DIY Whoville Tree

DIY Whoville Tree

DIY Whoville Tree

What You’ll Need
Prepping Your Station
Creating Your Whoville Tree
The Finishing Touches

“Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot…”
– How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sure, our traditional Christmas trees are classically beautiful, but anyone who has seen The Grinch knows the Whos down in Whoville knew how to take Christmas decor to a new, whimsical level. The best-known Christmas decoration in Who-lore is their iconic curved conifer. This tree is as fun to make as it is to look at, and is a perfect weekend DIY to get you and the little ones in the festive spirit!

 

DIY Whoville Tree supplies - wire cutters, decorations, cedar, ribbons

What You’ll Need

To get started with your Dr Seuss creation, you’ll need to grab a few supplies:

A container for your tree
Oasis floral foam
Port Orford Cedar, 3-5 branches
Western Red Cedar, 3-5 branches
Ribbon
1 large focal ornament
Smaller ornaments to fill the rest of the tree
Wire floral picks
12-gauge aluminium wire
Garden clippers
Scissors
Wire cutters
Bread knife

 

Prepping Your Station

To keep the D in DIY meaning “do” and not “disaster”, preparation is key – especially when working with children. Set up your stations first and keep your Whoville creation fun and safe for everyone involved.

 

trim your Porch Orford Cedar branches

 

Cut your greens. Line up your Porch Orford Cedar branches, trim them all to about 2 feet in length, and set aside. Then, take your Western Red Cedar branches and chop off the smaller branches extending from the centre branch. Split these smaller branches into 2-3 pieces and set aside. (Pro tip: Always cut stems on an angle to allow for maximum water absorption.)

Soak your foam. Fill a bucket with hot water, place your floral foam on top, and let it sink like an anchor in the sea. It’s a much slower process than giving it a nudge under the surface, but this method will prevent air pockets in the foam that will dry out your greens.

 

 

Fit your floral foam. Once saturated, drop your floral foam block into your container and trim away any excess foam 1 ½ inches above the top. Don’t go tossing away that extra foam like the wrapping paper on Christmas Day just yet, though. Use whatever you need to fill in the gaps between your block and the sides of your container for a sturdy fit.

Creating Your Whoville Tree

While it usually makes us cringe to see our plants drooping in any way, the most iconic part of this cartoon tree is its curved shape. Here’s how to make that happen:

 

wrap your Port Orford Cedar branches with 2 pieces of aluminum wire

 

Grab your trimmed Port Orford Cedar branches – which we use because they’re nice and floppy for the ultimate curve factor – and 2 pieces of aluminium wire about 3 feet in length each.

Bundle the branches together in your hand and wrap them together with one of the pieces of wire, using a spiral motion, and leaving a few inches at the bottom. Be sure to keep the wire tight as you wrap – you’ll need it to be strong enough to hold ornaments!

 

wrap your tree with the other alumminum wire again for the criss-cross effect

 

After you’ve wrapped it once, grab the second piece of wire and repeat in the opposite direction to create a criss-cross effect. Once you reach the tip, use the excess wire to create a hook that will hold your focal ornament.

Once it’s wrapped not once, but twice, you can shape the bend of your tree. Don’t worry about it being perfect just yet – you can always adjust it as you add elements for that perfect touch.

 

plant your whoville tree into your floral foam

 

To pot your Whoville Tree, simply stick it into the foam slightly off-centre to keep it balanced. Plan your positioning carefully first. You should only push it into the block once and leave it there, or you’ll squeeze all the thirst-quenching ability out of it. If it doesn’t look just right – that’s okay! Like I mentioned before, you can always adjust your bend to fit.

 

The Finishing Touches

By now your show-stopping centrepiece is taking shape, but your arrangement isn’t quite ready to make the Grinch’s heart grow 3 sizes just yet. Give it that extra bit of oomph with these finishing touches:

 

closeup of western red cedar clippings

 

Fill it out with greens. Remember those little Western Red Cedar clippings from earlier? Grab them and begin sticking them into the rest of the foam base. Start in the centre around your tree and work your way outward, turning as you go. Continue filling until the foam disappears!

Add your focal ornament. Whether you’re using a grandiose vintage bulb or a modern, whimsical shape, dangle your featured piece from your wire hook at the tip.

