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.

Amie, Current Issues, Gardening, How To, Plants, Ponds, Primrose.co.uk

The garden is our sanctuary, our area of peace, a place for personalisation, and with roughly 90% of households owning a garden, they’re a large part of Britain’s landscape. With over £4 billion spent annually on our gardens, they are unfortunately a prime target for thieves, with latest statistics showing roughly 1 in 7 households has an item stolen from their garden , and more gnomes (9.6% of thefts) being stolen than credit/ debit cards (8.2%). Only last month did someone have an elephant memorial (3ft brass ornament, chained and drilled to a post) stolen from their garden – it’s absurd the extreme lengths thieves go to.  Therefore, it’s more important than ever to prevent theft and we will show you some easy ways to do so.

Don’t put plants and ornaments in your front garden
One of the most common thefts are potted shrubs and trees from the front garden or door area, especially at night. Without a front gate or fence, it’s easy for passers-by to take them, and being fairly common, they’re even more tempting. So my advice is keep the plants and trees for your back garden, providing it’s secure. You can create a gorgeous front garden area without the need for plants (and gnomes).

Store valuable machinery and BBQs when not in use
It’s very easy for someone to enter your garden and remove an item, especially if not kept in a shed or outbuilding. For heavier items, it has been evident of people using machinery to remove such items. The best advice here is to simply lock all machinery and tools you have up, whether that be in your house or a shed. If possible, lock up the goods inside any outbuildings for extra precaution, and put a cover over them so potential passers-by can’t see what goods you’re storing.

Install security camera systems
Available for a reasonable low cost, CCTV and security systems are effective for two reasons; deterring and identifying. Many will be put off coming near your house if they saw a security system, with reports stating roughly 83% of burglars try to find out if there is a security system first. You could even be sneaky and put up a fake camera outside your house! If the unfortunate happens and you do experience a robbery, you have a greater chance of obtaining the thief with visual evidence.

Put up spikes (fence and thorny bushes)
Thieves like to climb over fences to enter the garden, especially if inaccessible from the front, so what better way to deter them than to give them a shock. Fence spikes are an easy, cheap solution which can be applied to fence tops, and are available in a number of colours (brown being a popular choice so it blends in with your fence).  Thorny bushes such as holly bushes are also a nuisance for thieves, but will require more time and maintenance.

Fence and Wall Spikes - Brown

Get to know your surroundings
This might seem a bit obvious (or perhaps inconvenient) but research the local area, especially if you are planning to move. Is there a high crime rate? Is it a hotspot for thefts? There are plenty of tools online to help research crime statistics and you can explore theft and crime in an area . Likewise, get to know your neighbours. If you are friendly with the locals in your area, they are more likely to keep an eye on your house.

Whilst the possibility of theft is ultimately low, it’s still better to safe than sorry. So follow these tips to ensure your garden is as safe as houses (excuse the terrible pun).

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

Amie also writes restaurant reviews on  Barnard’s Burger Blog.

Amie, Animals, Bird Baths, Celebrations And Holidays, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Herbs, How To, Mothers' Day, Planters, Plants, Primrose.co.uk

Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to show off your eternal gratitude to the one woman in your life who will always be there for you. Thanks to Primrose, there’s more to this day than just flowers and chocolates. We’ve compiled a list of gifts for the special woman in your life, to suit a range of budgets. With next day delivery available too, you can even afford to leave it until the last minute.

Carbon steel Weed Fork
Does your mother enjoy gardening? Is she eager to get out into the garden once the sun breaks through? If so, we’ve a great low cost solution with our weed fork. With an ergonomic grip, carbon material (lightweight yet strong) and a 5 year warranty, you can’t go wrong. She’ll be back out in the garden in no time at all, and it’ll be thanks to you.

LED Candles
Whilst the clocks are set to turn back at the end of March, there is still plenty of darkening evenings ahead of us. Considered a safe alternative (great if there are children in the household), with up to 48 hours runtime, LED candles are great for setting a mood, using as a table centerpiece or placed in the bathroom whilst enjoying an evening bath.

Herb Garden Windowsill Planter
Considered the perfect gift for a loved one (one of our best sellers), this beautiful herb planter will sit happily upon any windowsill or shelf. This planter contains three seed herb sachets and a dash of compost too, so this gift is ready to go as soon as it’s unwrapped. Or if you want to place your own message on one, we have a personalised option available also.

Bird Bath
The perfect gift for those who have a delightful presence of wildlife in their gardens, bird baths not only look great in your garden, but they actually keep birds hydrated.  With minimal effort to set up (you just need to fill with water), you can sit back and watch the birds flock to your garden, surrounding with the cheeky chipmunks on the bird bath body.

Planter
Add a stylish touch to your garden with our 4 tier solar water feature / planter.  Powered by the Great British sunlight, this requires minimum maintenance, and is both environmentally friendly and safe to use. The water cascades down the tiers, and your mum is free to personalise it with her own flower choice. Being self-contained, there is also minimal set up effort and easily  moved around.

Statue
Why not push the boat out, and treat your mum to this extravagant ‘Mother and Child’ statue. It would be a great addition to any garden, and can symbolise your love for one another. Consisting of mostly bronze, this statue will be the envy of your neighbours, and your mum won’t hesitate to show it off, especially with this generous price tag..

So there you have it. Plenty of options to choose from if you wish to break away from the tradition of flowers and chocolates. Don’t forget the date – Sunday 6th March.

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

To see the rest of Amie’s posts, click here.

