Learn how innkeeper Claudia Hickl gets the freshest greens and how she taps plastic-coated garden wire or sisal to avoid damage to pristine surfaces….and more!
Nothing says “local” or “holiday” like fresh-cut pine from the North Carolina mountains – especially when the branches are woven into garlands. Claudia Hickl, innkeeper at Sweet Biscuit Inn, a member of the Asheville Bed and Breakfast Association, shows us how.
STEP 1: Claudia gathers greenery cut into a consistent size. Her first trick is to only use the freshest possible twigs and branches for the strongest fragrance. Claudia sources them from a local Christmas tree vendor. For him it’s scrap material cut from the base of trees, and with a little “bribe” he is helpful in selecting only fresh-cut branches. Claudia’s bribe? German Christmas cookies, home-baked from old family recipes. (Her guests also love these!)
STEP 2: Claudia weaves the pine into a garland. She starts with a thick rope that will be the “core” of the garland. Next, she cuts a stack of 10-inch-long fresh-cut pine branches. She gathers four or five of the 10-inch branches into one hand (think of it as a set), branches pointing to the end of the rope. Then with the other hand, she fastens these branches by wrapping green garden wire around them. She then arranges the next set (again, four or five branches, depending on the thickness) around the needle-free stems of the previous set, allowing for a 50 percent overlap. She continues to coil the same wire used in the beginning around each new set of branches as she fasten them to the rope. Claudia repeats these steps until the garland is her desired length.
STEP 3: Once the garland is ready, Claudia attaches it to the stair rail. She uses strong packthread (she prefers sisal) and/or plastic-coated garden wire to attach the garland to the railing. The plastic-coated garden wire won’t sag over time, and the plastic coating on the wire avoids scratching the banisters. Both the sisal and the garden wire are easily hidden between the twigs and needles.
STEP 4: Claudia ties on the desired decorative ribbons at the end of the process, using the plastic-coated wire.
Claudia and her guests are rewarded with real pine scent and an authentic holiday look throughout the season.
Freshness Tip: First, Claudia is realistic about how long greenery will stay fresh. She makes her garland at the start of Advent, or in early December. No Christmas decorations during Halloween in this house! She hangs garlands with the arrival of Advent, around the last Sunday in November or first Sunday in December. Sometimes, branches dry toward the end of the season, and she removes those loose needles and replaces them with fresh-cut ones. Sometimes, she conducts “local surgery” and unties parts of the garland to replace older greens with fresh ones.
Learn more about Sweet Biscuit Inn and innkeepers Claudia and Christian Hickl and their son Vincent.