 

add christmas decorations such as berries and gold ornament balls

 

Fill in your tree. Working in groups of 3-5, add ornaments around your tree. Use whatever colour scheme you like, or none at all – just make it uniquely you!

 

add ribbon tabs

 

Add ribbon tabs. To make the ribbon billow out from your tree, take pieces and fold them in half. Pinch them in the centre and use a wire to secure it in place, leaving a little extra to attach it to your tree or foam.

 

add wire spirals

 

Add wire spirals. To make your own wire spirals, simply take your wire and wrap it around the handle of your clippers or even a pen, leaving a straight piece at the end. Slide it off and stick it into your tree or foam for an artistic touch.

 

gold christmas ornament ball

 

Add other decorations using floral picks. Use the little piece of wire to attach any ornament to your arrangement to personalize however you want. The wooden pick will do all the heavy lifting in keeping it in place so you can put it wherever you so choose!

 

finished DIY whoville tree

 

With the final personalizing touches, there you have it! Your very own Whoville tree that will have everyone as green as the Grinch with envy.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more DIY tutorials!

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Christmas Tree Trends 2018

Tree Ornaments

Christmas Tree Trends 2018

Creating a Theme for Your Christmas Tree
Decide on a Colour Scheme
Unconventional Christmas Tree Ornaments
Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations

“It’s not what’s under the Christmas tree that counts, it’s who’s around it.”
– Charlie Brown

Shopping for Christmas trees is one of my favourite holiday traditions. There’s something magical about selecting the perfect tree and bringing that gorgeous pine scent into my home. Then, there are the possibilities. Once the tree is propped up in its stand, it becomes a blank canvas for your festive artistry.

Creating a Theme for Your Christmas Tree

If you’ve been browsing Pinterest during the Christmas season, you’ve undoubtedly seen scads of impossibly beautiful trees. For those of us who grew up in homes where the Christmas tree situation was more Charlie Brown than Martha Stewart, achieving that perfect festive look seems daunting. But it doesn’t have to be. The key to achieving a gorgeous tree is to plan the look you’re going for. Here are some of the Christmas tree decorating trends that are all over social media lately.

Decide on a Colour Scheme

If you pay close attention to the most beautifully decorated trees, they generally have a consistent colour scheme. Sticking to ornaments in 2-3 complementary colours is a shortcut to making your tree look elegant. Here are some of my favourite combinations.

Blue and White is a wintery combination that works looks gorgeous against blue, teal or grey walls. This look can be a little harsh with only one shade of blue, so it’s best to blend several shades of blue with your ornaments to add more dimension.

Silver and White is a classic combination that is both beautiful and easy to put together. This pairing works especially well in homes with cooler toned décor. Choose white lights with a white or silvered-white garland and decorate with white and silver ornaments.

Gold and White is a little more traditional and works well with warmer toned décor. To enhance the traditional feel of this look, add Red accents for a richer aesthetic. To make the look more contemporary, opt for tiny golden twinkle lights instead of a garland for an Insta-ready holiday focal point.

Multicolored trees have a homey and nostalgic feel when balanced with a neutral tone. To keep the look from going too over-the-top, choose multi-colored ornaments with white lights or multicolored lights with subdued white or silver ornaments. I like to add a few strings of warm white lights to rainbow-lit trees to soften the effect of the colour.

Dig in with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog for more Christmas decor ideas!

Unconventional Christmas Tree Ornaments

I love the look of a tree with creative, unexpected decorations. If you’ve grown tired of the same old glass balls and tinsel kicking around in your basement, it may be time to think outside of that cardboard box.

Flocking is the spray-on product that adds that “snowed-on” look that mentally transports people to an Alpine lodge. This subtle decoration looks amazing with something as simple as a burlap garland or mirrored ornaments.

Ornate Tree Skirts add another visually interesting layer to your tree display. Choose a base colour that acts as a complementary backdrop to your wrapping paper to make those gift boxes ‘pop’ on Christmas morning.

Found Decorations from the outdoors, such as driftwood, pine cones, natural vines and firm berries enhance the natural appeal of your tree. Natural ornaments look stunning with strands of white lights.

Silk Flowers have a delicate, whimsical appeal with that makes guests do a double-take. Thread them together for an enviable garland.

