Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Our family tradition when I was little was to take a Sunday drive in the country, leaving West Philadelphia for the rural atmosphere of Rosemont Pa, hunting for 'The Bittersweet Man'. He stood by the big curve on Montgomery Avenue, arriving in late September, selling bunches of bittersweet and Japanese lanterns. He'd remain for a few week's then disappear until the following year.
My Mother had a pottery pitcher with a shiny brown glaze that was the only container she'd ever use for the orange berries. Now I insist on cutting my own bittersweet every fall, from the roadsides in PA, NJ, NY or my favorite place, a certain backyard in Ipswich MA. Yes I know it's an invasive scourge to many people, but I'm actually doing a community service when I cut stems when the shells are bright yellow, just before the berries, open to bring indoors.
These days I often make
a simple wreath with the
stems. Here's how.
1.Cut stems in full berry,
three to four feet long.
2.Take one stem and
wrap it around itself,
tucking in the end. Now
you have the base of
the wreath. Even a six
year-old can do it with-
out help.
3.Take another stem and
weave it in and out
around the circle. Tuck
in any small branches
that jut out.
4.The trick is to harvest
the stems just before
the berries open, mid
September around New
York City, second week in October around Ipswich, and make the wreath the same day you pick the stems. That way you'll have almost no droppage of berries. Hang the wreath indoors in a spot that doesn't get brushed against, or on a door that doesn't get slammed. Prop on a shelf, or lay flat on a coffee table out of reach of the dog's tail. Lucy is very proud of her wreath, and I'm proud of mine.

I'll keep it until just after Thanksgiving on my coffee table (top of the post) then replace it with something else; but my little yellow pitcher with extra stems, sitting on a shelf in the bathroom, will stay until spring.


Shady Gardener said...

My husband wanted to plant bittersweet on our little prairie area. He specifically asked for American Bittersweet... however, three plants (purchased at a nursery) have turned out to be Oriental Bittersweet. Much more invasive. I think that is what you might have... berries alongside all the stems instead of at the ends.

Ellen Spector Platt said...

Yes Shady, I too once ordered American and got the other which grew up the side of my barn to the roof before I realized what I had and chopped it down. Now there's more than enough for me to cut by the roadside. When I'm traveling, I usually carry a pair of clippers in whatever season for 'flower emergencies'.

Shady Gardener said...

Hi Ellen and Ellen, ;-) I'm inviting you to visit me sometime tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon for a little surprise. Be persistent, as you'll have to go all the way to the end of the post! ha.

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