Mistletoe magic

A Generic Photo of mistletoe. See PA Feature NATURE Nature Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature NATURE Nature Column.
A Generic Photo of mistletoe. See PA Feature NATURE Nature Column. Picture credit should read: PA Photo/Thinkstockphotos. WARNING: This picture must only be used to accompany PA Feature NATURE Nature Column.

I WOULD like to wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year.

That old festive favourite mistletoe has flourished this year. I watched the news the other day and they were filming live from Tenbury Wells, where mistletoe is grown in large quanties and also sold to customers.

Mistletoe’s botanical name is Viscum Album (European mistletoe). It is a parasitic plant which grows off other trees, usually apple, lime or hawthorn.

The common name is also illuminating. The word mistletoe is derived from the Anglo-Saxon mistel, meaning dung, and tan, meaning twig.

So literally it’s the dung on a twig plant. Which pretty much describes what happens a little while after a bird eats the berries.

Mistletoe is parasitic, which means that although its small green leaves provide the host plant with energy through Photosynthesis, it sends a root under the bark into its host and gathers nutrients from there.

And this is where those sticky berries come in. After the bird eats the berries, it’s excreted with much of their sticky coating still attached. So they land on a branch, they stick and are ready to germinate in Feb and March.

The following year they produce leaves and start to grow into a recognisable plant. Remember, the berries are poisonous so you have to be wary, especially around children.

But for all you lovers or wannabe lovers, mistletoe could be the start of a lasting relationship, if you manage to give somebody you like a kiss under the mistletoe.

I have nightmares about my mistletoe experience.

Many years ago a woman, who let’s say was well lubricated and had spots as big as golf balls, tried to give me a smacker on the lips under the mistletoe!

I still have nightmares about the thought! I bet other people have had more pleasurable experiences than mine.

I had a lovely morning working in a friend’s garden the other week. I was cutting some roses back by half to stop the wind from snapping their stems.

Always prune above a healthy bud. Also, with no leaves on the roses, it is a fantastic time to prune out all diseased, dead wood, weak, and crossing branches to give roses a better shape.

Remember there is a difference between a hybrid tea rose – which is a cross between two roses with one large flower on a long stem – and a floribunda rose – which grow in groups of flowers and buds. They are not as large or beautiful as hybrid tea roses.

When pruning make sure your secateurs are sharp so you get a clean cut.

You can take hardwood cuttings from now until March. Plants like willow and buddleia root easily from this method of propagation.

I was given some daffodil bulbs the other day and I know it’s not the right time to plant them, but it would be such a waste not to plant them. They will come up later than the ones I planted in September, but they will flower next spring. Check overwintering tuberous begonias and dahlias to make sure disease has not set in.

If some have, get rid of the infected ones because if you don’t disease will spread to more.

Gardening Tip – Keep feeding your Christmas hyacinths with Tomorite to promote flowering, and they will fill your room with a heavenly scent all Christmas.