Traditional Christmas Tree Decorations

The classics are classic for a reason. A simple beaded garland with traditional red, gold and white ornaments never goes out of style. Space out your decorations evenly to keep your traditional tree looking polished.

Just like everything else during the holidays, a little planning ahead goes a long way when designing your Christmas tree. Once you know the look you’re going for, that Pinterest-perfect holiday magic will come together quickly. You can leave the all-nighters to Santa Claus.

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What Do I Do With My Poinsettia Now?


What Do I Do With My Poinsettia Now?
By Rob Sproule

Care after Christmas
Spring Care
Reblooming

Christmas has come and gone. The toys are put away, the tree has been dragged to the curb, and you’ve been eying the poinsettia on the counter wondering what to do now.

There are 2 types of poinsettia owners. The first type buys it as a Christmas ornament, enjoys it, and discards it (count me in on that, but I’m surrounded by them 6 months a year at the greenhouse so I’m done by Christmas). The second is able to put the “Christmas” aside and adopts it as a houseplant to coddle as they do their others.

While your poinsettia probably doesn’t look as fresh as it did Christmas Eve, it’s not programmed to die after New Years. Like the other plants in your home, it’s a tropical plant that will continue to grow and thrive for as long as you care for it.


Care after Christmas:

The colour on a poinsettia aren’t its blooms. They’re called bracts, meant to lure pollinators into the central flowers. The actual blooms appear as tiny yellow tips in the center. By the time New Years rolls around, the tips will have turned black and the blooms spent.

Give it a January shot of all purpose houseplant fertilizer. That will inject it with fresh nutrients, as it hasn’t been fertilized in a while (growers get them in the home stretch in December).

Keep it in a sunny window, away from cold and hot (furnace) drafts. It will thrive in room temperature (18-21 degrees). Keep it on the dry side, not watering until the soil is dry to the first knuckle.
Overwatering is going to be your worst enemy. It’s a Mexican plant and needs periods of mild drought or its roots will rot. Sickly, yellowing leaves indicate too much water.

A well grown poinsettia will hold its colour for weeks or even months after Christmas. While not the most attractive houseplant in the world, it will add some life to the countertop.

Learn more about reblooming your Poinsettia, with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog


Spring Care:

By early Spring the Christmas colour will be long spent and your poinsettia will be looking long in the tooth. If you’ve kept it this long, you’re probably in for the long haul and wanting to have a go at blooming it out for next Christmas.

Once it gets leggy, cut it back to 5” above soil level. Transplant it into one pot size larger if it’s getting root bound. Start fertilizing it every couple weeks in the spring with your all-purpose houseplant blend. You’ll start getting ample green growth.

With the hot spring sun, don’t put it in a big south or west window right away. It will want full sun eventually, but acclimatize it to avoid burning the leaves.


Reblooming:

At some point it becomes fish-or-cut-bait to try to rebloom it or not. Timing it for the following Christmas gets complicated.

If you don’t choose to rebloom it, the foliage is still somewhat attractive, and eventually you might even start thinking of it as an everyday plant and not a Christmas one.

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The Legend of the Christmas Tree


The Legend of the Christmas Tree
By Lucy Wheelock

Two little children were sitting by the fire one cold winter’s night. All at once they heard a 
timid knock at the door, and one ran to open it.
 There, outside in the cold and the darkness, stood a child with no shoes upon his feet and clad in
 thin, ragged garments.

He was shivering with cold, and he asked to come in and warm himself.
 “Yes, come,” cried both the children; “you shall have our place by the fire. Come in!”

They drew the little stranger to their warm seat and shared their supper with him, and gave him 
their bed, while they slept on a hard bench.
 In the night they were awakened by strains of sweet music and, looking out, they saw a band of
 children in shining garments approaching the house. They were playing on golden harps, and the
 air was full of melody.

Suddenly the Stranger Child stood before them; no longer cold and ragged, but clad in silvery
 light.
 His soft voice said: “I was cold and you took Me in. I was hungry, and you fed Me. I was tired, 
and you gave Me your bed. I am the Christ Child, wandering through the world to bring peace 
and happiness to all good children. As you have given to Me, so may this tree every year give 
rich fruit to you.
”

So saying, He broke a branch from the fir tree that grew near the door, and He planted it in the
 ground and disappeared. But the branch grew into a great tree, and every year it bore
 wonderful golden fruit for the kind children.

