How to Make a Midsummer’s Day Floral Wreath
by The Beheld
Want to celebrate the biggest Swedish holiday in ladylike style? No, not Kristi himmelsfärdsdag, silly. Midsummer! According to the solar system, summer begins on June 21, but according to Sweden, it’s June 24–25, cleverly placed on a weekend so everyone can stay out late dancing around maypoles and eating gravlax. Swedish women traditionally make floral wreaths to wear in their hair for Midsummer’s Day, and if you want to celebrate your inner woodland nymph, you’ll do the same. Swedish-American artist Annika Connor, who grew up making floral wreaths every year for Midsummer and is therefore a wreath expert, 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)
• Florist wire (at craft stores); those of you who stop reading when you see “craft stores” can just use thread
• Swedish picnic food, because, you know, Sweden! 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 the crazy lady with a Bird of Paradise floral wreath. Which maybe you do?
• Sorry, but no roses. You will miss a thorn, and the whole crown-of-thorns thing is more Easter than Midsummer, like pantyhose.
• Fragrance: Fresh floral wreath will make cute boys want to smell your hair, and since Midsummer is a romantic holiday, you may as well help things along.
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. You’re a maiden now, remember?
• 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:
• 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.
5) Shape it. 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 measuring and bundling and thread thicknesses 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. So relax! You went to Ikea and picked up some elderflower saft, right? And, I mean, it’s not standard, but I won’t tell if you add in some Absolut, okay?
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) Drink more! It’s Midsummer! Your hair smells pretty! If you have leftover flowers, you can get super-Swedish and put them under your pillow on Midsummer Eve. National tradition has it you’ll then dream of your future husband, Ingmar.
10) Preserve your handiwork. Ideally, we would all have just-picked flowers in our hair, all the time, forever. 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. It’s kind of a cool eccentric dowager look, but we’re going for something a little more maypole-appropriate, so just keep that in mind.
Autumn Whitefield-Madrano writes about concepts of beauty at The Beheld, and longs for the simple joys of maidenhood.