Cupid’s Capsule

Got some spare dosh? 

Not worried about the credit crunch? 

Looking for a private mistletoe-themed romantic encounter for just you and your mate?

Look no further – for December only the London Eye are including a 'hand-tied sprig of
mistletoe' in their £299.00 Cupid's Capsule package.  I hope it's British mistletoe.

It also includes 'a
romantic Private Capsule, complete with a bottle of Laurent-Perrier
Champagne and a luxury box of Charbonnel et Walker pink champagne
truffles, served by your host'.  So there's a bit more than just mistletoe for your 300 quid.

But a 'host' – does that mean there's someone else in there with you, watching?  Could put people off a bit.

Not yet convinced?  Well the package also includes exclusive check-in and fast track boarding.  And there's 10% discount if you book online.

Harlow Carr Mistletoe Sculpture

A pic of that mistletoe sculpture I mentioned in yesterday's blog…

The stainless steel structure was made by sculptor Steve Blaylock – who is pictured kissing his wife Rachel underneath it (I hope it's securely tied…) at RHS Harlow Carr.  The pic (click to enlarge) is by Richard Doughty
and borrowed from


Mistletoe trivia for today

Been v busy with mistletoe matters, mistletoe media etc last few days (and weeks) and so a bit busy for blogging (and replying to emails, apols if you've sent in a mistletoe query recently and it's not been answered yet – will get around to it soon…).

So am just reporting on a couple of mistletoe trivia points today.

Tasteful trivia:  Harlow Carr, the Royal Horticultural Society's garden in Yorkshire, has just taken delivery of a mistletoe sculpture.  Made by Steve Blaylock, a metal sculptor who's done work with the RHS before (at Chelsea), the installation is described as a giant stainless steel Mistletoe bush.  Sounds impressive – I'll try and get a pic to add here… 

(oddly enough, whilst visiting Harlow Carr in summer 2007, we noticed they had a new 'winter walk' of winter plants but no indication of any intention to grow mistletoe, a classic winter plant.  Perhaps I should send them some seeds in February? But I may also have to show them how to grow it – the official RHS guidance on how to grow mistletoe is rather naive and inaccurate – they picture seeds being planted on a main trunk (it really only works on young branches) and persist in that old wives tale about cutting flaps in the bark (unnecessary and counterproductive).  Perhaps they should stick with the stainless steel version, or perhaps I should try harder to communicate with them?)

Less tasteful trivia:  I'm told that the recently released Four Christmasses movie, a comedy about a couple who are forced, for the first time in years, to spend time with their 4 parental families (both have divorced parents) uses the word Mistletoe quite a lot. But only as a codeword for exiting uncomfortable or awkward situations with embarrassing relations/inlaws. I just hope it doesn't set a trend…

Bumper Crop…

Lots of news reports over the weekend about the ‘bumper crop’ of mistletoe we’ve got this season, many quoting me as saying how good the berry crop is, and how this’ll keep the prices down – which is good for a ‘credit crunch Christmas’.

All this sounds very good but I think I must highlight two caveats:

  • Firstly the expected low prices (to be confirmed, or not, at the first mistletoe auction of 2008 tomorrow) largely apply to wholesale mistletoe. 

    This may be easily passed on to the retail mistletoe market if you’re buying plain sprigs sold at the greengrocers but…
    …if you buy pre-packaged mistletoe from a florist, or online, bear in mind the main costs for those are preparation, handling and shipping.  These processing costs are the same or higher this season – so that mistletoe will be much the same prices as last year.  Sorry!