From “For the Children’s Hour,” by Bailey and Lewis. Used by permission of the authors and the
 publishers—Milton Bradley Company.

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Best Herbs for the Turkey


Best Herbs for the Turkey
By Rob Sproule

Fresh is Best
The Top Three
There’s the Rub

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”
–  Ron Finley

When winter descends and our BBQs freeze shut, our appetites turn to thoughts of comfort food. We dust off the corning ware, fire up the oven and suddenly potatoes are our new best friend. Turkey is the king of comfort foods. It’s so good that we frame entire holiday feasts around it! This article is about an easy way to take that turkey to the next taste level.

Fresh is Best:

With herbs, as with tomatoes and pretty much anything else, home-grown flavour beats store-bought every day of the week. Put some clay pots of woody herbs on the windowsill and you’ll thank yourself come cooking time. There are 2 kinds of herbs: leafy and woody. Leafy herbs are the basil, parsley, and mojito mints of the world: they’re darlings of the summer sun but lose their taste rapidly if you cook them.

Woody herbs were made for comfort food. Their taste is like a secret that you need to unlock with long, slow cooking, then its dense rich flavour infuses through everything around them. That’s why we stuff our foul with sage and put bay leaves in soup: the heat awakens them.

Learn more about cooking with homegrown herbs, with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog

The Top 3:

Everyone has their own combination of herbs, and you’ll discover your own secret blend. These 3 succulent herbs are a great place to start. Make sure to add all of them at the beginning of the cooking process to give them time to shine:

• Thyme: This fine-leafed Mediterranean native is essential for foul and fish. You can grow regular or Lemon thyme, which will give the meat a subtle lemon flavour (which is probably more apt for salmon than turkey)
• Sage: One of the best healing herbs, sage makes pork, duck, and foul dishes shine. A little goes a long way, so use its leaves sparingly unless you love its distinct taste. You can buy sage with purple or variegated leaves, but original green has the best flavour.
• Rosemary: The king of herbs! It’s spicy, warm flavour pairs well with pretty much any meat (especially red), and the long woody sprigs are a gorgeous garnish. The new growth will have the most flavour, so snip it generously. Don’t forgot to lay some sprigs of it on the side for decoration.

There’s the Rub:

Whatever spices you choose to use for your turkey, here’s the method:

• Pick them fresh leaves off the stems (tedious with Thyme but worth it)
• Mince the leaves very finely, releasing all their aromatic goodness. Combine with oil, salt and pepper in a bowl (or soft butter if you’re not an oil fan)
• Smear the oily goodness all over that bird before cooking. Get in the cavity, under the skin, over the skin, etc. The more the better.
• You want to throw in some garlic too…
• As you cook, the herby goodness will infuse into the meat around it.

Whatever your combination, the method is the same. Combine all of your seasonings (any large leaves or whole spices should be well crumbled or ground) until evenly blended. Rub the inside and outside of your raw turkey with oil or melted butter, then rub the seasoning blend over both the inside and outside of the bird. For even better flavour, rub some of the mixture under the skin of the bird, too. Then simply roast as normal.

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Succulent Pumpkin Planters


Succulent Pumpkin Planters
By Rob Sproule

My Method
Prep the Pumpkin
Prep the Succulents

“There are three things I’ve learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.“
– Linus

Let’s face it, as far as decorating goes pumpkins have been one-hit wonders. While their little gourdy cousins have found some fame in centrepieces and home decor, pumpkins’ lot in life is to be gutted, carved, and burnt on the porch step. But the wind is shifting for our plucky orange squash. A new trend is redefining it from Halloween kitsch to houseplant chic. It’s easy to make, uses our favourite plants, and I’m gonna tell you how.


My Method:

It’s sort of amazing that it took this long for someone to look at a pumpkin and think, “why don’t we just dig a hole in the top and plant something in it?” There are 2 basic ways to do this. The alternative to this article is to keep the pumpkin intact, glue moss to it, and glue bare-root succulente to the moss. I’m not a fan because, besides looking like a lot of work, it’s a one-way ticket for the succulents. You won’t get them back after Halloween, and they aren’t cheap.


