How to Make a Midsummer Floral Wreath

Technically, you can celebrate Midsummer without a floral wreath. (Nobody will ban you from the maypole.) But why would you want to turn down a chance to fete your inner woodland nymph? Celebrate the biggest Swedish holiday with this feminine combination of earthy and ethereal delights. Each year at the weekend nearest to the summer solstice—instead of being on the solstice, so everyone can stay out late dancing around maypoles and eating gravlax—Sweden gets its groove on. Swedish women traditionally make floral wreaths to wear in their hair for Midsummer’s Day, and Swedish-American artist Annika Connor, who grew up making floral wreaths every year for Midsummer, shows us how.

You will need:
• Flowers; one mid-size arrangement with approximately 20 blooms  
• Baby’s breath or similar

• 4-5 greenery stems (the long stems of green leaves you can get at the florist)

• Scissors

• Florist wire (at craft stores); those of you who stop reading when you see “craft stores” can just use thread

• Swedish picnic food—why not?! Think potatoes, gravlax, herring, strawberries and cream, Kalles caviar spread, Knäckebröd, and elderflower saft

1) Find flowers.

Were we living in rural Sweden, we’d go for a walk on Midsummer Eve and pick buttercups and clover along the way. However, you probably live in an urban jungle, so a walk to the florist has to suffice. Things to keep in mind when selecting flowers:
• No pollen! Yes, lilies are gorgeous, but you really don’t want their pollen on your head.

• Keep the blooms relatively small. Think carnations and statice, which dries particularly nicely; something like an iris or freesia (with blooms about half-dollar size) is as big as you want to go, unless you want to be wearing Birds of Paradise on your head all night, in which case may whimsy be your guide.

• Sorry, but no roses. You will miss a thorn.

• Fragrance: Fresh floral wreath will make dashing strangers want to smell your hair, and since Midsummer is a romantic holiday, you may as well help things along.
 • Unmarried women: If you fetch the flowers the night on Midsummer's Eve, put seven of them—all different varieties—under your pillow. Swedish legend has it that you'll then dream of your future husband.

2) “Clean” the flowers.
Keep the stems long, but trim away excess leaves and buds, so that you have long stems with a single bloom at the top. See the before and after of this carnation stem:

3) Begin the structural base.

Overlap three pieces of the greenery, staggering them in length so that you have one big greenery stem that’s about 1.5 times longer than each individual stem would be. Secure the bundle every few inches with florist wire or thread, winding the thread throughout so that you’re not stopping to trim it all the time.

4) Add flowers.
Add a cleaned flower stem to the bundle of greenery and secure with the florist wire or thread. Be sure to bind flower stems to the stems of the greenery without trapping the leaves in the thread; this will keep it more secure and lush-looking.

Continue to add the cleaned flower stems, occasionally adding in a stem of greenery. Things to keep in mind:

• Composition: Alternate colors without making it too bridal-perfect, adding in baby’s breath every so often to keep the whole thing looking ethereal.

• Thickness: The bundled stems should be a little less than an inch in diameter, which can mean anywhere from 15 to 25 stems bound together at any point along the wreath, depending on what flowers you’re using.
• Inside versus outside: When you’re bundling the flowers, you want all the blooms to be facing outward, so that when you put it on your head you have only the stems on your hair, not the blooms. Like this:

5) Shape the wreath. 
When the bundle is about a foot and a half long, begin to shape it into a circle. You don’t need to keep the circle shape as you continue to add flowers and greenery; you just want to bend it every so often to make sure it’s flexible.

6) Drink.
“You never really feel like you know what you’re doing,” said Annika when I kept asking her about precise measurements and whatnot. She said this while wearing a 19th-century Swedish gown, after having purchased kringla at Fika—in fluent Swedish—earlier in the day. Moral is: Relax. Making the wreath should ideally be as social as the big event itself: Gather some friends and make it a happening. You went to Ikea and picked up some elderflower saft, right? If you choose to add Absolut, your secret is safe with me.

7) Measure. 
When the wreath is around two feet long, shape it into a circle and wrap it around your head. If it’s a little short, keep weaving flowers and greenery until it’s the right length. If it seems about right, use the florist wire or thread to secure the stems of the last flowers you added to the beginning of the bundle to create a circle. Put it on top of your head again: You want it to sit far down enough that it won’t slide off.

8) Secure and finish. Once it’s the right size, reinforce the final binding with the thread. Then weave in a couple more flowers over the closure to cover it, choosing blooms on short stems.

9) Preserve your handiwork.
Ideally, we would all have just-picked flowers in our hair, all the time, forever and ever. However, you can make the wreath a day ahead of time, then lightly mist it with water and refrigerate it. Alternately, you can make the wreath as described and then hang it on a doorknob to dry. If you know you’ll be drying your wreath, don’t choose white blooms, as they’ll turn brown as they dry. Fantastic if you're aiming for eccentric dowager, but let's be thinking maypole maiden here, shall we?

 Photo: Jennifer Calais Smith


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