Balsam wreaths are made from the Balsam Fir trees called Abies balsama, which is a native fir to New England that only grows in the colder sections of the region and into the Canadian Maritimes. The needles are generally flat and the trees tend to grow close together; which slows the growth of the foliage giving it a natural pruned effect and a fuller branch. The balsam fir is known for its aromatic smell and is used in incense and potpourri.
There are certain times of the year when the Balsam fir tree is dormant and it will hold its smell and needles longer. That time is when the weather is cold, usually two nights at temperatures of 20 degrees F is a signal that the needles are “set”. This reason alone is why Balsam wreaths are only used in the winter time and have become a Christmas tradition.
Christmas wreaths are made from the tips of balsam fir tree branches. The tips are usually 12 to 20″ long. Sometimes the tips are broken into 2 or 3 pieces. Collecting these tips is called tipping. The tips are put together in bunches and wired onto a ring to make the Christmas wreath. A single-faced wreath means that the bunches of balsam are attached to only one side of the wreath ring. A double-faced wreath has the bunches of balsam built around both sides of the wreath. These wreaths are much fuller and much more desirable.
Another measure that is necessary for a quality wreath is that no tips can be harvested until the needles have “set”, this means we must wait until the night temperatures have been in the low 20’s for a minimum period of 5 consecutive nights. At this time, the balsam fir tree stops growing and goes into dormancy which causes the sap in the trees to go into the ground. This makes the needle’s pores form a waxy coating that covers the pores and needle’s surface. The cold also causes the needle sacs to contract, which helps hold the needles tight. This measure insures that our products do not shed their needles and last intact well past the Christmas season.