By Sheila Grant
Special to The Weekly
ST. ALBANS — David and Louise Barden have been growing Christmas trees and creating holiday wreaths at Dalou Farms in St. Albans since 1982. The secret to creating a great holiday wreath is to start with good quality balsam fir tips, David Barden said.
“Some balsam fir is flat-needle, some is medium-needle and some are really round,” he said. “You want the medium-round needles. Those make the best wreaths. Tips should be about 10 inches long.”
Selecting healthy bough tips is much like selecting a healthy tree, he said. “Grab one of the branches and pull it out away from the tree. See how many needles fall into your hand. If there are none, the tree is fresh; if there are a lot, the tree is dried out.”
Before gathering tips, it is vital to obtain landowner permission, noted Barden. “It is considered stealing if you take them without permission. This is a good-sized industry, and you can make decent money just from the tips, so taking them without permission is just like shoplifting.”
Creating a standard 22-inch wreath requires a 12-inch ring. “That is the most common wreath in the state of Maine,” Barden said.
“We make double-sided wreaths. You put a few boughs on top and a few on bottom – good-sized bunches with three or four pieces — and you wire them on,” he said. “Go around the whole ring. Then the last one, you make shorter so that you can tuck it in under the first one to compete the wreath.”
A wreath can be decorated in whatever way the designer desires, but red ribbons, small red berries and pine cones are the most popular finishes, he said. “But you can have all kinds of decorations. We have plaid ribbons and blue [ribbons]. Back after 9-11, we had red, white and blue ribbon and couldn’t keep in on the shelf long enough. It’s just a matter of doing it any way you want to.”
To extend the freshness of a wreath, pay attention to hanging and shipping details.
“If you have it outside in the fresh air, there’s really nothing you need to do,” Barden said. “You can mist it down with a little bit of water if it’s on the south side of the house where it will get a lot of sun, and that will keep it fresh. But if you put it between the front door and the storm door, it won’t last a week because the sun will beat down on it, and it will overheat and turn brown,” he cautioned.
“And we ship a lot of wreaths. We usually go second-day air. That way it doesn’t sit in a hot terminal for a week. It costs a little more money, but it gets there a little quicker,” Barden said.
Dalou Farms carries rings, ribbons, pine cones, berries and other wreath-making supplies. For those not interested in a DIY wreath, Dalou Farms sells ready-made and custom wreaths measuring from 22 inches up to 4 feet, and has even created one 10-footer.
“We will make a wreath that you would like to have,” Barden said. “If you like a particular wreath but you want a different color bow, we will change that out while you wait.”
The farm also has pre-cut and cut-your-own Christmas trees, opportunities to tag your tree now and cut it later, and free coffee and donuts for customers.
For information, call 938-2955 or visit daloufarms.com.