Monday, December 05, 2005


Today, We want to share 2 interesting & informational
articles for this Holiday Season.
Happy Holidays
~Bluegrass Gardener


Giving gifts this holiday season doesn't have to be a challenge or struggle as it is for many of us. Just think gardening, and you'll come up with ideas for gardeners and even non-gardeners.

For the non-gardeners, there are garden-related gifts either functional, beautiful, or both. Potted tender bulbs such as paperwhites and amaryllis just need water to grow and bloom. A floral piece of jewelry or bouquet of flowers might be welcome.

Non-gardeners who like the outdoors might enjoy a garden bench, comfortable outdoor furniture, or wind chimes. If a cook, consider giving an apple corer, apple peeler, cider press, juice extractor, or food dehydrator.

If the person likes birds, consider giving a new or different bird feeder, a heated bird bath, scope for bird watching, or crafted hummingbird feeder for next year. Or perhaps they would enjoy a membership in a non-profit bird group, such as FeederWatch run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (

There are special gifts you can give that are hired and done by a specialist. This might include an aerial photo of someone's garden at peak season. Landscapers can provide a detailed plan for the redesign of someone's garden. Or some might be hired as an expert-for-a-day. A woodworker might craft a birdhouse designed as a miniature replica of someone's house!

You might even give a share in a CSA (Community Support Agriculture). These are local programs, often run by non-profit groups, which you help support, and in return you get a share of the produce grown.

Give a gift of your time in the form of a coupon. Make the coupon for such activities as spring transplanting, weeding, watering, mowing, and raking. You might include a coupon for delivery of compost. Most might enjoy a coupon to see a spring flower show. And for the gardener with tired muscles, perhaps a coupon or gift certificate for a massage!

Gifts from your garden include ones you or others craft or cook. You might put together a recipe book with pictures from your garden. You can make, or buy at craft shows, homemade fruit sauces, jams, jellies, or dried herbs for dips and cooking. Herbal vinegars can be put into decorative bottles. Other herbs such as lavender can be put into sachets to freshen drawers and linen, and hops into sleep pillows.

Crafts include grape, balsam, and hopvine wreaths. Bookmarks can be made with pressed flowers and leaves from your garden. Some crafters even make items such as lampshades from your garden flowers. Ornaments can be made from milkweed pods, pine cones, and dried flowers and plant parts.

Many gifts can be found that make gardening easier. Clothing items include cotton gloves with vinyl coating for use in wet soils, or a gardening apron or tool belt. There are belt holsters for pruners, or even for the cordless or cell phone!

Tools with thick cushioned grips, pruners with swivel handles, longer handles, and bent handles are all tools designed ergonomically for ease on the body. Knee pads, kneeling pad, or a kneeling seat might be useful.

Watering may be easier with better quality brass fittings and couplings, water breakers, and high quality water nozzles. Watering devices include quite decorative ones such as frogs and brass designs. Then there are the automatic watering timers.

Don't forget the weather. Rain gauges run from inexpensive plastic, to decorative brass, to wireless remote digital ones with memory! There are rain stations that monitor several climate factors. Even a simple and inexpensive minimum-maximum thermometer can be useful and fun.

You can get more ideas at full service garden stores, mail order catalogs either in print or online, and even at fall craft sales. If still confused, can't decide, or the person seems to have everything already, how about a gift certificate to their favorite gardening supplier?

article courtesy of:
Dr. Leonard Perry,
Extension Professor
University of Vermont



The holly and the ivy, mistletoe, and laurel are greens (plants or plant leaves) we see everywhere over the holidays. Their use, and traditions associated with their use, dates back hundreds of years. All were signs in winter of hope and rebirth to come.

The laurel with its wide, dark green leaves that are spicy-fragrant when crushed, is native to the Mediterranean. Before cut greens began to be used, the Romans would bring potted laurel trees indoors during winter. More important than their value for decorating was the belief that these plants sheltered gods of growth and rejuvenation. By having laurel indoors, it was believed one could tap into these godly powers.

The Romans first, and later the Christians, began to deck their halls with boughs of holly as it was believed to have protective powers. It was often hung on doors to chase away evil sprits, or else to catch them with the prickly leaves. The Romans also considered holly sacred, a good omen, representing immortality, and sheltering elves and faeries. This latter belief may have come even earlier from the Teutonic tribes to the north. Romans gave holly for gifts during the festival of Saturnalia-- a week-long party based partly on earlier Greek and Egyptian solstice festivals.

The early Christians in Rome decorated their homes with holly as well, and it gradually became a Christmas symbol as Christianity became the main religion. To the Christians, the holly with its prickly leaves represented the crown of thorns on Jesus, and their red berries the blood he shed.

The song "The Holly and the Ivy" has its roots in an English tradition from the Middle Ages. The soft ivy was twined around the more prickly holly in arrangements. Not only was this for aesthetic purposes, but the holly symbolized males and the ivy females, and their combination a good-natured rivalry between the two.

The use of ivy as a decoration once again dates back to Roman times, when it became associated with Bacchus--the god of good times and revelry. It symbolized prosperity and charity, and so for early Christians was used during Christmas-- a time to celebrate good times and to provide for the less fortunate. If ivy was growing on the outside of houses, it was thought to prevent misfortune. If it died, though, this was a sign of approaching financial problems.

Mistletoe occupies a fascinating place in the folklore of many early culture, especially those of northern Europe, Scandinavia, and the British Isles. A botanical curiosity, mistletoe is the only complete plant that is a true parasite, often killing the hardwood tree it infests. For this reason, it was credited with magical properties by ancient societies and held sacred.

The Druids made great use of the plant in celebrations. In a ceremony held five days past the New Moon following the winter solstice, Druid priests would climb an oak tree and cut down the mistletoe. Crowds below would catch it in outstretched robes, as even a single sprig hitting the ground would bring bad luck. Catching it, on the other hand, was believed to bring fertility for animals.

In ancient Scandinavia, mistletoe was believed to symbolize peace. If enemies happened to meet under trees with mistletoe, they would disarm and call a truce for the day. With our images of rough Norse soldiers, this paints an interesting and seemingly unlikely picture!

Mistletoe also grows in the warmer climates of this country, and was used as medicine by the native Americans. Also known as "allheal", they used it to treat dog bites, toothache and measles.

So where does the custom of kissing under the mistletoe come from? Many believe it is an English custom, which dictates that after each kiss, one of its white berries must be plucked from the bunch and discarded. When the berries are all gone, the kissing must stop. Needless to say, bunches with many berries were highly sought.

The custom of kissing dates back much further though, once again to Scandinavian mythology. An arrow made of mistletoe killed Balder, the son of Frigga who was the Norse goddess of love. Her tears, falling on the mistletoe, turned into white berries. In her sorrow she decreed that mistletoe would never again be used for death, but rather for love. Whomever should stand beneath it should receive a kiss.

It was perhaps during the Victorian era in America that the fir and pine we commonly use today became popular. These, together with hemlock, yew, bay, and the more historic greens, were made into lavish arrangements. Another tradition of the 19th century was to use these to form wreaths, stars, and crosses to decorate graves at Christmas. These greens were later brought home to enjoy through the rest of the winter, just as we do now during the holidays.

article courtesy of:
Dr. Leonard Perry,
Extension Professor
University of Vermont

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