No meeting in December – too busy preparing for Christmas!
What’s On This Month
It is unlikely that you will have time during December as there is still much to do, but, should you and the family fancy a day out, there are still gardens and houses which remain open in winter and offer special Christmas attractions.
For example, Killerton House and Estate, near Exeter, where there is always something to see, either in the gardens or in the house. As Christmas approaches there are events to appeal to the whole family and this Christmas you can ‘Step into the world of Toad, Rat, Mole and Badger inside the house and journey through rooms in the Georgian mansion transformed into scenes from this much-loved tale of camaraderie and adventure.’
You can visit from now until Friday, 5th January with special opening every Friday, Saturday and Sunday before Christmas. (You need to book timed tickets).
You can also see Father Christmas tucked away within the stables where he will be waiting in his magical grotto. For more information click here: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/killerton/features/christmas-at-killerton
What to do in the garden this month
Plant bare root roses in well-prepared soil.
Harvest holly with berries for making Christmas decorations; stand them in a bucket of water until you are ready to use them.
Improve soil by incorporating compost.
Lift and divide large clumps of rhubarb.
Take hardwood cuttings from healthy fruit bushes, including currants and gooseberries.
Transplant shrubs and conifers that have outgrown their position.
Ornamental grasses and bamboos can be cut back this month.
Raise patio containers onto feet or bricks to avoid them sitting in the wet during winter.
Leave the faded flower heads on your hydrangeas until the spring as they provide frost protection to the swelling buds further down the stems.
Protect your Poinsettias from cold draughts and allow them to dry out slightly between waterings to make them last for the whole Christmas period.
Wash and disinfect bird feeders and bird tables. Clean out bird baths too.
Don’t forget to protect your outdoor taps and pipes with insulating foam.
Did you know?
The word ‘mistletoe’ derives from the Germanic form ‘mistle’, adding the Old English word tān (twig). Mistletoe is the common name for most obligate hemi-parasitic plants which successfully parasitise more than 200 tree and shrub species. They attach to and penetrate the branches of a tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they absorb water and nutrients from the host plant. Historically mistletoe (or Viscum album) is thought to have had magical powers, providing protection against thunder, lightning and other evils as well as curing illnesses and guaranteeing good health.
The Romans would have us believe that when Jupiter descended from Heaven, he took up residence in a mistletoe bush. Medea, the sorceress in Greek mythology, gathered up the plants with a brass hook and used the berries (which are only found on the female plant) to make magic potions, and when Aeneas wanted to visit his dead father in Hades, he used the golden mistletoe bough to charm his way across the Styx.
The Druids also placed faith in its powers, and organised elaborate ceremonies to collect it on the fifth day of the first new moon of the year. Berries were then turned into potions which were believed to prevent sterility. Fertility is a common theme in mistletoe legend and clearly carries over into our present-day customs!
Jonathan Briggs has written A Little Book about Mistletoe which explains what mistletoe is, and why it has such an unusual place in tradition, myth and legend, especially at Christmas. There is lots more intriguing information about mistletoe at: http://mistletoe.org.uk/homewp/index.php/traditions/christmas-new-year/
Mistletoe and holly by Sophia Prior
Grown your own mistletoe by Nick Wheeldon
Annual MembershipThe cost of annual membership remains at only £5 per person, which entitles you to free admission to our interesting monthly talks held in Kilmington Village Hall on the second Friday of the month.
KILMINGTON KIDS' CORNERDon’t forget that if you have any gardening stories or photos to share with us, we would love to hear from you!
At Christmas time we sing about ‘the holly and the ivy’ but what do you know about them? Here are a few interesting facts:
Ivy (its official name is ‘Hedera helix’) is a woody, evergreen climber that grows up walls, fences and trees using tiny roots to cling to walls and buildings; in woods it can also carpet the ground. It has glossy, green leaves. It is a valuable plant for insects filling up on nectar before hibernating and for many birds, such as blackbirds and thrushes. Ivy berries ripen in winter, when most other berries have already been eaten.
It grows in any soil and tolerates both deep shade and full sun. However, only shoots in the sun produce flowers. It is poisonous to humans.
Holly (its official name is Ilex aquifolium’) Holly is an excellent evergreen shrub for a wildlife garden. It has tough, prickly, glossy, dark green leaves and can grow into a relatively tall tree.
Male and female flowers are on separate shrubs; for a female shrub to produce berries, it must be pollinated by a male growing nearby. Holly appears frequently in folklore and is commonly associated with Christmas.
It grows in any soil and copes well with full sun or shade.
Some of the creatures that benefit from the Holly tree:
- Bees and bumblebees collect its nectar and pollen.
- Caterpillars of the holly blue butterfly eat its buds and flowers.
- Many birds, such as thrushes, robins, dunnocks, finches and goldcrests, use it for nesting as it provides excellent protection.
- Blackbirds, fieldfares, redwings, mistle and song thrushes, among others, eat the berries.
- Hedgehogs, small mammals, toads and slow worms hibernate in the deep leaf litter that builds up beneath it.
Source: The RSPB website: http://www.rspb.org.uk/makeahomeforwildlife/wildlifegarden/