So here’s the challenge: How can you build statewide awareness and appreciation for California native plants … during the holidays … in the middle of a pandemic … when everyone is supposed to stay home?
Create a free-to-enter wreath-making contest, of course, with celebrity judges, prizes and the requirement that at least 51% of the materials be cultivated, ethically harvested California native plants.
Translation: Don’t go running into the wild (or your neighbor’s yard) and start pulling up native plants by the roots, said David Bryant, campaigns and engagement manager for the California Native Plant Society and creator of the new Wreath Masters contest. If wreaths are made from materials foraged from the wild, they will be disqualified.
“They’ve got to be ethically sourced,” he said. “That’s why we said only 51%, because we don’t want to overtax their supply. They can use other plants for filler.”
The native plant society encourages people to create habitat in their yards by growing California native plants, so it’s important to the contest that materials come from cultivated plants, grown in yards as landscaping. Local chapters of the society can help you find materials if you don’t have any nearby, Bryant said.
This contest is perfect for COVID times, since all you need to do is collect branches, cones, berries, grasses and other materials from your yard or your neighbor’s (with permission, natch), construct your wreath and then send a photo of your creation by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 13.
As part of your submission, you’ll be asked to name your nearest chapter of the California Native Plant Society, easy to find on its website. The goal is to build awareness and membership in the state’s 35 local chapters, Bryant said, but you aren’t required to become a member to submit your entry.
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All entries will be displayed on the website and judged in six categories during a live online event on Friday, Dec. 18, from 6 to 7 p.m. The event is free but registration is required to watch. The categories are “Most ‘I want to hang this on my door,’” “Most avant-garden,” “Most whimsical,” “Most naturalistic,” “Kids category” (open to contestants under 18) and “Best in Show.”
The judges include floral designer Katie Chirgotis of Eothen Circle in Santa Cruz; gardener and podcast creator Jennifer Jewell of Cultivating Place in Chico, and floral designer Maurice Harris of Bloom & Plume in Los Angeles, who is also one of the judges on the new HBO Max floral competition show “Full Bloom.”
These judges are “floral luminaries” in California, Bryant said, “so to be able to connect these people to native plants, and share that gospel, is just amazing,”
“Full Bloom” is a new competition with a format similar to “The Great British Baking Show,” except these contestants are making eye candy with flowers.
If you don’t have easy access to cultivated native plant materials, Tree of Life Nursery in San Juan Capistrano sells a wreath-making kit for $50, full of branches, greenery, berries and cones (available for pickup only at the nursery starting Dec. 11). If you just want help making a wreath, Tree of Life has turned its annual native plant wreath-making workshop into a free video on YouTube.
California Botanic Garden is also selling native plant materials for its Arrange Wild: Winter Edition online workshop on Saturday, Dec. 12, from 2 to 3 p.m. The cost is $50 ($45 for members), and you’ll have to drive to Claremont to pick up the supplies on Dec. 11 or the morning of Dec. 12. The class will focus on making a holiday centerpiece from native plant materials, but Bryant said centerpieces are acceptable entries in Wreath Masters’ “Avant-Garden” category.
Bryant said they’ve received more than 50 entries so far, ranging from traditional wreaths lush with greenery and pine cones to spare, square wreaths made from stems and berries. (If you want to be inspired, scroll through the entries on the Wreath Masters website, which are updated regularly).
Competitors include a who’s who list of botanic gardens, nurseries and stores that specialize in native plants, including Artemisia Nursery, California Botanic Garden, California Native Plant Society, Descanso Gardens, Gateway Science Museum, Grassroots Ecology, Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens, Moosa Creek Nursery, Our City Forest, Pine House Edible Gardens, Quercus Landscape Design, Sherman Library & Gardens, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Theodore Payne Foundation and Tree of Life Nursery.
Wreath Masters native plant wreath-making contest
How: Submit photos of your creation by 11:59 p.m. Dec. 13
Judging: Register to watch live from 6 to 7 p.m. Dec. 18