Crafting with holiday roots
Concord class provides tips on boxwood displays
Sprig by evergreen sprig, the boxwood Christmas trees took shape.
At a Concord Council on Aging workshop last week led by activities director Terry Abdalian, participants cut, soaked, twisted, and poked tiny branches of boxwood into blocks of a dark green porous material called oasis, used as a base for the tree.
Abdalian said she learned the craft at the Concord Flower Shop, where owner Helen Halloran showed her how it’s done. Abdalian got all the materials for the workshop from Halloran. The women in attendance brought small clippers from home.
She began by plucking waterlogged bricks of oasis from a tub and placed each in a small bowl.
Abdalian said the Council on Aging “doesn’t have very many crafty programs,’’ something she wants to change. She is barely three months into the job.
“It’s good to use your hands, and to know that nothing has to be perfect,’’ Abdalian said. “Nothing is perfect in nature.’’
The women sat around a large table with their bowl in front of them. Abdalian told them to “start with a single stalk at the top, to make the focal point.
“After you place the center stalk, put pieces densely around the top,’’ she said. She doesn’t advise shaving off the corners of the oasis, although some of the women did.
“After the top is covered, work on the bottom,’’ said Abdalian, “angling the branches downward to cover the bowl.’’
Carol Dromgoole worked fast. She brought a box full of decorations, each wired to a green floral stick, from home. Sitting next to her, Jini McCoubrey made a lower, wider display that she started from the bottom. “I took a course before and that’s what we learned,’’ she said.
Marge Stetson came so that she could learn to make some trees next year for the annual Concord Women’s Club holiday sale.
Abdalian said a finished boxwood tree sells for $50 at area nurseries and at florists, sometimes $75. She said boxwood is a native evergreen plant that grows readily in New England.
She brought dried baby’s breath, colored balls, berries, bows, and other tiny ornaments to place on the tree once the boxwood was in place. The women offered advice as they worked.
“Keep turning it,’’ said Fiddle Walton, “so it’s more even.’’
“Make it as tight as possible as you fill it in,’’ said Abdalian. “Work laterally.’’ She said the displays can last “up to a year’’ with daily watering. She advised filling the bowl; the oasis absorbs the water in just a few hours.
“Try not to take out a branch once you have placed it or you will create a hole and the oasis will crumble,’’ said Abdalian. She instructed the women not to break the stems but to peel away the lower leaves. She also said not to cut or shape the tree after it is done, or it will have sharp ends that will look jagged.
“I think if you start messing with it, you spoil it,’’ said Stetson.
Abdalian showed the participants how to make a bow of thin velveteen, tie it with wire and attach it to a pointed green stick for placement in the oasis.
“What a forest this is,’’ said McCoubrey as the loose boxwood branches became holiday decorations.
Betsy Levinson can be reached at email@example.com.