Animals, Bird Baths, Garden Design, Garden Tools, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, Heated Clothing, How To, Planting, Plants

Gardening in Winter

When the cold winds blow and snow begins to settle on the lawn, it’s tempting to close the backdoor and spend the winter curled up by the fire. But if you’re an outdoorsy person then there’s no need to give up on the garden for a whole season every year. With our guide to gardening in winter you’ll find plenty of projects to crack on with before the spring, how to protect your plants against the cold and top tips for making the most out of your time outdoors.

Winter Gardening Jobs

  • Pruning. Some plants are best cut back and pruned over winter, such as roses, shrubs, fruit trees and deciduous hedges. This will encourage healthy new shoots to grow when the weather warms up again.
  • Cleaning. While the life in your garden is less demanding, it’s a good opportunity to sort out a bit of general maintenance. Hosing down your paths and patios will not only spruce them up, but also ensure they’re free of grime which could become slippery in the cold, damp conditions.
  • Checking for structural damage. If you have a greenhouse, conservatory or shed then winter is the best time of year to give them a good inspection. Most of the surrounding foliage will have died back, leaving a clear path to see any cracks in the frames or broken window panes. Fixing these now is crucial for protecting any plants inside from freezing draughts.
  • Ordering seed catalogues. Get prepared for the sowing season by choosing seeds and plants to buy. It’s a good time to sit back and plan how you might like to redesign your planting or reflect on which flowers grow best in your garden.
  • Cutting the lawn. You won’t need to mow the grass anywhere near as frequently as in the summer, but if the weather is mild it will need doing every now and then. The grass won’t grow as fast, so you can leave it longer than normal.

Winter Gardening Tips

  • Don’t compact the soil. During wintertime, the ground will likely be saturated from excess rain and freeze due to the plummeting temperatures. It’s best to avoid treading on the earth too much as you will compact the already dense soil, making it even more difficult to work in the spring. So try to step lightly when you need to go over it.
  • Maintain tools. There won’t be many labour intensive jobs to do in the garden over winter so it’s a good opportunity to show your tools some TLC. Oil any machinery that requires it and sharpen the blades of your trimmers and secateurs. Then you’ll be all set for cracking on when the frost thaws.
  • Keep watering. It’s easy to overlook watering your garden when the weather’s so rubbish this time of year. But it’s still important to go outside and give your plants a quick water every now and then, particularly if it hasn’t rained in a while. And don’t forget to water your indoor flowers too!
  • Plan ahead. Winter is a great time to plan your garden design for the coming year. Most of the plants and trees have died back, leaving the core layout of your plot clear. Take advantage of this by mapping out new paths or patios, or deciding where to put that new shed or greenhouse.

Trees in Winter

Winter Planting

  • Winter loving plants. Surprisingly, there are a few plants that defy nature and come into their own in the chilly months. Besides evergreen trees, these include witch hazel, winter jasmine, winter honeysuckle and viburnum. Add a few of these for a colourful flowerbed all year round.
  • Winter vegetables. If you have an allotment or kitchen garden, then there are plenty of hardy vegetables that will keep you going over winter. In early summer you can sow broccoli, leeks, winter cabbage and brussel sprouts, which are all capable of enduring the frost – and perfect for a Christmas dinner!
  • Frost protection. As any gardener will no doubt be aware, most plants don’t take well to frosty nights and freezing temperatures. There are many methods to protect your plants against frost, from cloches and fleece blankets to careful watering and layering mulch.
  • Indoor gardening. Perhaps the simplest way to get your gardening fix without having the brace yourself against the chill is by planting inside. Not all plants will grow well indoors, so make sure you do your research. Most plants will grow best in rooms full of light and insulated against draughts. For the most effective indoor growing, it may be worth investing in specialist lights and a grow room.

Winter Wildlife in the Garden

Wintertime can be harsh for animals in the wild. Food is scarce, conditions are icy cold and shelter is hard to come by. You can help out the creatures that come to your garden by providing a little assistance. For the birds, leave out extra food in your birdfeeder and keep your birdbath topped up with water – though make sure it doesn’t freeze. A tennis ball in there should do the trick. You can also plant berry bushes, which will provide a source of winter food and a place to shelter.
For other creatures, make sure there’s somewhere for them to bunker down and sit out the winter months. Simply leave out a pile of leaves or uncut grass for groundlings to nest in.

Bird in Winter

What to Wear Outside

Obviously the priority when gardening outside from November to February is keeping warm. Wrap up as much as you can with hats, gloves, scarves and coats, while allowing enough ease of movement to be able to get on with your digging and pruning. A great way to cut back on the layers while retaining the warmth is with heated clothing. You can use heat pads for your hands or even battery heated socks and gloves for long-lasting toastiness. Just make sure that you don’t spend too long outside at a time, especially if you’re feeling unwell. There’s nothing like a regular tea break to warm yourself up!

One Year Ends, Another Begins

So don’t let the cold weather and long nights dishearten you too much – there’s still plenty of opportunity to get outside and enjoy your garden in winter. From protecting the plants you’ve tended all year to planning new features for the next, winter is the perfect time for reflection and inspiration. Take a brisk walk through the grass before huddling up inside with a hot drink and admiring your garden through the window. Treat someone special to a book full of gardening ideas for Christmas. And most of all get ready, for spring will soon begin!

George at PrimroseGeorge works in the Primrose marketing team. As a lover of all things filmic, he also gets involved with our TV ads and web videos.

George’s idea of the perfect time in the garden is a long afternoon sitting in the shade with a good book. A cool breeze, peace and quiet… But of course, he’s usually disturbed by his energetic wire fox terrier, Poppy!

He writes about his misadventures in repotting plants and new discoveries about cat repellers.

See all of George’s posts.

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