  • Secondly I did qualify my comments on the berry glut slightly, pointing out that although there were lots of berries, the foliage is looking a bit reduced and scraggy and the sprigs are not quite as good-looking  as you’d think, even with all those berries…  (This snippet was omitted from the reported story in the papers.)  So the market may differentiate between good-leaved and bad-leaved mistletoe this season, instead of good v poor berries.  We shall see…

But there are lot of berries…  Definitely another mistletoe bling year…

Cutting below is from today’s Telegraph – that’s Reg Farmer in the red hat.

mistletoe management

Spent today with the Colwall Orchards Group, doing some
mistletoe management.  Colwall is a
village (actually a group of small hamlets – Upper Colwall, Colwall Green etc
etc) towards the south end of the Malvern Hills on the left-hand (western)
side.  Which makes it just in

The orchards group there 
is a relatively new one, who have been reviewing the state and status of
traditional orchards within their patch over the last year or so.  Key figures in the group include Helen Stace of Natural
England, who spoke about their progress and plans for conservation and
management of their orchards at the Sheffield Orchards Conference back in
September (see previous blog entry). 

Also from Natural England is Tim Dixon, who I last met many
many years ago on the Pocklington Canal – when he was being paid by English
Nature (as was) to make the case for the protected sites alongside and within
the highly biodiverse and then unrestored canal corridor and I was being paid
by British Waterways to (reluctantly) try to argue a case for restoration for
boats not doing any harm…  Which is a
comforting reminder for me of why I resigned.  We
agree not to dwell on past events, and talk about mistletoe instead…

Now, why manage mistletoe? 
Isn’t it ‘rare’ and all that? 
Well, no it’s not rare, not round here anyway.  And rare or not, management is the best way to conserve it,
especially in apple orchards – which is what I spoke about at the Sheffield
conference (see comment above)
in September.

So, today was a day of bashing mistletoe to help with
mistletoe and apple tree conservation. 
The main difference between what we did today and most mistletoe work at
this time of year is that we pruned/cut out both male and female plants.  This is fundamental to good mistletoe
management – most people these days just prune the female, as that has berries
and they can use it/sell it at Christmas – but doing that dooms the tree to becoming
more and more overgrown with the (relatively) valueless male plants – which is
not a good thing in the long term…

There’ll be more on this story (I hope) in the
press this season – but for now here’s a link to the paper (that outlines this
I presented at the Sheffield Hallam conference on Orchards and Groves:
Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology back in September.

And here are some pictures from today…

Even in apple orchards much mistletoe is out of reach…IMG_2052







(belated) Updates for November

Over a month since my last entry – no excuses except that mistletoe season is upon us already, and that, ironically, keeps me too busy to blog about mistletoe.

So, some quick newsy updates:

Mistletoe crop 2008: Still looking good for berries – loads of them on the plants, but the leaves are looking a bit small – even absent entirely, on some sprigs.  So it’s not yet clear whether this year is a good crop (like last year – when the berries were so good, it was described by some as a mistletoe ‘bling’ year) or whether things aren’t so good.  Time will tell… specifically after the first Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auction (to take place next Tuesday 25th Nov)

Sustainable harvesting: I’m still working to promote the idea (and ultimately the necessity) of better mistletoe management – to combat the neglect (sometimes misguidedly benign) of overgrown mistletoe-laden trees in apple orchards.  More on this later in the season – but if you want to know more you’ll find info from last year here

Mistletoe Festival 2008:  Final details of the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival 2008 are now (almost) available.  A few small bits still to sort out – but the main thing to know is that it all happens on Saturday 6th Dec (wholesale auctions are on 25th Nov and 2nd and 9th Dec), and it will include, for the first time, a charity mistletoe auction on the day…  More at

Mistletoe Supply 2008:  The Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise group are trading online again this season – orders are building up rapidly at present, which means I (amongst others) have to go climbing up a few trees as usual…  More at

Mistletoe Media 2008:  News Release on the Festival due v soon.  Will post it here when available.  Several features in monthly mags already – particularly good one in BBC Countryfile Magazine – there’s an extract here.  My only grumble is the way they’ve described how to grow-your-own – repeating the old wives tale about cutting flaps in the bark etc…  More on that in a later post…  More media info following next week’s auctions…

Druid mistletoe event 2008:  As previously mentioned, this won’t be at the Tenbury Festival this year, but there will be a weekend-long druidic celebration from 5th to 7th December, near the Wyre Forest.  More on this when info available…