Celebrations And Holidays, Christmas, How To, Zoe

Real Christmas Tree

With the arrival of frosty mornings and Christmas songs on the radio, now is the time to consider what type of Christmas tree you want this year. Artificial trees are great value for money as they can be re-used for years to come, however many people still prefer the aroma and natural look of a real tree.

If you need a helping hand with spotting the perfect spruce or fir, here’s a comprehensive guide on picking the perfect natural tree to fill your home with festive joy all the way to New Year.

Which Christmas Tree?

Firstly, you need to decide what kind of Christmas tree you want this year, here’s a lowdown on the different types available.

Norway Spruce – This type of tree is often regarded as the traditional Christmas tree. It is pyramid in shape with mid to dark green needles, and is an affordable option. However, they tend to drop a lot of needles in an indoor environment.

Nordmann FirThis type of tree is often a very popular choice due to its strong branches and soft needles. It doesn’t tend to drop as many needles, and has dark green foliage.

Blue SpruceSimilar to the Norway Spruce, the Blue Spruce has stiff needles, but has a slight blue hue in the foliage. It is an elegant choice with better needle retention.

Fraser FirAlso a pyramid shaped tree, with soft foliage. This tree tends to be best for limited spaces as it is generally narrow with denser foliage.

Once you’ve decided which tree will best suit your home, you get to do the fun part of picking the tree! This can be a fun activity for the whole family to visit your local tree farm and get into the festive cheer.

Healthy Christmas Tree

Our Top Tips for Picking the Best Christmas Tree

  • If you’re able, try to visit a tree farm where you can pick a tree that’s still in the ground. This is preferable as this tree is likely to last much longer than a tree that’s been cut a while ago.
  • Measure! Before you leave your house to start your adventure remember to measure the space where you want to place the tree. And remember to leave a few inches at the top of the tree for a star/angel.
  • Before you leave the house, cover the floor where you want your Christmas tree to be. This will not only help to protect your floor but also absorb any water spillages once you start to water your tree.
  • Bring gloves with you to the tree farm. This is so the needles do not hurt you when you transport the tree home.
  • Now for the fun part…picking the tree! You want to look out for a tree with a bright, even colour throughout. This means it is healthy and happy.
  • Check the needles – give the tree a gentle shake and see how many needles fall. A little fall of needles is normal, but if there’s a lot it might be past its sell by date.
  • Another way to check the needles, especially with a Fraser or Douglas Fir, is to break off a needle and bend it in half. If it snaps that’s a good sign, if it is bendy that means the tree has been there a long amount of time.

Aftercare

Remember our tips and you’ll find the perfect Christmas tree this year!  Keep your eye out for our blog on ‘How to Care for Your Real Christmas Tree’ to keep it looking fantastic all through the festive period, coming soon!

Zoe at PrimroseZoë works in the Marketing team at Primrose, and is passionate about all things social media.

After travelling across Europe and Asia, Zoë is intrigued by different cultures and learning more about the world around her. If she’s not jet setting, Zoë loves nothing more than curling up with a good book and a large glass of red wine!

She is an amateur gardener but keen to learn more and get stuck in!

See all of Zoë’s posts.

Christmas, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Jorge, Planting, Plants

There have been a number of new trends in Christmas plants, where gardeners have sought to brighten up their gardens and homes with new exotic varieties. Our traditional roster of Christmas plants consists primarily of evergreens that can subsist in Northern Europe’s cold winters. These plants – coloured green, red and white – are often shrubs with berries. Now, plants brought in from further afield include hardy winter-flowering plants suited for Europe’s climate and other ill-suited plants to be grown indoors.

Christmas Cactus

new christmas plants
The Christmas cactus originates from the Brazilian rainforest and is related to Christmas only inasmuch as it flowers from late November to early January. A competitor to the Mexican poinsettia, the plant also blooms in pink, red and white but has a long life span. Grown as a houseplant, it is vulnerable to temperatures below 10°C although it is relatively easy to grow. As a cactus, it is necessary to give the plant a resting period after it flowers through watering only so it does not dry out. Interestingly, as an epiphyte the plant can grow harmlessly on other plants.

