Kiss and Tell in the English Garden

EngGarden2015thumbnailAnother year, and another slightly embarrassing (I never quite get used to them) profile of yours truly in the national press. This time in the English Garden magazine, a glossy monthly about, er, English Gardens and gardening.

I have been featured in this mag before, way back in 2006 when they published an article on mistletoe and mistletoe planting, in which I gave advice on planting techniques. This time it’s a profile in their ‘Garden Paths’ series, where they interview someone different each month.

EngGarden2015detailIt is actually a very neat little feature, written by Victoria Mason, based on words I wrote in answer to her questions, and illustrated with a photo by Anne-Marie Randall, from a photo-shoot she did with me last winter.

I’ve got a very odd expression on my face though, as if I’m cross, or really concentrating on something.

Probably on not going cross-eyed, which I do sometimes in photo-shoots and is most unbecoming!

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

The first of 2015’s Giant Mistletoes, but will it be the best?

A rather cheap-looking giant mistletoe in Melbourne, 2013
A relatively cheap-looking giant mistletoe in Melbourne, 2013

Giant, pendant, but fake (obviously) mistletoes seem to be turning into a tradition, at least amongst corporate marketing teams and street decorators. In recent years there have many examples of these giant decorations – some stunning works of art (e.g. at RHS Harlow Carr back in 2008), some remarkable eye-catchers (e.g. Heathrow Airport in 2013) and some just plain tasteless (e.g Melbourne’s glow in the dark decorations in 2013, which looked as if was made of old scaffold poles and left-over street lamps – see pic right).

Covent Gardens' ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’ Christmas decorations, designed by Michael Howells
Covent Gardens’ ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’ Christmas decorations, designed by Michael Howells

I’m expecting a good crop of these again this season, and the first that I’ve become aware of this year is in London’s Covent Garden, where they have not one but 40 giant mistletoes!

Designed by Michael Howells and unveiled yesterday, the 40 mistletoes, each about 3 metres tall, take the form of chandeliers with glowing berries (nearly 700 of those).

The most striking aspect, to me, is the accuracy of the design, with the paired leaves beyond the berries. Many artificial mistletoe designs tend to group the berries with the leaves, so it’s really satisfying to see a design with real commitment to accuracy.

But this is just the first of this year’s giant mistletoes – will any other venue do better? Covent Garden is setting a high standard to beat!

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

Not-so-wild but fairly western mistletoe

How far west can mistletoe grow in Britain? The main population is in the south-west English Midlands, overlapping into eastern-most Wales in Monmouthshire. But despite this being western-ish (this is definitely west of Britain’s geographic centre) it is not really a western plant, being quite rare in Devon and Cornwall, and in the rest of Wales. There are a few isolated populations, here and there, but they can be hard to find.

And those odd populations may not be ‘wild’ as they are so far outside the species natural range they are probably planted, though often many decades ago. Indeed a few are known to be over 100 years-old, the date of planting being known, with the whole colony arising from that one historic action.

Llanerchaeron - mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden
Llanerchaeron – mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden

I’m always on the look-out for new examples and so was very pleased (and surprised!) to come across a new one today, on old apple trees in the walled garden of Llanerchaeron, near Aberaeron in Ceredigion. When I say ‘new’ I mean new to me, I’m sure the National Trust, who run the place, are already well aware that they have mistletoe. But it was a particularly interesting find for me, as it is very western indeed, possibly one of the most western I know.

Aberaeron itself is way out west, with the Llanerchaeron estate a little to its east, and today’s mistletoe is at UK grid reference SN480601. That’s an Easting of 2480, which is most definitely a very western Easting. How does this compare to other western mistletoe populations? Fairly well actually. The most obvious one to compare it to is the small population at Cotehele, another National Trust-owned historic estate, away south in England on the Cornish/Devon border, overlooking the Tamar Estuary. The mistletoe there is acknowledged to be some of Britain’s most western. But could today’s mistletoe be even further west? Has the west just been won by Llanerchaeron mistletoe?

Llanerchaeron - detail of mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden, with berries just beginning to show white
Llanerchaeron – detail of mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden, with berries just beginning to show white

Back to grid-references and calculations… The mistletoe at Cotehele, also on old apple trees, is at SX422685, which makes an Easting of 2422. This means, ever-so-slightly-disappointingly, that today’s mistletoe doesn’t win. Cotehele is 5.8 kilometres further west. Cotehele wins, but not by much.

