Why Use Christmas Foliage in Your Home

Two plants closely linked to Christmas festivities are the holly and ivy. They even have their own well known Christmas carol collected by the great folklorist Cecil Sharp. Martyn Loach examines why their foliage is used over the festive season.

Created by Martyn Loach on Thursday, 1st of January, 1970.
Updated on Thursday, 3rd of September, 2015.


holly

It's no coincidence that they are both evergreens and no surprise that they have been used as Christmas decorations for many centuries. Particularly at Christmas, evergreens are used as a symbol of life existing even in the bleak mid-winter and their symbolism dates back to pagan times, well before the Victorians invented modern day Christmas.

Ivy

Ivy is the great survivor and can live through the coldest weather. Usefully, it also has connections with Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and pleasure. Holly played an important role in the Roman festival of light, Saturnalia, that celebrated the winter solstice (December 25 using their calendar) and the coming of the new year.

So you can easily see why the holly and ivy were linked to Christmas when paganism was replaced by Christianity. Especially as holly was also related to Christ's crown of thorns and its red berries to his blood.

Mistletoe

Mistletoe is another plant with a pagan past. Parasitic by nature, it is normally found on apple trees but was especially venerated by the Druids if they discovered it dining out on oak. Also, as a symbol of fertility, it may have been the pagan equivalent of internet dating. That's if the modern day activity of stealing a kiss under it has much history (it was first mentioned in print in 1820).

Holly

Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe together with other evergreens such as pine and laurel are now widely used in wreaths and swags, hung on your front door to offer the promise of renewal in spring and also peace and goodwill. The more decorated ones also feature pine cones and berries, even dried fruit – not to mention fairy lights.

Leaving paganism aside, Christmas bulbs can always be relied on to bring colour and scent into the house. Hyacinth bulbs are the most popular, plant in September and put the bowl in a cool, dark position. Once you see shoots coming through move to a lighter position but not full sunlight and away from radiators. Other than hyacinths, why not try daffodils, amaryllis or Lachenalia or the gorgeously scented lily of the valley.

Poinsettia

King (or queen) of the Christmas plants must be the poinsettia. Enormous numbers are produced for the Christmas market and they are even more popular in the United States where there is a national poinsettia day on 12 December. The attractive dark green foliage underpins beautiful dark red bracts (other colours are available but red outsells all others at Christmas).

The sad fate of most of them however is the bin, but without too much trouble the plant can be kept for another, perhaps not so good, show the following Christmas. All you have to do is allow the plant to slowly dry out in the spring and prune back hard. Re-pot and place out of direct sunlight. Feed weekly, keep warm, and in November alternate between 12 hours of natural light and darkness.

Related Articles

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Arthur Terry Winter Concert

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Arthur Terry Winter Concert

Showcasing young musical talent, this year's Winter Concert at Arthur Terry School was an outstanding success and took place against the stunning backdrop of a Christmas Tree donated by GardenSite.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Thursday, 21st of December, 2017.

New Street Station Christmas Tree And Selfie Competition

New Street Station Christmas Tree And Selfie Competition

It was quite an honour for GardenSite to be asked to supply the Christmas Tree to Birmingham New Street Station this year, and to celebrate we're offering a Champagne High Tea to the winners of a seasonal selfie competition.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Tuesday, 19th of December, 2017.

Poinsettias Now Available From Our Garden Centre

Poinsettias Now Available From Our Garden Centre

With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.

Author: David Hall

Written by David Hall.
Published on Thursday, 8th of December, 2016.

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Hospice

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Hospice

Our garden centre has been part of the local community for over 60 years, so when one of our partners, David Coton, received a request to donate a Christmas tree to a nearby hospice, he had no hesitation in helping them out.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Wednesday, 7th of December, 2016.

comments powered by Disqus

RSS

View RSS Feed

Author

Martyn Loach

Editor in Chief

View Profile

Follow Us!

Recent Articles

What To Do In The Garden In January

What To Do In The Garden In January

Although the days are short and the view from our Garden Centre is frosty and overcast, Andy Taylor suggests various jobs that can be done in the garden during the month of January.

Author: Andrew Taylor

Written by Andrew Taylor.
Published on Friday, 29th of December, 2017.

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Arthur Terry Winter Concert

GardenSite Donates Christmas Tree To Arthur Terry Winter Concert

Showcasing young musical talent, this year's Winter Concert at Arthur Terry School was an outstanding success and took place against the stunning backdrop of a Christmas Tree donated by GardenSite.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Thursday, 21st of December, 2017.

New Street Station Christmas Tree And Selfie Competition

New Street Station Christmas Tree And Selfie Competition

It was quite an honour for GardenSite to be asked to supply the Christmas Tree to Birmingham New Street Station this year, and to celebrate we're offering a Champagne High Tea to the winners of a seasonal selfie competition.

Author: David Coton

Written by David Coton.
Published on Tuesday, 19th of December, 2017.

Garden Storm Damage And What You Should Know

Garden Storm Damage And What You Should Know

With Storm Caroline reeking havoc many people are likely to be contacting their insurance companies at some time regarding damage caused to sheds, greenhouses, fences and other garden property. Robert Hall explains how GardenSite.co.uk can help with an independent insurance quote and claim.

Author: Robert Hall

Written by Robert Hall.
Published on Thursday, 7th of December, 2017.