Prep The Pumpkin:

I wouldn’t plant them straight into the pumpkin. The stringy fleshy bits are downright damp and will rot the delicate root systems. Plus, as with the gluing method, it makes it a one way trip. Why waste money when you don’t have to?  If you don’t have a pot, go grab a 6” round or so for a big pumpkin and a 3-4” round for a smaller one. One pumpkin will be a conversation starter, but several (of different sizes and colours), is just awesome.

With a sharp knife, dig into the top of the pumpkin to hollow a cavity the same size as the pot. The rim of the pot should fit snugly just under the top (ie. be invisible). Only pull as much goopy goodness as you need; you’re not hollowing it out. If the pot if heavy, consider laying down a wider platform to set it on so it doesn’t sink. Don’t stop at plain orange. Try white, mini and “knucklehead”pumpkins (with the giant wart-like bumps on them). Why not other squash or gourds? As long as you can cut into it and it will sit upright, it’s fair game.

Learn more about creating your own pumpkin centrepieces, with Alberta’s Best Gardening Blog


Prep the Succulents:

Pack your succulents densely in the pot. Don’t worry, they like being crowded. The illusion is that the pumpkin so full of succulents (horn-of-plenty style) that it’s overflowing with them. A loosely packed pot of soil showing will wreck the effect. Any succulent will do. I’d experiment with the rosette types (echeveria) on their own for smaller pumpkins (which are preferably white).

For the big ones, make sure to incorporate some trailers over the sides (vines work, too). You may want to stuff some moss in for effect. Aim for height in the centre so it’s not flat looking but has that “exploding from squash” feel. After Halloween, pitch the pumpkin and take out the container. Give it a wash and you have a succulent planter ready for a new life!

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Feng Shui Plants – for Chinese New Year

Feng Shui Plants – for Chinese New Year
By Rob Sproule

A General Overview
Ancient & Modern Collide
Air Purifiers

A General Overview:

This article was a journey for me. I started, driven by my own curiosity, to see what all the Feng Shui fuss was about. Shortly into research I noticed that most of the plants recommended for good energy were also exceptional air cleaners.

Does negative energy = airborne formaldehyde and other nasties? As I kept searching, the correlation got stronger. Read on and see for yourself if ancient Chinese mysticism foreshadowed our recent appreciation of preserving cleaner air through strategically placed plants.

Ancient & Modern Collide:

You don’t have to subscribe to Chinese mysticism to appreciate how plants change a home’s energy.

Use Plants around Electronics: Your computer and TV exude both electromagnetic energy and trace amounts of airborne chemicals. Placing a houseplant nearby will help counteract the radiation and suck up formaldehyde and xylene. See Air Cleaning Plants for the details about which plant absorbs which chemical(s).

Bring the Outside In: Feng Shui promotes bringing the energy of nature into your home. Plants soften hard, straight lines with non-linear shapes and soft curves. Opt for plants with rounded leaves over prickly unfriendlies (cacti are discouraged).

Raise the Roof: Low ceilings can make rooms feel like cells. Placing tall plants in sloped corners will symbolically lift the roof and make the room appear larger.

Want more out of the box tips? Click here! 

Air Purifiers:

Stale air and good energy don’t blend well together. In an intriguing confluence of science and mysticism, many of the best Feng Shui plants are also the best air cleaners.
These plants suck up bad energy (if that’s another word for formaldehyde and benzene), and release clean, positive energy instead. Isn’t it wonderful when science and philosophy play nice with each other?

Golden Pothos: Scientifically, it’s one of the world’s best air cleaning plants (especially for removing formaldehyde), and according to Feng Shui, it freshens old, stagnant air and fills dead zones with good energy. Put it in corners where air tends to sit and get stale.

Chrysanthemum: Treasured across the Orient, yellow “Mums” exude optimism and happiness. Place them in the living room but not the bedroom, as it may conflict with the more peaceful elements there. NASA has also dubbed it an air cleaning champion for its ability to pull ammonia out of rooms.

Jade Plant: Also called Money Tree, the succulent jade is a Chinese symbol of good fortune. It’s connection with financial prosperity explains its common appearance in Chinese restaurants and offices.

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English Ivy: Easy to grow and air cleaning, it’s flowing vines soften “poison arrows” (the 90 degree angle made when 2 walls join together and point inward).

Palms: Another virtuosic air cleaner, palms make excellent dividers between spaces or serve to curve straight hallways. They have a sizable presence, so use them sparingly to avoid clutter.

