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Deck the halls - can you name 10 of the most festive plants at Christmas time?Plants form some of the strongest icons of Christmas. There are many festive characters that can be disputed, (Santa does exist of course) but others lie at the roots of December's festivities. Let's look at some of the most popular.
Holly and IvyWhat would we do at Christmas without holly and ivy? These have been used since pre-Christian times to celebrate the turning of time. They mark the passing of the shortest day of the year. The winter solstice festival has long been an opportunity to acknowledge the darkest days, appreciating that lighter times will follow. Bringing evergreen foliage indoors celebrates life and reassures people that new growth will soon be sprouting. The prickly leaves of holly represent the crown of thorns that Jesus is said to have worn during the crucifixion and the berries are said to be like the drops of his blood. Holly was once thought to be a male plant, with ivy being the female. The two were therefore bound together in a wreath, and some say that the ivy clings in a way that people should cling to the message of god for support.
LaurelOf course, the laurel wreath symbolises victory and at Christmas it suggests that god has triumphed over the devil. Whatever its religious connotations, laurel is a great evergreen for decorating the home during the festive season. At a time when new growth is rarely abundant, evergreen plants are the stalwarts of the garden and bringing them into the home reminds everyone that spring is coming.
Conifers, including fir and yewThese evergreens are invaluable. The Christmas tree itself is generally a type of fir. But what is a fir tree? It describes Abies, a genus of more than 50 species of coniferous trees. Norway spruce, or Picea abies is the basic Christmas tree but there are plenty of others including the silver fir, Abies alba, the Nordmann fir, Abies nordmanniana, and the noble fir which is Abies procera. They make great little trees for decorating! But beware, if you buy a rooted tree and then plant it in the garden, it is likely to eventually grow very, very large.
MistletoeWe all know what you are meant to do underneath it, but do you know why? The story of the kissing bough or bunch probably dates back to a Norse legend which tells how the son of a goddess was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe. His grieving mother, Frigga, wept tears of white berries and they brought her son, Balder, back to life. Frigga therefore blessed the plant and promised that all who passed under it would kiss from that day onwards.
RosemaryYou might not realise that this aromatic herb was thought to have been the virgin Mary's favourite plant. People believed that rosemary could protect them from evil spirits. It was the main garnish for use with wild boar and this was the Christmas meal served most commonly at banquets during the Middle Ages. It was often known as the friendship plant and the remembrance herb to help people remember the birth of Jesus.
Christmas decorations, often being sprayed with gold and silver and placed within table decorations and wreaths. But did you know that the things that people call pine cones are not always from pine trees? All conifers produce cones. It is at the heart of their name and their way of reproducing.Pine cones are used in
Conifers produce both male and female cones, sometimes on the same tree and other times on separate trees, depending on the tree species. Each cone contains multiple seeds that are released when mature. Pine nuts come from the pine cones of pine trees and these are quite difficult to extract. Around 20 different pine trees produce seeds which are deemed large enough for harvesting. Most pine seeds are edible but too small to be worth the effort on a commercial basis.