Meet the Maker: Jessica Giovanatto

A local florist leans into the holiday season with artful wreaths of foraged greenery.

November 22, 2019 | | Made in the Hills

There’s an old woodstove in the closed-in porch where florist Jessica Giovanatto creates handmade holiday wreaths. Her father, Walter, bakes bread in the box and roasts chestnuts on top – as if the table strewn with spruce and cedar boughs, and peppered red with rosehips isn’t seasonal enough.

Florist Jessica Giovanatto holds one of the rustic, handmade Christmas wreaths she makes in her year-round workshop – the closed-in porch at the Caledon farm where she grew up. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Florist Jessica Giovanatto holds one of the rustic, handmade Christmas wreaths she makes in her year-round workshop – the closed-in porch at the Caledon farm where she grew up. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Jessica, who started her business, Twine and Tendril, in May 2018, threads forest-green wire through a grapevine wreath base. From there she lashes on fresh-cut greenery with more carefully concealed wire. The emerging wreath looks both organically tossed together and intentionally assembled.

“My style is very natural,” she says. “It’s inspired by what grows around here.”

There are no bright baubles or glitter on the table. Any colour flourishes – mostly rosehips and winterberries – have been found on this 10-acre Caledon property where she grew up.

Jessica picked up most of her skills from her mother, Sue, a passionate hobby gardener who helps her daughter forage and grow plants. Jessica is also taking an online floral design course through the New York Institute of Art and Design. Much of what she’s learned has been by trial and error: “If I see a texture, foliage or berry I like, I test it out and see how it holds up in a design.”

After studying early childhood education, Jessica travelled for a few years, working as a nanny and coming home summers to work as a gardener. She still manages properties around Caledon, and launched Twine and Tendril by offering wedding arrangements. (She’s currently planning her own wedding in August 2020 to fiancé Dave Fuller, admitting, “You should see my Pinterest board.”)

For her Christmas creations she’s never short of boughs from inside and outside her family’s fences. Friends will give her a heads up when Hydro One is trimming evergreens nearby. One exception – she purchases fragrant eucalyptus, drying it to a pale green that pops against all that boxwood, pine, juniper, hemlock, cedar and spruce. Those evergreens are the stars of the season. “I’ve always loved Christmas,” says the new mother of baby Finn, born October 4. “We have a huge Christmas tree party every year with family and friends. We all go to a tree farm and come back and make gingerbread houses and cookies.”

Jessica now lives in Grand Valley and commutes to her childhood home where her parents still live. Come winter, the enclosed porch is just warm enough for her to work. When the stove really starts to pump out heat, she’ll keep the greens outside, bringing in only enough for her current project.

Turning to the wreath before her, Jessica lays down a cluster of juniper over the base, then spruce and more juniper. Next are rosehips, with stems long enough to bobble over the branches like flourishes on a fascinator. “I’m not really a neat worker,” Jessica confesses as she surveys the castoffs that piled up while she was absorbed in creation.

The shells of milkweed pods, dried astilbe heads and amaranth tassels are other touches she favours. Sometimes she adds dried orange slices that hold the wintry light. She fastens conifer cones on last. In some cases, she leaves parts of the base exposed, for those who prefer a minimalist look, but her bestsellers are full, traditional wreaths.

Jessica uses green floral wire to attach foraged branches and berries to a grapevine wreath base. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Jessica uses green floral wire to attach foraged branches and berries to a grapevine wreath base. Photo by Pete Paterson.

Does restricting herself to what she can forage nearby limit her creativity? She doesn’t think so, and watching her in action, it certainly seems not. “I get inspired by what I’m using,” she says. “I let the materials lead the design process.”

And it doesn’t hurt to have Christmas music in the background and the kettle burbling on the woodstove.

More Info

Jessica’s wreaths are $30 to $100, depending on size. Her wreaths and arrangements will be available at the Holiday Treasures show at the Museum of Dufferin. You can also find her via Instagram @twineandtendril.

About the Author More by Elaine Anselmi

Elaine Anselmi is a freelance writer who lives in Erin.

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