Thomas J. Story
It's a misty winter day at Harms Vineyards and Lavender Fields in Napa, California, and Mercedes Feller is doing what she loves to do this time of year.
Stepping onto a picnic bench set at the base of a venerable oak, she reaches into the branches to prune out a few twigs and tendrils of lichen. She'll spend the rest of the morning gathering greenery to make her specialty: "wild-crafted" wreaths that are as elegant as they are simple.
Although the farm supplies Feller with lavender for wreaths in the summer, those plants are flowerless mounds now, cut back and sleeping for winter. So wild crafting ― using materials gathered from plants that grow naturally ― is the order of the day."People who cook with local ingredients can't plan what they're going to make. They just go to the garden or the farmers' market and choose the season's best crops," she explains. "Wild greenery also changes with the season, so I go with whatever looks good."
On a nearby patio, Feller goes to work on her twig-and-lichen creation. In less than an hour, her first wreath is ready to hang.
Then the gardener and wreath designer ― who recently opened her own store, Tiller Digs, in neighboring Marin County ― heads toward a small canyon, trailed by a gaggle of goats, to harvest foliage from the bay trees there.
Next: 4 steps to a perfect wreath