Tony Huxley's Xmas Compost Corner

Christmas!  A time for giving...And spending vast sums. We spend a surprisingly large amount on plants.  A decent tree can be eye-wateringly expensive. Then there are holly decorations and Christmas door wreaths, imported cut flowers for that special person, a poinsettia for the mother-in-law to kill before Easter. Finally, there's that last limp sprig of mistletoe that costs more than its weight in gold.

This wonderful season of Christian celebration is actually crammed full of pagan tradition and symbolism, and mistletoe is the perfect example.  

MisletoeGreeks used it as a cure for fits; Celtic druids used it in fertility potions that required the slaying of two white bulls. In Viking mythology Loki used a mistletoe-tipped arrow to slay Balder, the Norse god of love and forgiveness. Our present day tradition of the Christmas kiss is attributed to the English serving classes and became widely accepted in Victorian times.

Mistletoe's parasitic nature makes it an oddity and it is often hidden high up in tree canopies obscured by its host's foliage. In fact, mistletoe is only partially parasitic as it does photosynthesise, but it still puts a heavy, sometimes fatal demand on its host. But carefully managed it can make an attractive and interesting addition to the garden. Grow your own kits are available online. If you can find some fresh ripe berries you could try it yourself. Push seeds into cracks in the bark of a suitable donor tree: apple; oak; lime and poplar are some of the most common hosts. Some say you should slit the bark and insert the seeds underneath. Either way don't expect home grown kisses too soon, it can take several years before the fruits of your labours show.

In the meantime make sure you put that over priced sprig you bought to good use and have a wonderful Christmas.

p.s. Do kiss responsibly as you never know where it can lead! Statistically more babies are born in late September, nine months after the Christmas period, than any other time of the year. Maybe the Druids were right, just with less of the bull!

Tony Huxley