowers, rip breads and fill space with whole fruits and veggies.
How to Make a Holiday Wreath
Native Poppy founder and owner Natalie Gill shares her expert tips for making your own homemade wreath–and hosting a party to make them with friends, too.
You don’t have to provide much in terms of tools.
Grapevine wreaths: “You don’t need to get one for each guest,” Natalie explains. “One wreath can be pulled apart and made into two or three more delicate forms.” Eighteen-inch wreath frames are best; 12-inch frames might be more manageable for kids.
Snips or cutters: You can ask guests to bring their own, but if you have newbies in the bunch, they might not have the right tools. Natalie says an online search gives lots of options for less than $10, which is fine for a project like this. She made them into place cards for each of the guests at this party.
22-gauge wire: “This isn’t too thin,” Natalie says. But it’s also not so thick that it becomes unwieldy to bend and mold. Natalie likes to get one paddle of wire per person, which is no more than $2-$3 each.
Floral tape: Insert heavier fruits and veggies—dried or fresh—into the design by attaching them to longer sticks to slide in.
Glue guns: Natalie doesn’t use them, but you might want to.
And of course, the greenery!
TIP: At wholesale flower stores, ask (nicely) to dig through their cuttings bin for additional seasonal branches.
Step-by-Step DIY Wreath Instructions
Snip the large entwined branch holding the grapevine wreath together, and separate the wreath into two smaller, less bulky forms.
Gather bundles of greens consisting of two or three different elements.
Place them at a 45-degree angle on the wreath “to give it some movement,” Natalie explains, and wrap floral wire around it. Don’t cut the wire!
Add another bundle, covering the initial wire and wrapping this bundle to secure it to the frame. Repeat.
“Play with asymmetry and groupings,” Natalie advises. “Don’t think about organization; think about how the elements actually grow in the wild.
Forgo patterns, and try to mix and match greens, letting them fade into one another.”
Natalie likes the modern appeal of the asymmetrical designs as opposed to covering the entire frame and making it fuller.
Once you’re happy with the floral coverage, add details such as berries, fruits and ribbon.
Hang or give it to a friend as a thoughtful hostess gift.
Recipe: Cranberry Gin Gin Fizz
2 oz. gin (Bonnie’s favorite is Old Grove from Ballast Point Brewing)
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 oz. cranberry ginger syrup (recipe below)
Ginger beer (Fever Tree, Maine Root or Bruce Coast)
Rosemary, juniper sprig or clementine slice for garnish
Stir together the first three ingredients in a cocktail glass, and add ice.
Float the ginger beer and add the garnish.
Cranberry Ginger Syrup
Makes 1 ½ cups
1 c. water
1 c. organic sugar
1 ginger root (a few inches long and wide)
1 c. cranberries
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Stir and turn the heat up to medium. Let the liquid come to a boil.
Continue cooking on low for 20 minutes.
Cool, strain and use, or refrigerate in an airtight container.