Made a Fern Wreath

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, May 29, 1913:  I was very much disappointed this morning. I had planned where to go tomorrow with a friend and then received a letter saying she couldn’t come. I made a wreath this afternoon and hunted up some wild ferns.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

It’s upsetting when friends cancel—but at least Grandma came up with a fun activity that hopefully took her mind off her disappointment.

Have you ever seen a fern wreath? I don’t think that I ever have and can’t quite picture what it would look like.  How long would it last?

A hundred years ago Memorial Day was celebrated on May 30, so Grandma may have made the wreath to take the cemetery for the upcoming holiday. I’ve always purchased wreathes to take to the cemetery.  How did people make them years ago?

25 thoughts on “Made a Fern Wreath

  1. Isn’t it odd to think of letters as being the only way of communicating with others?
    Do you suppose she made the wreath out of ferns…? Maybe she made a wreath…and then went to hunt wild ferns…? But I don’t know what you do with wild ferns.
    Details, Grandma! We need details!

    1. It’s amazing how the ways people communicate their routine plans and schedules have changed over the past 100 years. It’s gone from mail being the main way. . . to telephones .. . to emails . . . to text messages. And, I have no clue what role somethiing like telegraphs would have played in conveying important news a hundred years ago.

  2. I also wonder if the ferns and the wreath are connected. Maybe the ferns were put together with some flowers.

    1. I reread the diary entry after reading Dianna’s and your comments. I think you are right–making the wreath and hunting ferns were two separate activities. I suppose I should go back and revise my post, but I probably won’t. 🙂

    1. I don’t think that I read the entry correctly. It’s wonderful to have a few extra sets of eyes look at the diary entry and help me interpret it.

  3. I love that she got a letter. Seems you’d have to plan better back then, that you would have to know that you couldn’t go a week before the event so that there would be enough time to send a letter. It’s not like today where one could send an email or text in the morning!

    1. One thing that has surprised me when I read old letters is how quickly people seemed to get letters (and how dependable the mail service seemed to be back then). I have a one side of a letter conversation which suggest that the original letter was written on a Monday; the recipient received it on Tuesday and responded on Wednesday; the original letter writer got the response early in the day on Thursday and responded later in the day; and the recipient got the second letter of the week on Friday.

      My understanding is that until the early 1950s, mail in towns was delivered twice daily. And, that there were post office cars on some trains back then–so mail was sorted as it was being transported. Letters going between spots along the rail lines could get delivered quite quickly.

  4. Googled “images for fern wreath” and was astonished by all the creative wreaths that came up! I’m sure some of them are silk ferns, but there must be some real ferns in the collection.

    It’s disappointing when plans have to be canceled – but the sooner we know about it the better. I’m glad the letter came the morning before the plans instead of the day of the plans.

    1. Wow, after I read your comment I also googled fern wreath, and was amazed at the beautiful wreathes that popped up. After reading some of the other comments, I decided that I’d probably read the diary entry incorrectly and that making the wreath and collecting ferns were two separate activities. Now I’m not so sure.

  5. I have hunted for wild ferns with my friend. They can be transplanted and will thrive in a shady garden. Perhaps that’s what your grandma was doing – collecting specimens for the home garden.

    1. You might be right. Ferns look lovely in shady spots, and it makes sense that someone on a farm would find some wild ferns and transplant them rather than buying them.

  6. mmmmm, it’d be interesting to see what that looked like. I had a lot of these in the shade at the lake. They were great to stand in a narrow vase with a tiny bit of water. They’d last for days. I don’t know about a wreath though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s