Season 1 ē Episode 10 - November 29, 2022

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Ever wonder why we use holly in our holiday decorating? What is the story behind kissing under the mistletoe? Ryan and Judy covered the reasons why we use specific plants during the holidays.

Christmas Trees

Christmas trees are a staple in just about every home during the holiday season. Though there are references to evergreen trees going back thousands of years, Egyptians, Romans and Druids in Northern Europe all brought various cut green boughs and trees inside to mark the solstice and the light (and life) returning to the earth, The current traditions were starting to be established in the late 1400s. The symbol of an evergreen tree represents rebirth, long life and strength. This is because it maintains its green color during the longest and coldest winters. Decorating became popular with Queen Victoria and started with fruit and candles. Now we use mass-produced ornaments and lights. The angel at the top of the tree reminds us of the good news of Jesusí birth.

Christmas trees are not only festive for bringing green indoors, they also bring green to local Christmas tree farms in the form of cash, According to Oregon Christmas Tree Growers, Oregon grows more Christmas trees than any other state in the country. It grows 31% of the United Statesí Christmas trees. There are more than 1,000 farms that grow the trees. Oregon sold over 4.5 million trees in 2017. Oregon grown Christmas trees were worth 107 million dollars in 2020. The counties that grow the most are Benton, Clackamas, Marion, Polk, Yamhill, and Linn. They are all on the western side of the state, The top producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

Christmas trees dry out quickly if you donít water them, Be sure to give your tree a new, fresh cut after you purchase it. Then get it into a large reservoir of water as soon as you can, A 6 foot tree can use up to a gallon of water or more every day. Make sure that the tree doesnít run out of water or the trunk will seal up and then it cannot take in any more water. Use warm water when you first get your tree in the stand. This will help loosen any sap and allow the tree to take up water. Donít use bleach, aspirin, sugar or sugary sodas in the water. None of these help the tree and some may cause a bacterial growth in the water.


Wreaths are patterned along the same traditions as Christmas trees. Their evergreen color represents rebirth, and new life during the cold winter months. It was only natural that wreaths were added to the greenery of the holiday season. Their circular shape also represents infinity, with no beginning and no end, a reference to Christianity and everlasting life.

You can buy the traditional wreath at your local garden center or at your local tree lot. (Side note: if you live in the Portland, Oregon area, check out the Boy Scout lot in downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon at George Rodgers park, where Ryanís troop has a sales lot set up and you can get wreaths and trees.) Or, you can buy a dried wreath that you may be able to leave up long after the holidays are over.

Many wreaths can be treated with an anti-transpirant to keep it from drying out. Wilt Stop from Bonide is a great product for that. Be sure to read the instructions and watch for dropped needles which will indicate when your wreath needs to be removed from your home.


Mistletoe has a history as well. It has various meanings that include fertility, immortality and love. The ancient druids and Vikings are credited with worshiping this parasitic plant for its everlasting color and life during the cold winters. Once again, these meanings are due to the fact that it stays evergreen in the winter. Of course the best meaning involved kissing. In proper English society you could not kiss your spouse-to-be in public. During the holidays you could kiss under the mistletoe, but you had to remove a white berry every time you did. Naturally, twigs with lots of berries were highly prized!

Mistletoe is toxic and so you should be careful if the leaves and berries drop off. That may be a sign that you need to get your kisses in quick and then remove the dried plant from your home.


Hollyís origins are based on both Christian and non-Christian traditions. In one tradition, the holly protects the home from evil spirits per ancient traditions. In another, the holly represents the crown of thorns of Christís passion and its berries represent the drops of blood.  
Holly can dry out during the holidays, but it is slower to reach that dry stage due to its thick waxy leaves. If you use an anti-transpirant, be careful as it might change the color of your holly. Remember to read the instructions.


Next, the poinsettia. This plant is relatively new to the holiday tradition list. This plant has a history dating back to the 16th century. The story is that a little girl wanted to bring a gift to her church for the Christ child. She had nothing to give but had a dream of an angel collecting weeds and leaves by the roadside, and giving them to the child. When she did it, they turned into the red blooms that we see today. The flower was named for Joel Poinsett a U.S. diplomat who fell in love with them and started promoting them in the U.S. Paul Ecke, a plant grower and breeder from California, helped popularize the plant and it has been a holiday favorite since then.

Here are some tips on how to pick a good plant. First look for good branching. A single branch plant will not give you the bunches of blooms that you want. And speaking of blooms, the bright colors you see are not the flowers of the poinsettia. The flower is the small center buds that are usually yellow. The bright colors are modified leaves. As for the blooms you will want small tight buds that are not yellow yet, which means they are early in their bloom cycle. Also look for good healthy green leaves under the brightly colored ones.

Now that you have picked out a good one, how can you make it last? We recommend that you treat your plant with tender loving care. Make sure that it doesn't get placed in too hot of a spot, that it doesn't get in too many drafts and keep it in bright non-direct sunlight. You will also want to water it regularly without over watering or having it set in water. Remember to remove the decorative foil sleeve when you are watering it.


This is a bulb that has become a seasonal favorite. The plants can be bought in bloom, or you can grow one from the bulb itself with no problem. These are bulbs that are normal summer bloomers. They are one of the seasonal plants that people enjoy during the holidays, with paperwhites being the other bulb, that have to be forced into bloom. You can find the bulbs at your local garden centers starting in late September and early October. Buying them early ensures that you will have a bloom by the holidays. You usually get just the bulb in the early season and as we get closer to the holidays you will find them ready to bloom or already in bloom. At Alís Garden and Home, and other garden centers, they have them as just a wax covered bulb. These are cool and because all the energy for a bloom is in the bulb, you donít need to water them.

Can you get them to return to bloom year after year? Yes. When spring arrives, you can take it outside and water it through the summer in an area with afternoon shade. In late summer you can cut back the water and then pot it up in early October, cut back the leaves and wait for the blooms to return.

Christmas Cactus

This plant is one that we love!  There are many types of late fall and winter blooming cactus and we wonít get into the differences. This one is specifically sold in garden centers as a Christmas cactus. We let ours bloom during Christmas time and then keep it as a house plant until spring. Once warm temperatures return ours go back outside. When fall returns, and we are in the lower 40s, we move ours back inside and enjoy the blooms that the warm house brings. They also like moist, but well-drained soil and an all-purpose fertilizer once a month. All the cactus we saw were heat loving. They donít handle the cold very well; in fact the growers donít let their cactus grow in temperatures that are below 55 degrees. The final tip? The number one enemy of cactus is over-watering.
So next time you are decorating your home, take some time and appreciate these wonderful holiday plants now that you know a little more about some of their meanings. You can find most of these at your local independent garden center or nursery.

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