Invasive Valentine Vines, Air Plants, and Love.

I've said it before, and I'm sorry to repeat myself, but it's time for spring. I know I've no right to complain. After all, I'm only facing another cold, gray day. I'm not battling three-foot snow drifts, like our friends in the northeast. (I'm sorry if you're a friend battling snow drifts and reading this. Stay safe and warm!) Still, if spring doesn't come soon and I keep attempting indoor garden-themed crafts, I may not survive.

Honestly. You should see my blistered hands. I'd show you a picture, but then you'd see how desperately I need a manicure. (Also, as a side note: when did my hands get so wrinkled?)

The latest project began with a battle. A nasty, invasive jerk of a plant is trying to take over the garden. First, it creeped into the asparagus patch, trying to choke out my favorite spring vegetable. Then, it climbed up the heirloom apple trees, entwined into the raspberry bushes, and slithered throughout the forest. Its deceptively sweet fragrance and delicate blooms mask its murderous nature.

Japanese Honeysuckle @Garden Delights

Lonicera japonica. Japanese honeysuckle.

Honeysuckle's fragrance evokes happy memories. Childhood tricks of sipping sweet nectar from its blooms are passed along to our kids. Only now, it's rare to find native honeysuckle in our forest. The white-to-yellow flowers of the invasive species smother anything in its path. We yank and cut and pull, only to find it growing in new places.

Brought to the United States from Japan in 1906, it became a favorite among landscapers who wanted a lovely plant that could control erosion and stabilize banks. However, its fast growth habit and ability to out-compete native plants caused it to be listed as an invasive species. Not only does Japanese honeysuckle entice birds to spread seeds with its dark berries each fall, but the plant also reproduces vegetatively by underground rhizomes, as well as spreading aboveground with runners.

It's a beast to remove from a garden. And sadly, it's winning the battle in our forest.

Still, I refuse to give up. Last weekend, in a fit of invasive rage, I pulled, cut, pulled some more. Soon, I had a small pile of vines. I'd barely made a dent, and I was exhausted.

I'd been planning to make a Valentine's Day wreath, and now, armed with a pile of vines, I decided to test my crafting ability. Could this nasty invasive vine serve any practical purpose?

I'm not sure a Valentine wreath qualifies as “practical.” However, I originally planned to purchase a heart-shaped grapevine wreath, but I didn't find one at the store. I remember seeing a friend's photo of a rustic basket she created using vines from the forest, so I thought I'd attempt to make my own honeysuckle vine wreath.

How hard could it be?

Vines (any pliable, soft woody vines will work, such as grapes, honeysuckle, wisteria)
Raffia covered wire
Wire cutters
Tillandsia, also commonly known as air plants
Decorative elements (I used small wooden hearts, purchased at a craft store. They were originally painted red, but I painted them a pale, ballerina pink.)
Hot glue gun


Japanese Honeysuckle Vine Wreath @Garden Delights

The hardest part of creating the wreath involved harvesting the vines. Trying to pull the Japanese honeysuckle out by its roots is nearly impossible. I cut vines near the base, unwinding them from the trees and raspberry bushes. (It was NOT pleasant. A raspberry thorn remains in my right index finger, which makes typing tricky.) Because Japanese honeysuckle is evergreen, I stripped the leaves from the vines.

With a pile of naked vines on the floor, I gathered three vines at a time, trimmed them to a length of approximately four feet, and began winding them together. I repeated this step several times until I had six sets of vines. I then began twining the sets together until I had one, thick rope made of vines.

Japanese Honeysuckle Vine Wreath @Garden Delights

I cut 11 three-inch lengths of the raffia-covered wire and began making the heart shape. I started by joining the ends of the vines together to form a circle, bending the raffia wire over both sides to secure them into the heart's pointed bottom. Next, I approximated the center of the top of the circle, then bent it in half and downwards to make the “V” in the heart. I secured a wire on the bottom of the “V”, then placed a wire immediately on each side of the “V” to help keep its shape.

After the initial shape formed, I added pieces of wire on each side, spaced out to help keep the wreath's shape. I tucked stray broken ends and bits of vine into to the coils.

Valentine's Day Vine Wreath with Tillandsia @Garden Delights

Once you have the basic heart shape, you can decorate the wreath however you like. I'd been lusting over tillandsia for months, and I knew I wanted to incorporate these air plants into my Valentine's Day wreath.

Valentine's Day Vine Wreath with Tillandsia @Garden Delights

Tillandsia are the largest genus in the bromeliad family. They're found in warm climates—jungles, rain forests, deserts. By using their root system to attach onto a base, like trees or rocks, these epiphytes absorb moisture and nutrients through their leaves.

Air plants require bright light, good air circulation, and water. A sure death for a tillandsia is to plant it in soil—it will rot. They'll also produce beautiful flowers, given the right conditions.

I'm crossing my fingers for flowers.

Valentine's Day Vine Wreath with Tillandsia @Garden Delights

I tucked the plants' bases into gaps in the vine. Air plants can also be wired into place or even glued for stability. So far, they seem fairly stable, but we'll see what happens once the kids start slamming the door.

I'm not a huge, glittery, bigger-is-better decorating kind of girl. I'd purchased some pink ribbon, but it just seemed to be too much for this delicate wreath. Instead, I added a few pale pink hearts and glued them into place.

Valentine's Day Vine Wreath with Tillandsia @Garden Delights

And that's it.

For my first vine wreath making attempt, I'm pretty satisfied.

However, fair warning: wear gloves. Apparently, I'm allergic either to the honeysuckle vines or something that was near it. My fingers are covered in nasty little red blisters. (They just popped up this morning. Lovely.) I searched but didn't find anything conclusive about topical allergies to Japanese honeysuckle. Be careful if you're allergic to everything, like I am!

Seriously. I think it's time to give up crafting and start planting seeds. It's safer.

What's your favorite thing to do when you can't garden? Are you making any living Valentine's Day crafts? If you are, please share a photo of your project on the Garden Delights Facebook page.

Stay warm, friends.