• James Parry

The English Gardener Fascinating fun flora festive facts

With gardens in our region now carpeted in snowy white as of this past week, and with the clock ticking down to Christmas and the holidays, let's think green this week dear readers. And no, I'm not talking about recycling or Quebec's ban on plastic bags coming into effect in January 2018. But rather why certain plants, trees, and shrubs have long been synonymous with this time of year in many parts of the world coinciding with the winter solstice. And there are a whole bunch of them. For example, branches and clippings of evergreen trees and shrubs such as Spruce, Pine and Cedar together with pine cones being harvested and brought inside to create festive wreaths and decorations to remind us of better times to come when all will be green again. Also, in the U.K. and even here in Quebec, the Yule log. Well, OK, that's now a traditional scrumptious sponge chocolate cake topped with creamy vanilla frosting. But lore has it that it was once the real thing with which to heat the hearth and obviously not for eating. Then, of course, as mentioned in last week's column, there is Holly, symbolizing Christ's crown of thorns and the blood He shed. Also Ivy because its leaves represent eternity and resurrection. And Mistletoe, which has been considered a prized plant throughout history going all the way back to the Celts, Babylonians, early Scandinavians, and Ancient Greeks who believed it to be an aphrodisiac and helpful for fertility. Hence, today's tradition of stealing a kiss under the Mistletoe. Then there is the Poinsettia and Christmas Cactus which, as its name implies, often blooms around this time of year. But did you know that at Christmastime in Oaxaca, Mexico, large radishes are carved and used for Noche de Rabanos, in English The Night of the Radishes? Olive branches are cut and presented as hope for peace in the coming year in Israel. Cattails or Bulrushes are used to represent prosperity in the New Year in Taiwan. And the same for Wheat sheaves in Bulgaria and Pomegranates in the Middle East? Well, neither did I to be perfectly honest until I started researching this column. But what fascinating holiday facts, don't you think? Until next time! E-mail: creation@videotron.ca

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