African Violets: A popular window sill plant already, its coin-shaped leaves symbolize prosperity. Put in the “wealth” area of your home along with the money tree and jade plant.

Orchids: Potted orchids are the cupids of Feng Shui. Put one in your bedroom (as close to the bed as possible) in order to attract an honest, faithful partner.

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A Christmas Rose

A Christmas Rose
by Rob Sproule

A Christmas Rose – The Story

Warning: This Is Not a Gardening Article  

A Rose has sprung from a tender root,
From Jesus, as those of old have sung,
And it bore a flower,
In the middle of a cold winter.

– translated from “Es ist ein Ros entsprugen”, a 15th century poem, author unknown

I love telling stories. With a long history of writing and an MA in English with a creative writing focus, that’s where I come from.

With my gardening article, I try to unearth the narratives beneath the surface of my topic. But sometimes, a good story just needs to be told; that’s what I’m doing today.

So put your shovel and your insecticidal soap away. We’re not planting or killing anything today. But if you’re still with me, sit back, relax, and have a Merry Christmas.

The Christmas Rose 

The 3 wise men were not poor men. The “magi” (which means they were members of a caste of Zoroastrian priests often thought to have supernatural powers) came from the East to bring Jesus expensive gifts.

Whether priests or kings, the gifts that the 3 men brought would have been fortunes to Mary and Joseph. According to some legends, the angel leading the magi also visited shepherds along the way and spread the good news. They gathered what gifts they could afford, from honey to snow-white doves, and ventured west to meet their new king.

Madelon was a poor shepherdess, tending her family flock, when the angel appeared. Madelon’s heart filled with faith, but then sank as she saw her fellow shepherds gathering gifts together. She was poor and had nothing to give, but she followed the angel west nonetheless.

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Reaching Bethlehem, Madelon hid behind a house and watched the shepherds entering the stable to lay their gifts before Jesus. She wanted more than anything to see her king. When she heard that the shepherds were saying that it would be a sin to enter that holy place without a gift, she rushed to the hillside to look for anything that she could gather to lay before him.

Finding nothing, Madelon wept. The angel’s news had filled her young heart with joy, but being too poor to bring a gift overwhelmed her with shame. How could she pay homage empty handed?

As she cried, her tears fell on the snowy ground around her. The angel that she had followed went to her, came down from on high to stand before her, and touched the ground where she wept. A lush bush of beautiful winter roses sprang up in front of Madelon. The snow white and star-shaped flowers were worthy of a king.

The angel said to Madelon, “No gold, no frankincense, no myrrh, is as precious, or as fitting a gift for the Prince of Peace as these pure blooms that are born from the pure tears of love, faith and devotion.”

Overjoyed, Madelon gathered the flowers and entered the stable. Jesus, feeling the faith in her heart, blessed the flowers with the ability to bloom in the depths of winter.

I love this story for its universal simplicity. How much you spend didn’t matter then, and it doesn’t matter now. The contents of your heart matter.

The hardiness of the Christmas Rose is no legend. Helleborus niger, or Black Hellebore, is an evergreen perennial, hailing from Central Asia, that found its way to Europe. In the Middle Ages, people strewed their homes with it when it bloomed at the end of December to ward off dark spirits of winter. They’re a popular plant across Europe today, although their power of blooming during the harsh winter don’t extend as far north as Alberta.

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Top 3 Herbs for the Holidays

Top 3 Herbs for the Holidays
By Rob Sproule

Rosemary
Sage
Peppermint

Christmas is a feast for the senses. Its sights, sounds, tastes, and smells make it singularly special.

But while we know what Christmas looks and sounds like, what does it smell like? Its spices are earthy, familiar and crisp, and its cooking herbs are savory and comforting.

While many of the Holidays’ classic spices aren’t feasible to grow indoors—a giant, cinnamon tree in the living room, anyone?—its herbs are readily available and thrive indoors. Here are a few of my favourite classics:

Rosemary:

The king of herbs! While you’ll see rosemary trees stocking store shelves in December, its real fame comes from its dense, comforting flavor.
Use it with soups, stews, roasts, and other dishes that infuse the home with warmth and goodness. It needs to be cooked; heat releases flavor from the leaves and stem.

