Christmas is a time for family, food and…foliage. While greenery may not be at the forefront of your mind when you’re agonising over carving the turkey or wrapping the presents, it does play a big part in the traditional festive setting. From the wreath you display on your door to the statement table centrepiece, and from the mistletoe hanging in the hallway to the garlands on the mantlepiece, festive foliage is the backdrop to Christmas. And, much of it can be easily grown right in your own garden. Here’s some tips for how to plant and grow your very own holly, ivy and mistletoe so that you can soon deck the halls with your own homegrown boughs.
Just the sight of holly evokes thoughts of Christmas, and the good news is it's easy to grow and maintain, giving you festive foliage in the lead up to Christmas and beyond, too.
Interestingly, there's over 400 varieties of holly in existence, and each varies in shape, size and colour. From tall trees to small shrubs, this seasonal plant takes on many forms - and the benefit of so many varieties is that you'll be able to find the perfect holly for your garden.
As an evergreen plant, including holly in your garden will ensure there's always some colour from the leaves and berries - even in the bleakest midwinter.
So, how do you plant it? Holly grows easily in many garden spots, but for optimal success, opt for a place in either sun or shade where there's moist, well-drained soil. Holly is best planted in winter, and once in the ground, add some compost to the soil to help your holly thrive.
Holly berries appear when cross-pollination has occurred, so if you're looking for vibrant red berries on your plants, it's recommended to plant two holly bushes - one male and one female. (You can tell which is which by the flowers they produce).
Prune your holly during the summer months, and keep on top of the trimming to avoid it becoming overgrown and unmanageable. Come Christmas, you should have some lovely boughs in which to deck the halls with!
Ivy often doesn't need much encouragement to grow, cropping up just where you don't want it. But, it can also make a lovely addition to your garden, and if you don't already have it growing, it's easy to plant and will grow quickly.
Ivy will grow even in very shady conditions and isn't fussy when it comes to soil quality. If only more plants could follow suit!
Not only is ivy a pollinator, it also helps to keep buildings cooler in summer and less damp in winter - who knew it had so many purposes aside from its festive aesthetic?
To plant ivy, dig a hole between 8-12 inches deep, and once planted, add some organic matter such as compost, manure or bark.
While it's establishing, ivy needs watering regularly, but after this time (one growing season) it'll only need watering when there's been limited rainfall.
Trim your ivy a few times a year to keep on top of it, and every three or four years prune it back to stop it from getting too tall or straggly.
Mistletoe can be found hung in many homes at this time of year, but often it’s shop-bought instead of home grown. This could be because it’s quite time-consuming to grow your own - however, if you do decide to give it a go, then the hard work will pay off.
Mistletoe is a parasite, so therefore will need to be grown off mature trees you already own. Fruit trees are especially popular.
The seeds germinate best in early spring, so for best results, have fresh berries ready to plant in early-mid February rather than relying on the ones from your Christmas mistletoe, which may not be the best quality by the time you’re ready to plant.
In order to obtain the seeds from the berries, give them a gentle squeeze - they’ll come out in a jelly-like substance called viscin. Try to remove as much of this as possible - it’ll help aid the germination process.
Once you’ve chosen your host tree, select younger branches and stick your seeds to them. Much like holly, mistletoe also needs male and female plants for successful germination, so you’ll want to plant several branches to help your chances of producing berries.
Within a couple of months your seeds will start to germinate, but you might not see the fruits of your labour for a little while - mistletoe can take up to four years to really produce a significant plant. But once it’s established it does grow quickly. So, it might be a long time to wait for that Christmas kiss, but hopefully it’ll be worth it…