The Christmas season

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Christmas is the time for celebration, merriment, snow covered mountains and also spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts while marking the birth of Jesus by hanging wealth’s, carol singing and decorating the tree for many countries around the globe.
The first Christmas trees took form in Germany in the 8th century by St Boniface to convert pagans to change their beliefs to Christianity by dedicating the fir tree to the birth of baby Jesus, an alternative to the great oak tree sacred to Odin in Norse mythology.  The Christmas tree in medieval Germany at Christians was to honour and remember Adam and Eve, the first humans created on Earth and the ancestors of our civilization, plays were also performed on the run up to Christmas with a fir tree which would be covered with apples and other decorations to portray the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Later in the mid sixteenth century Christmas trees were decorated with small boxes, fruits and sweets that hung from the fir branches, Tannenbaum ballads would be played around the trees, with songs such as ‘oh Christmas tree’.
St Nicholas, the patron of children is believed to have been a bishop of Myra (now modern day Turkey) who lived during the 4th century and he was known for his compassion & kindness helping those in poverty. The saint is based on the legend Sinterklass which is Dutch for St. Nicholas with a feast day on the 6th December.

It is believed that Dutch Colonists brought the Sinterklaas tradition with them to New York in the 1600’s then known as New Amsterdam the capital town of a Dutch colony on the southern edge of manhattan Island, the word Sinterklaas was later  changed to St. Claus and then formed into an English equivalent Santa Claus which over time had became increasingly popular around the United States.
In modern times these ancient customs are now taking place around the world, interpreted differently in many cultures.

In Australia the home is usually decorated with  native Christmas bushes or small trees, the New South Wales Christmas bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum) is hung around the home and has lovely cream coloured blooms that turns reddish pink in late December with small green leaves. Another is the woolly bush (Adenanthos sericeus) which has brush like, deeply divided leaves, silvery on the ends that  resembles snow and small  red flowers, it is often used as a decorative tree during the festive season.
In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

In Austria a wreath is created using branches of cherry trees in flower known as barbaratag which brings good luck to the home and is sacred to saint Barbara, decorated with ribbons and four candles to represent the four advent Sundays coming up to Christmas signifying hope, love, joy and peace.

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On the fifth of December the day before St Nicholas’s day in Croatia, children would leave their well polished boots by the window and while they were a sleep St Nicholas would put a present inside their boot, but if they misbehaved a Krampus (a giant horned beast) would instead only put twigs of gold inside.

China is one of the leading producers of plastic Christmas trees & decorations which has become increasing popular in recent times especially in shopping centres around China as well as paper lights and ornaments. It is also a tradition to give out apples on the day before Christmas to represent harmony and peace interpreted from silent night Christmas carol.
Santa  is said to reside at Lapland known as Korvatunturi, in the Northern regions of Finland, which includes an entertainment park, children’s letters from countries around the globe are sent  there to prepare their wishes for gifts on Christmas day. In Lapland Santa is also characterized as an xmas goat called Joulupukki who would lay presents under the Christmas tree or for mischievous households a sack of coal.

It is the custom in France at Christmas to place a crib in the home which symbolizes the birth of Christ, then it is filled with characters in clay that represents various occupations in an urban or town setting such as a priest, baker, policeman etc. A Cherry wood log would also be brought inside on the night before Christmas and spattered with red wine then it is added to the fire or stove giving a lovely aroma though out the home.
In Georgia  the outer covering of a Christmas tree would be traditionally cut downwards to create long curling pieces forming an imaginative tree, possibly to represent the beard of St Basil, which is usually made of walnut or hazelnut known as the Chichilaki.
At Christmas eve in Hungry the tree would be decorated in the evening by family members in secret, then when they have finished, the children would then be overjoyed to see the beautiful embellished tree that brightens up the room. Christmas presents are said to be brought by Christ who leaves them underneath the tree, children would then remain patiently in the next room and when on hearing a bell would immediately rush over to the presents and open them.

In Greece the first Christmas tree arrived in 1833 by king Otto and now every year a magnificent tree decorated with illuminated lights is erected at Aristotelous square, Thessaloniki usually along side a ship that is also lit up by vibrant lights a custom that represents seafarers who had come back home from a long voyage. Traditionally Children would call on each house in the town or village and sing carols along with triangles or drums on Christmas eve.

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Popular plants grown for their elegant display during the Christmas celebrations include: Christmas rose which has large white elegant rose like flowers with a tint of pink that can add colour to dull surroundings in winter, it is a member of the buttercup family known as Ranunculaceae,  there is also a number of cultivars with larger flowers and double blooms as well as pink varieties and cut flowers can also be purchased for the home. It is believed that this plant was given the common name Christmas rose because of a fable, when a little female child did not have a present to give to Jesus in the stable after his birth and so she wept, her tears fell on to the snow covered ground and up sprung a Christmas rose. Poinsettia is a well known favourite especially at Christmas because of its striking bright red flower/leaf bracts, although there are many other colours which can range from orange, pink, cream and also marbled. This plant occurs naturally in Mexico known as the Christmas eve flower where it was first grown by the Aztecs & also in Central America, in the 1820’s the diplomat Joel Roberts Poinsett grew them in his greenhouse and has now became extremely popular all over the United States.