Christmas Rose

The Christmas rose is a bit of a misnomer for the plant is a helleborus, rather than part of the rose family, and often flowers from January to March as opposed to December. Brought over from the Alps, this hardy perennial is well suited to the temperate climate of the United Kingdom. The variety associated with the Christmas rose is the ‘Potter’s Wheel’ variety with its white petals and golden stamens. More recent popular varieties include the early flowering ‘Praecox’ variety that can flower for Christmas, and the ‘Snow Frills’ variety that is designed to flower from late autumn to early winter and is characteristic for robust double-flowers.

Hippeastrum

new christmas plant

Recently, the Hippeastrum has gained popularity as a Christmas plant. While the genus comprises of around 90 species, the most popular varieties resemble a six pointed star. Included in this is the ‘Double Delicious’ with its Christmassy bright red petals. Originating from the Caribbean and South America, it is necessary to keep the perennial indoors at Christmas, although can be left outside in the warmer months.

The Hippeastrum is sometimes confused with the Amaryllis. This confusion originates out a dispute between botanists over the taxonomy of two similar genera from different continents. Subsequently, it was decided that the plant in question – the plant from South America – should be labelled a Hippeastrum, while the plant from South Africa an Amaryllis.

Hyacinthus

new xmas plants hyacinth

Hyacinths are the indoor pot plant par excellence as they are leafless, fragrant and highly prolific at producing star-faced bells. As they usually flower in the spring, you will need to buy the special winter flowering varieties. They can be planted in September and October, although they are usually brought in once the temperature drops, and it is recommended that you transfer them to pots once they reach 4 to 5cm high. Particularly popular at Christmas is the ‘Pink Pearl’ variety with its two shades of pink.

Crocus

Crocuses may not be on everyone’s mind at Christmas as they usually come in yellow or purple and flower in autumn or spring, however there are winter-flowering varieties. Varieties sold include the white ‘Snow Bunting’ and others that are often hybrids.

Azaleas

azalea christmas plants

Recently Azaleas have been shaped into Christmas trees to provide a colourful companion to the Christmas tree (although they are probably best left in another room). Varieties chosen are in the colours of Christmas such as the bright red of ‘Andy Wery’ or the appropriately named ‘Koster’s Brilliant Red’.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Christmas, Gardening, Jorge, Plants

rosemary christmas plants

As to why the current roster of Christmas plants – holly, ivy, rosemary etc – exists is often unclear. Many of the plants’ hypothesised pagan origins aren’t well documented and it appears our current roster of Christmas plants are, in fact, a Victorian invention. What we do know is that our pagan ancestors were highly in tune with their environment and fascinated by the changing of the seasons. It is known that the winter solstice was celebrated, and it is likely wintergreen plants were venerated for their resilience and ability to maintain colour. As such, the origin of the plants of Christmas are often simply related to their physiology, or use in agriculture, rather than historical in origin.

Rosemary

Rosemary’s association with Christmas goes back to the Middle Ages when the herb was spread on the floor to be walked on as to fragrance the air. They did this in the belief that nice aromas were good for your health; in particular, smelling rosemary on Christmas Eve was believed to safeguard your health as well as promote happiness for the upcoming year. (Interestingly, one study showed that its aroma may in fact improve one’s prospective memory.) Today, the herb is also used to season our roast as well as decorate our houses and can be regarded as the quintessential Christmas herb.

Holly

traditional christmas plants holly

Like much that is customary at Christmas today, holly’s popularity was consolidated in the Victorian era when it featured on Christmas cards. Usage of the scrub goes back to Europe’s pagan era when it was used to decorate dwellings because it was viewed as an effective charm against witches and ill-fortune. With the emergence of Christianity, the shrub’s thorns and red berries would prove a perfect accompaniment to the religion’s imagery. The former representing the crown of thorns and the latter Jesus’ blood shed on the cross.

Holly also functions as a key source of nutrients for the woodland ecology in winter, in particular for small-berry eating birds such as the Mistle thrush. The plant is wintergreen and has the highest calorific value of any plants consumed by herbivores in the United Kingdom. Humans once managed the bush as to create protected holly enclosures called hollins or holms. They would harvest the plant by cutting off large chunks above head height and leave it to wilt as to create deer fodder. Until very recently, rural communities fed their ponies on a diet of wilted holly.

