12/22/2012 7:00 AM
By Jane W. Graham Virginia Correspondent
SWANtON, Md. — The combination of Hurricane Sandy and a nor’easter hit the Pinetum Christmas Tree farm here with a vengeance owners Marshall and Cindy Stacy had never before experienced. Their Douglas firs, laden with over 20 inches of frozen snow were snapped in half by the high winds.
Cindy reports that they lost 3,000 Douglas firs and had to return 70 percent of the money they had been paid for the big trees that had been ordered for large display venues.
The Stacys are not ones to wring their hands in despair. Before he began the clean-up, Marshall told Cindy to collect all the greenery she wanted for her annual wreath making project. She did and started making wreaths. The result is a Christmas miracle in its own right, a case of given lemons, make lemonade.
Usually Cindy makes about 50 wreaths using three types of evergreens, a red bow and white pine cone. Ten days before Christmas this year she had made over 100 and the orders were still coming. She attributes this to the publicity her farm has gotten about their dramatic loss of trees, saying some are sympathy purchases. Whatever the reason, the wreath making was continuing.
“I’ve been real happy so many people have ordered them,” Cindy declared in a telephone interview.
Her Episcopal priest bought a dozen for his own home and hung some on the church doors as well. He also told their story in the church newsletter.
The Garrett County, Md. Christmas tree grower has gained a new name this year The Wreath Lady.
“I kind of like being known as the Wreath Lady,” she confided.
Cindy has her own wreath making room on the 370-acre farm where she and Marshall have grown Douglas firs for 43 years, specializing in big trees from 15 to 18 feet tall. The trees are valued at $500 each.
She said wreath making is labor intensive. She clips her own greens, using three different species of evergreen to make thick wreaths. She likes each piece to be six to seven inches long. She clamps the greens to metal rings that she orders in lots of 50. She has had to reorder twice this season. She uses a clamping machine that helps the work go quicker.
After the wreaths are made, she lays them on the floor to check for imperfections. There is always one place, it seems, where there is a thin place that looks like a hole in the greenery. There she puts a water-proof red velvet bow and a large cone from a white pine tree. These come mostly from South Carolina or she collects them in travels in Virginia and the Carolinas. She uses rings and bows made in the United States.
The Stacys have found a way to use their wreath making materials to help make the world a better place. They use residents from a nearby juvenile detention center to do some of the work on the farm and teach them to make wreaths. They have given the center a clamping machine like Cindy uses to help the youth make their own wreaths which they are selling to Maryland government offices. They also provide the greens to the center for the young people to use in making their wreaths.
The history of what has become the Christmas wreath, probably the most universal Christmas decoration after the beloved Christmas tree, can be traced to ancient Rome where wreaths were seen as symbols of victory. It is easy to see Cindy Stacy’s wreaths and her positive attitude in the face of disaster as a statement of victory.