Rosemary sprigs are popular in holiday decorating. Their evergreen form blends nicely with the Christmas tree and cedar wreath. Use sprigs for napkin holders, to accessorize candles, or just form them into fragrant little wreaths of their own.

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Sage:

Whether it’s a goose or a turkey, Christmas puts fowl at the center of its festive menu. Pretty much any recipe for cooking a beautiful, big bird puts sage front-and-centre, whether that’s blending with onions for the stuffing or infused into savory butter.

Like rosemary, sage is a Mediterranean herb that likes life dry and sunny. Keep it on the windowsill and pinch the young, flavourful growths regularly to bush it out.

Besides its culinary prowess, sage is a potent anti-inflammatory and soothes the stomach and intestines. It can be infused into honey for a sweet, medicinal tonic for that seasonal sore throat.

Peppermint:

Not all classic, Christmas herbs are savory and earthy. Peppermint and Christmas have been tied together for centuries, since the flavour was added to bent “shepherd’s hook” candy sticks started to circulate in 17th century Germany.
The distinct flavour, at once sharp and joyful, extends way beyond candy canes. Cakes, biscotti, cookies and little kisses are all popular.

A centuries old British hybrid between water mint and spearmint, peppermint is a stout little plant (without red and white stripes) that has become naturalized across the globe. It has potent medicinal qualities and, thanks to its water mint heritage, needs consistently moist soil.

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Poinsettias Will Kill You (And Other Christmas Plant Myths)

Poinsettias

Poinsettias Will Kill You (And Other Christmas Plant Myths)
By, Rob Sproule

Myth 1: Poinsettias are Poisonous
Myth 2: Aspirins help Christmas trees last longer
Myth 3: Christmas Cactuses need extra darkness

Myths are like the telephone game. Facts get slightly altered as they’re passed from one person to another, to another, and as years and decades roll by, misinterpretations cement into apparent truth.

Let’s bust up some plant myths, particularly the unfortunate one about poinsettia toxicity, which stems from an almost 100 year old misdiagnoses.  Other plant myths, like putting vodka in the Christmas tree water, are just odd.

Myth 1: Poinsettias are Poisonous

The humble poinsettia has been on the wrong side of a bad rumour for decades. Today, lets take the first step in setting things straight.

Contrary to everything you’ve undoubtedly heard, poinsettias are not poisonous. I repeat: not. The myth began in 1919 when a 2 year old girl died and the cause was incorrectly blamed on a poinsettia leaf.

Poinsettia sap does irritate the mouth, if enough is eaten, can cause vomiting (just like pretty much anything else). The POISONDEX information database however, which is the go-to resource for the majority of poison-control centers in the US, says that for a 50 pound child to reach toxic levels of compound he/she would have to eat 500 poinsettia leaves.

If you catch puppy or kitty nibbling on the leaves, don’t worry about it unless they start to vomit repeatedly, at which time I’d call the vet. Poinsettias belong to the Euphorbia family, and the milky sap of some species is highly abrasive to human skin, an unfortunate family association that doesn’t help the poinsettias reputation.

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Aspirins help Christmas trees last longer

Christmas trees are like a cut flower; they need a steady amount of water and have a short shelf life. Our hope is that they stay vibrant through Christmas day so Santa isn’t showered with needles when he’s placing presents.

Longevity starts where you buy the tree (link for online only: Picking the best tree). If it showers when you shake, walk away. Make sure they cut it for you (diagonally if your stand allows for it) and that you keep it watered constantly. Letting it dry out could lead to scabbing which will stop the water flowing.

As for adding aspirin, corn syrup, sugar, or vodka to the water… no. Aspirin is for headaches. Plants have been drinking water for a long time and they’re experts at it. All you need to do is provide moisture.

Christmas Cactuses need extra darkness

This one is just sad. The myth stems from a fact: that the Christmas cactus needs several weeks of 12-14 hours of darkness to induce blooming.

For some reason, this has been conflated to “we need to throw it into the closet every afternoon.” The sad truth is that we’re dark around 5pm in late Fall, and your plant gets all the darkness it needs (and then some).

There’s a good chance that your cactus blooms early (late November-ish). That’s because it’s already gotten it’s darkness treatment and it’s good to go. The joys of a Canadian winter.

Want to learn more about Christmas Cactus? Dig Into Rob’s article “Christmas Cactus 101“.

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