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, Barbecues, Celebrations And Holidays, Clocks, Events, Garden Furniture, Gardening, How To, Primrose.co.uk, Sail Shades

Top Bank Holiday Gardening Products

With the bank holiday weekend just around the corner, and the sun set to shine down on us, we’ve highlighted a handful of products perfect for your garden this August.

Firefly­™ Black Lampshade Heater with Beech Wood Effect Stand
So you’re relaxing in your garden, but the sun is starting to set and you start to feel a bit cool. A perfect solution is a patio heater. Not only are they stylish and cheap to operate, but they will keep you and your guests warm long into the night.

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Banquet™ Jamaica Masonry Charcoal BBQ
There is nothing better than serving up sausages on a BBQ for your friends, family or even yourself. What better feature for your garden than a masonry charcoal BBQ, ready to deliver you a delightful, authentic taste.

Wheel Metal Garden Clock by About Time
A brand new addition to Primrose’ clock range, this stunning clock will be the perfect focal point for your guests who need to tell the time. It’s very easy to lose track of time when you’re having so much fun.

Kookaburra™ Shade Sail Frame
Need a break from the sun? Perhaps you have had enough of putting a hat on. A shade sail frame, along with a shade sail can be set up almost anywhere, and fit a range of shade sail shapes and sizes to create an idyllic shady area.

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Tortola Nautical Outdoor Garden Hammock
For when you want to just laze and imagine you’re basking in the tropics of Hawaii, hoist up a hammock and shut your eyes, imagining the ocean is behind you. Read a book, listen to some music or just watch the clouds pass.

Outdoor Rugs and Carpets
Spread out for breakfast, lunch or dinner with this gorgeous all-purpose rug. Great for relaxing upon, or setting up picnic with the family, you don’t have to worry about an outdoor rug getting ruined.

Bruce the Bull Recycled Steel Cooler
What better way to keep your drinks cool than with a recycled steel drinks cooler. Bruce the Bull is a best seller, and it’s easy to see why. Ample space for beers, wine or soft drinks, and a stylish design.

No matter what you get up to this bank holiday weekend, we’d love to know so send us in your photos in the following ways;

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, Decoration, Events, Gardening, How To, Media, RHS

This week has seen the RHS Chelsea Flower Show enter its 104th year at its current Chelsea location, and it’s once again proved to be an absolute corker, with plenty of unique and stylish designs, an array of colourful flower arrangements and a competitive edge from the gardening community. If you have been fortunate enough to attend, you would have witnessed some wonderful displays , or perhaps you have been following the show on BBC.

Although there are still two days left (with the show finishing tomorrow), we’re here to highlight some of the best photos thus far from the show, with a small appearance from Prince William.

  1. To kick start this collection is the winner of the ‘Best Show Garden’ award, with this lovely garden created by Andy Sturgeon. Inspired by geological events over a number of years, this garden took 10 months  to design, and is a worthy winner.
    Best Show Garden - Andy Sutrgeon - RHS facebook(Photo taken from RHS Facebook)

  2. Another winning photo from Sarah Eberle (who has won more categories than any other designer at the show), winning ‘best Artisan Garden’. It resembles a tranquil garden area, that you could immerse yourself in on a warm summers evening. Best Artisan Garden - Sarah Eberle - RHS Facebook(Photo taken from RHS Facebook)

  3. The Chelsea Barracks Garden, designed by Jo Thompson, is a modern day triumph incorporating elements of the Barracks site next door to the Royal Hospital in Chelsea. With roses being heavily featured , assumingly with their links to British heritage, the bronze sculpture pays tribute to the Barracks’ former residents. The Chelsea Barracks Garden - Chelsea Barracks Site - RHS Instagram(Photo taken from RHS Instagram)

  4. This wonderful sculpture has been designed by Rosy Hardy, and forms part of her Brewin Dolphin Garden, entitled ‘Forever Freefolk’. Inspired by Freefolk, Hampshire and the industry of high security paper-making, this is Rosy’s first time making her own show garden at the show.
    Rosy Hardy Brewin Dolphin Garden - Sarah Cuttle(Photo taken by Sarah Cuttle)

  5. Perhaps one of those most British photos at the show this year, the Senri-Sentei Garage Garden designed by Kazuyuki Ishihara is a simplistic design, featuring a Mini and a colourful rooftop shelter. Even the average Joe could take inspiration from this design.The Sneri-Sentei Garade - Kazuyuki Ishihara - Jack Taylor(Photo taken by Jack Taylor)

  6. Our last photo for you is of the Royal couple Kate and William, observing the poppy (5000 of them) display surrounding the Royal Hospital in Chelsea on Tuesday. It is reported Kate said to Will ‘Babe, we’ve got loads of those’. Cute.Will and Kate 'Babe' 0 Express - PA(Photo taken by from express..co.uk)

Did you go to Chelsea this year? Did you follow the coverage on TV? Let us know!

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.

Current Issues, Flowers, Gardening, Gardening Year, George, Greenhouses, How To, Planting, Plants

How To Protect Your Plants Against Frost

Winter is coming… and bringing the obligatory cold snaps to test your garden over the chilly season. No one wants the flowers that they tended so well over the summer to be ruined, which is why we’ve put together a simple guide on how to protect your plants against frost. Give the following tips a go, and be sure to let us know how you get on!

1. Move delicate plants inside

Anything that you know won’t survive the cold, like tropical species or houseplants, make sure they’re indoors from around November time until the spring.

2. Keep an eye on the weather reports

You’ll want to know when a frosty night is imminent so you can prepare your garden that evening. Forewarned is forearmed!

3. Water the night before a freeze

Cold winds and dry air will deplete moisture in plants, so keep them hydrated by topping the ground up with water the night before a cold snap. Water can act as an insulator inside the plants and moist soil stays warmer than dry.

4. Cover young plants

Another task to do before a frosty night is to protect delicate shoots of bulbs growing outside. Cover them with cloches if you’re prepared – or upturned buckets and plant pots will do in an emergency!

5. Use a fleece blanket for delicate trees and shrubs

If you know your tree won’t take well to a chilly night, keep it wrapped up warm in a fleece blanket or roll of fabric. Use a frame to avoid damaging the branches, and be sure to cover all the way to the ground to hold in maximum heat.

6. Build a cold frame

Shelter potted plants together in a cold frame. You can buy one ready-made or construct one out of bricks and an old window for a lid. Be sure to ventilate it to avoid the buildup of too much heat or moisture.

7. Lay down some mulch

Insulate budding plants and shrubs with a layer of mulch. This will trap in the heat well and provide them with nutrients.

8. Relocate plants inside a greenhouse

If you’re lucky enough to have a greenhouse in your garden, it’s invaluable during frosty periods. You can simply move all your pots inside, or even plant within the greenhouse to be prepared for winter.

9. Watch out for morning light

After a frost, be careful not to expose you plants to strong sunlight straightaway. If they defrost too quickly, it can damage the cells inside.

Hopefully these quick tips will get your garden through the winter safely. Please share how you get on, and let us know if you have any more helpful advice.

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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