And was today’s mistletoe natural – i.e a wild population? I doubt it. It’s in a classic location for planting, a big country estate with an apple orchard. Plus the plants don’t look very old, maybe less than 20 years, and I know that some NT staff have been planting it here and there.

The Cotehele population is fairly recently established and perhaps this one is too. Though you can never be too sure of these things. There are remnant historic orchards in the Tamar valley near Cotehele that have a little mistletoe, and there is mistletoe in gardens just upstream at Calstock and across the river at Tamerton. Which was there first? All are very close together as the Mistle Thrush flies.

That’s the situation as I understand it near Cotehele, so perhaps there’s more in the area around Aberaeron…. I’ll have to come back when the trees have lost their leaves…

Edited to add: 

A map, for those who are unsure where these places are… The two red crosses mark the two sites, the top one is Aberaeron and the lower one Cotehele. Locations are only approximate on this scale!

Llanerchaeron4

Commercial break…  East or West, why not grow your own mistletoe?

If you want to grow your own mistletoe, east or west, a good way to start is with a mistletoe grow-kit from the English Mistletoe Shop… 

All Mistletoe’s Eve?

2015_unripe
Unripe mistletoe berries. These are on the shady side of the host tree. Those on the sunny side are already whitening up for winter…

All Hallows’ Eve, and the mistletoe is ripening… Not that it’s got anything to do with Halloween of course, other than being a mysterious plant, a symbol of pagan tradition and a portent of the dark winter months. Which is, I s‘pose, quite a lot.

But with November dawning tomorrow we’ll soon be right back into mistletoe season. So I think it’s fair to say this is Mistletoe’s Eve too.

Actually, mistletoe season never quite goes away for us mistletoe-enthusiasts – I’ve been mistletoe-spotting and plotting all summer…

There’ll be more about all that (the spotting and plotting) later in the season. For now, a brief summary of some of the mistletoe things happening this winter, in no particular order:

Mistletoe Auctions
The Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions are on three Tuesday mornings as usual – this year’s dates being 24th November, 1st December and 8th December. They’ll be at Burford House Garden Store again, like last year. For details of times, location etc visit Nick Champion’s website (Nick is the auctioneer).

The auctions are commercial wholesale events, but open to all and well worth a visit as you’ll see more mistletoe in one place then you’ve ever seen before, but on the ground, not on a tree (which does mean, sadly, that it has lost its magic power – according to Druid legend mistletoe must never touch the ground – ancient druids (see below) would catch cut mistletoe as it fell, in a white sheet…)

Mistletoe Training
There will be some mistletoe management training from Mistletoe Matters this season – some for private groups, some open to all – details will be available later in the season.

Mistletoe Druid Events
I am aware of plans for two druid mistletoe ceremonies so far – more may be announced later. Some are private events, others are open to all. One of the public events will be at Tenbury Wells on Saturday 28th November at 3pm.

Mistletoe Festival
And talking of Tenbury events, there is the Mistletoe Festival – whose main events take place on Saturday 5th December. I’m no longer directly involved in the Festival, so can’t give much of an insight in what’s going on – you’ll find details at http://www.tenburymistletoe.org/festival_day.html

Mistletoe Surveys
This season sees the re-launch (delayed from last year) of the various Mistletoe League surveys, gathering information on mistletoe management in orchards and gardens and on mistletoe susceptibility varies between fruit tree varieties. More about these later in the season – for now I’ll just point out they have a new website – at surveys.mistletoe.org.uk

Mistletoe Websites
And talking of new websites, as well as the new surveys website there is now a new website for Mistletoe Matters, where I put most of my mistletoe advice. I’ll post some info about that soon too.

Not forgetting, of course, the ongoing Mistletoe Pages website, which has loads of general mistletoe information.

Mistletoe Sales Websites
Last but not least there are the online mistletoe trading websites – including my English Mistletoe Shop – the main site here, or the dedicated Grow-Kit site here. We (English Mistletoe Shop) are not selling mistletoe online this season – but I’ll post a review of those sites that are (including those with confusingly similar names to us) in November.

And, er, that’s it for now. There’ll be more Mistletoe Diary blogging soon – I’ve been saving lots of stuff up for November/December….