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The Christmas cactus Sehlumbergara is an attractive cacti with small fleshy leaves that join together to form long stems, the flower areoles, contains long cylinder shaped purple pink petals that hang downwards and grows at the joints and stem tips. It is native to South Eastern Brazil where it grows on mountains usually by the coast. Others include Snowdrops, holly, ivy and mistletoe.
Unfortunately the main computer broke down during lock down so I don’t have so much time as I would like to write the newsletter this month & partly last month, but I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas at this difficult time and that you will soon be reunited with Family and friends.

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DESTINATION-LONG WOOD CHRISTMAS GARDENS

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The Long wood Christmas gardens, at Kennett square, Pennsylvania in the Brandywine Creek Valley has a spectacular flamboyant display of colourful lights illuminating up to 150 trees during the Christmas period. Music is also played to give an atmosphere of the festive season along with a light show in the evenings lasting for about 30 minutes while in you warm your hands over the fire pit. Long wood gardens is believed to be the best botanical gardens in America to visit during the holidays.
The gardens of Long wood covers an area of 1,077 hectares containing woods, meadows and gardens. The land was first purchased by George Peirce during the 1700’s, a farmer & Quaker, his son Joshua worked on the land, making it suitable for growing crops and also built a farmhouse out of brick which can still be seen within the gardens today.
As time went on Joshua’s grandchildren gained ownership of the farm, who both had a keen interest in tree species and so decided to build an arboretum containing a collection of native and exotic trees, which was open to the public known as Pierce’s park ,the trees were grown in lines at the East of the farm house and during the mid 1800’s it is believed to have contained one of the most outstanding collection of tree species over the whole of the USA. But later fell into decline and so the gardens were again purchased by Pierres Du Pont in 1907 due to the planned destruction of the tree collection.. Pierres from 1915-1919 was the president of the E.I.du Pont de Nemours and company, his grandfather was a french economist who immigrated to America.

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With the new owner, Longwood gardens was developed mainly for the purpose of creating beautiful surroundings to bring satisfaction and joy to his friends when they visited him there and so added many features to the grounds to entertain them and over time creating more and more stunning gardens.
The four acre conservatory is the largest within the gardens and was built from 1919 containing  about 4,600 plant & tree species including beautiful all year round flowering blooms, orchids, decorative foliage and fountains. Many of the plants are highly scented and a delight to walk around the various pathways admiring the breathtaking views and displays, there is also an exhibition hall with a new theme every year at Christmas with decorated trees, ornaments, ribbons and illuminated lights. The conservatory to the east was restored and altered in 2003 which shortly afterwards opened to the public.  Many garden styles over the years were added to the conservatory gardens including a Mediterranean garden created by Ron Lutsko jr, a children’s garden, indoor green wall by Kim Wilkie consisting of 47,000 plants, banana house, fern passage, acacia passage, camellia house, bonsai display, cascade garden, orangery, palm house, orchid house, the new silver garden by Isabelle Greene with an dry desert like setting, desert house and the estate fruit house.

In the outdoor long wood gardens Pierre s. Du Pont added a flower garden walk which is approximately 600 foot long with brick pathways and an abundance of colourful species for all seasons blues, pinks, reds, oranges, yellows, whites and greys featuring tulips, daffodils, allium, foxglove, fritillaria, blue bells, saliva, chrysanthemums, asters and more, in the centre is a round fountain with spurts of water.
An Italian style garden was created from 1925-27 which was inspired by Italian and french  design, situated by the side of a lake to the North East of the estate and contains many spectacular classical water features such as fountains and pools in square and circular shapes along side freshly cut grass, with added features from 1928 and 1921.

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A woodland garden was also created on the grounds by planting up to a thousand native Eastern deciduous trees such as oaks, maples, ash and tulip trees known as Peirce’s woods. The taller trees would ascend over the lower shrubs and ground cover along with 10,000 plants which were rescued  from North Carolina before the construction of a new highway. Colourful blooms in spring and Autumn include Virginia bluebells, foam flowers, phlox & trillium (birthroots)  species.
The Meadow garden was formed in 2014 filled with  86 acres of  herbaceous perennials, native wildflowers and also additional  plants to handle invasive species with scenic views of the countryside, designed by Jonathan Alderson and Jonathan Alderson landscape architects of Wayne, PA. The main concept of the garden is to point out to the viewer the connection between nature and the way we live as human beings. There is a farm house that has recently been restored and features two galleries containing artwork, photography and history of architects who have previously  worked on the gardens.