Needled evergreens like pines, firs, and spruces get most of the attention this time of year. However, broadleaf evergreens like holly also make an appearance during holiday festivities. In addition to providing some decoration for the December holidays, they are also great plants in the landscape. They can provide some winter interest with their colorful berries as well as food and shelter for our feathered friends.
Poinsettias are one of the most popular holiday plants with their bright color providing festive Christmas décor, but if you have ever been gifted a poinsettia or been tempted to purchase one due to their showy, colorful bracts (leaves), you know they aren’t the easiest plant to keep alive much past the holidays.
Along with evergreens and poinsettias, another sign that the holidays are approaching is the appearance of amaryllis in stores. Whether you’re buying them as gifts or for yourself, these relatively carefree plants are a great way to add a splash of color indoors.
As the calendar turns from October to November, toothy Jack-o’-lanterns start to look like deflated basketballs. This means millions of Americans need to dispose of billions of pumpkins. While many people toss these festive yet mushy winter squash into the trash, this adds an immense amount of organic material into the landfill. Typically, in a landfill, this material gets buried and rots in an environment devoid of oxygen, which creates the potent greenhouse gas methane.
There are many different stories as to how we came to celebrate St. Valentine. Some stories say Valentine was a priest that secretly wed young couples. Others say he helped Christians escape prisons before being imprisoned himself. Before being put to death, he wrote a love letter and signed it “From your Valentine,” which is still used to this day.
You know Dasher, and Dancer, and Prancer, and Vixon, and of course Rudolph from being a part of Santa’s trusty reindeer herd, but did you know that Santa isn’t the only one that is raising reindeer? It is thought that reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, were first domesticated around 5,000 to 7,000 years ago to attract wild deer so hunters could harvest them.
Wild and domesticated reindeer
Most wild reindeer are found in Norway, Finland, Siberia, and Greenland.
From evergreens and Poinsettias to holiday cacti and holly, we use a variety of different plants to adorn our homes and offices during the holidays. One plant we commonly hear about is mistletoe. Mistletoe has an interesting past, from an ancient symbol of fertility to somewhere to sneak a quick kiss. It also has a darker side as a freeloading parasite on trees.
Mythology and folklore
It is believed that the golden bough that allowed the Greek hero Aeneas to travel to the underworld was mistletoe.
Some of my fondest memories of Christmas growing up was venturing out to get a Christmas tree together as a family. Most of the time we just found a misshapen red cedar tree from our timber; however, when choosing a Christmas tree, ideally you want something that has good shape, color, and branch distribution. It is also important that the tree has good needle retention to last the entire Christmas season. Typically pine trees have the best needle retention followed by firs, and spruces have the shortest retention.