Ivy

Traditionally, ivy has been compared to holly as it was believed that the former is female and the latter male. In fact, both ivy and holly are dioecious and possess either male or female sex organs. As such, without a partner of the opposite sex, a lone plant is unable to seed. There are a number of myths documenting the special powers of this most adaptable plant at Christmas. In is known that as recently as the 1930s farmers would give their cows a sprig of ivy on Christmas day as to fend off the devil. It was also once believed that ivy could limit the negative effects of alcohol. Traditionally, ivy as well as holly, was utilised as a easily available material to create wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Mistletoe

traditional christmas plant mistletoe

It is often claimed that the custom “kissing under the mistletoe” has pagan origins, emerging from Norse mythology, or perhaps the Roman festival of Saturnalia. One story goes that Hoder slew his brother Baldur with a spear of mistletoe over the female Nanna. Another, is that the sexual license of festival of Saturnalia combined with the Celtic use of mistletoe, although, it must be mentioned that neither of these accounts are well documented.

Instead, the tradition may originate from the plant’s etymology and form. It’s Latin name is viscum album, with viscum meaning sticky and album white. The plants appearance – its forked branches, coupled leaves and white sticky juices – can be interpreted in different ways, perhaps to represent sexual organs. In all probability the custom emerged in the 18th century. One early reference occurs in Lady’s magazine in 1784. Another, in 1791, from the newspaper the Star, confirms this, reading: “a custom of kissing women under the Mistletoe bush still prevails in many places”.

Poinsettia

Poinsettias are from Mexico and subsist in warm tropical climates that we do not associate with Christmas. Ostensibly, a Mexican fairy tale links the plant to Christmas. It states that a poor girl’s meagre offering of weeds to Jesus on Christmas Eve magically evolved into poinsettias, giving the plant its Mexican name “flowers of the holy night”. In fact, their association with Christmas originates from a New York department store’s decision to sell the plant in the holiday back in the 1870s. In the early nineteenth century, the plant was brought to America by Joel R. Poinsett, from whom its English name derives.

Christmas Tree

traditional xmas tree

The Christmas tree originates from Strasbourg, Germany. It was here in the 17th century where the tree was first decorated and named after the Christian holiday. In the 18th century, the practice spread throughout Germany and was popularised by Goethe in his novel, the Sorrows of Young Werther. It spread to Britain with the German Prince Albert marrying Queen Victoria, and arrived in America with Pennsylvanian German immigrants. Although, its popularity was only consolidated after 1848 after an American newspaper carried a picture of Christmas tree.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Christmas, Flowers, How To, Jorge

how to care for a poinsettia

Poinsettias with their intense red bracts are a classic sign it’s Christmas. Originating from Mexico, and named after the United States’ Minister to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the world, they also come in cream, pink and white. The plant is difficult to maintain, but if looked after carefully can last until March and grow to an optimal height of 32cm. Here are our top tips to allow the plant to thrive.

Buy from a reputable supplier

Poinsettias are poorly suited to the British climate. It is recommended that you buy the plant from a company that has not stored the plant in cold conditions for an extended period of time. When transporting the plant be sure to keep it well protected, either wrapped in paper or in a suitable plastic bag. It is recommended that the foliage is also protected.

Maintain a constant temperature

how to look after a poinsettia

Poinsettias are used to warmer climates so it is necessary to keep the plant indoors at temperatures above 13C (55F). Even moderate exposure to the cold can harm the plant’s prospects so it is worthwhile transferring from the garden centre without delay. The plant is best left in a stable environment not liable to temperature fluctuations. As such it should be left in good light away from both draughts and direct sunlight. Aim for 15-18C (60-65F), but it is better for the plant to be slightly warmer than colder.

Water sparingly, but well

Too much water will damage the plant, so it best to water only once the compost begins to dry out and then water thoroughly. In addition, weekly feed of houseplant fertiliser should extend its longevity. Fertiliser with low nitrogen and high potassium works best.

Maintain humidity

how to grow a poinsettia plant

Creating a humid atmosphere is beneficial to the plant. The simplest way to do this is through misting which involves spraying the plant daily, although this method has its doubters. A more effective means may be to create a pebble tray. This simply involves placing the pot on a tray wider than the plant, with wet pebbles an inch or so deep. The water then will evaporate off the pebbles as to create humidity.

Don’t give up

Even severely wilted poinsettias can be rescued so make sure to give the root ball a good soaking with warm water before chucking it out. Revival should take place in matter of hours.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.