Living Holiday Symbols

Monday, December 21st, 2015 by Jenny Watts
    • Primroses and pansies will add color to your flower beds and containers all winter.
    • Spring bulbs make lovely gifts for friends and relatives. They can still be planted now.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying during the dry spells with Liqui-Cop® copper spray to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees next spring.
    • Wind chimes make wonderful gifts that fill the air with music whenever the wind blows.
    • Check your nursery for stocking stuffers: kids’ gloves, watering cans, bonsai figurines, seeds and bulbs.

Living Holiday Symbols

December is a very special time of year. Food and gifts, music and lights, warmth and love surround us. The clans will gather and cherished traditions will be shared.

Some of our traditions go back centuries or even millennia. Two hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Druids used mistletoe to celebrate the coming of winter. They would gather this parasitic evergreen plant and use it to decorate their homes. They believed the plant had special healing powers. Scandinavians also gathered mistletoe and thought of it as a plant of peace and harmony.

The Christmas tree originated in Germany in the 16th century. It was common for the Germanic people to decorate fir trees, both inside and out, with roses, apples, and colored paper. It is believed that Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer, was the first to light a Christmas tree with candles.

The poinsettia is a relatively recent Christmas symbol. Mexican legend holds that these beautiful red flowers, thought to resemble the shape of the Star of Bethlehem, first grew miraculously for a poor child who wanted to bring a gift to the manger scene at the village church but did not have any money. They were introduced to the United States in the early 19th century by Joel Poinsett, the first United States ambassador to Mexico.

Representing immortality and seen as a good omen, holly was considered sacred by the ancient Romans and used as a gift during the festival of Saturnalia. Gradually, holly became a Christmas symbol as Christianity became the dominant religion. Because the holly leaf has sharp, pointed edges, it has come to represent Jesus’ crown of thorns with the red berries representing the blood He shed on the cross.

Jewish traditions give special importance to fruiting plants which gave sustenance to the people. Thus wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, pomegranates and olive trees have special significance. These are plants that come from the dry climate of the Mediterranean region.

Of course, many of the symbols that are part of our traditions at this time of year come from ancient Solstice celebrations. At the Solstice, with the days at last turning a corner towards spring, evergreen leaves long ago took on a special significance. Greenery brought indoors in the depths of winter became a symbol of continuing growth and rebirth. The Yule Log, traditionally oak, acknowledged the return of the sun, warmth and light and the long-burning log would bring good luck if lit on the first try.

This year as we gather together to celebrate the holidays and their symbols of hope and love, let us enjoy the light and warmth that we give to each other at this time and throughout the year.

Gifts for Gardeners

Friday, December 19th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Choose living Christmas trees now. Most will be able to be kept in their containers and used for one or two more years as a Christmas tree.
    • Stop peach leaf curl by spraying soon with copper sulfate to help prevent this disfiguring disease from attacking your trees next spring.
    • Clean up rose bushes by removing spent flowers and raking up old leaves, but wait until February for heavy pruning.
    • Feed the birds this winter and enjoy the pleasure of their company. Bird feeders come in many styles and make wonderful gifts.
    • Rhododendrons are hardy shrubs that are particularly beautiful in the spring when they bloom. Choose plants now when selection is the best.

Need Gifts for a Gardener?

When times get tough, many of us turn to practical gifts rather than luxury items. For the gardener on your list, there are many practical items that will enhance their gardening experience in the years to come.

Start with a nice pair of leather gardening gloves to prevent injury and chapped, rough skin; or flexible, rubberized cotton gloves that keep fingernails clean and hands dry. There are long-sleeved gauntlet gloves that protect from sharp thorns of roses or berry vines, and “Bionic” gloves made especially to offer people with arthritis a glove with comfort and flexibility.

Kneepads or a kneeler seat make weeding and planting less of a strain, without knee and back pain. The Garden Kneeler Seat can be used for kneeling in the garden and it has handles to help you get up and down. Or flip it over for a seat for resting or working in raised beds.

When it’s time to clean up the garden, there is no finer tool than a “Bos Bag”. This tough, self-standing, washable, tear resistant bag stands open for easy loading and folds flat for storage.

There are few tools more important to a gardener than a good pair of pruning shears. Felco has long been the leader in pruning shears with a dozen different models to accommodate large hands, small hands, lefties, or equipped with a rotating handle to reduce fatigue. Ratchet pruning shears may be just the ticket for light work or delicate hands.

And speaking of tools, the Hori-Hori Digging Tool is a traditional Japanese gardening tool that can be used for just about every kind of gardening, digging, cutting or weeding activity. The stainless steel knife blade is very sharp and concave shaped for scooping soil and other materials.

One of the most coveted garden tools is a good quality digging fork. Beautiful tools from England have a reputation for quality and durability, and are made to be used for a lifetime and passed on to the next generation.

Add a gardening calendar and you and your gardening friends can look forward to another great year of gardening pleasures. Ecology Action has produced a “2009 Garden Calendar” with a handy “things to do” list for each month. The “Gardening by the Moon” Calendar gives detailed timing for appropriate gardening activities, and the “Old Farmer’s Almanac” is a helpful and fun book to have on hand.

We wish you all a very happy holiday season, and hope we can help you be successful gardeners in the year ahead!