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Holly, Ivy and Mistletoe are all plants that we associate with Christmas, but there is more to Mistletoe than you might think.

Mistletoe is very special as it does not grow in soil but grows on the branches of trees, it sends its roots under the bark taking nutrients from its host tree, it is often found on apple trees but it can also grow on Hawthorn, Lime, Poplar, Willow, Rowan, Quince and Whitebeam.

In European folklore Mistletoe was considered a mysterious, magical, and sacred plant, from the middle ages branches of Mistletoe were hung from ceilings to ward off evil spirits as well as over doors to prevent witches from entering. The appearance and growing habit of Mistletoe will have added to the fascination with this unique plant, its bare symmetrical branches, with a single symmetrical pair of smooth, long evergreen leaves at the tip and its glossy, pure white berries almost suspended amongst the tangle of branches which from a distance resemble a sphere.

How to grow your own Mistletoe

If you are buying Mistletoe at Christmas, choose the sprigs of Mistletoe that have ‘ripe’ plump white berries rather than unripe green or yellow ones.

Cut off the ends of the branches and place the sprigs in water on a cool, frost free windowsill until March/April.

Select a tree with branches at least 10cm in diameter, underneath the branches or under a branch joint carefully make a scratch in the bark, this will bring the seeds into contact with the tree, and then squash one of the berries into it, mark its position by tying a piece of string or wool around the branch with a label.

Many berries will drop off or be eaten, to ensure a good success rate sow at least twenty at a time, growth is slow and it will be the following spring before any leaves appear, for your new plants to produce berries you need to have a male and female plant, it will take about four or five years for the new plants to mature and produce berries.

If you have apple trees at school or at home you can ask each child to ‘plant’ a seed and put their name on the label with the date then they will (fingers crossed) be able to watch their own Mistletoe grow.

Have fun

Gill

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This week 5th February – 12th February it is Bramley Apple Week. We are all being encouraged to cook with this very British Apple. It is recognised by home cooks and professional chefs as the best apple for cooking and the Bramley’s unique qualities make it one of the most versatile ingredients for both sweet and savoury dishes.

The first Bramley tree grew from pips planted in the garden of Mary Ann Brailsford at Southwell, Nottinghamshire, England in 1809 making the variety over 200 years old. In 1900 the tree blew down in a terrible storm, but incredibly it survived and believe it or not this tree continues to bear fruit today.

If you want to pick your own Bramley apples why not invest in a tree for your garden or allotment they are available to buy bare rooted or growing in containers. It is not too late to plant them.

Apple trees can do well anywhere, apart from waterlogged sites or in salty sea air, they prefer rich moist soil with well drained loam. It is best to position your tree somewhere sunny and sheltered this will maximise the time your fruit has to ripen.

Bare root trees can be planted late autumn to early spring but avoid planting if there’s a frost, place roots in moist soil until conditions improve. Make the hole big enough for the tree to be buried up to the old soil mark on the stem, and for the roots to be spread out. Place the tree in the hole and push in a wooden stake, then fill the hole with good potting compost and gently firm down but not tread in. Tie the tree to the stake securely but not too tightly on the stem. Water in well and apply a mulch.

Container grown trees can be planted anytime of the year except when frosty or if the soil is too dry or wet. For container grown trees dig a hole larger and deeper than the container, put fresh compost in the bottom and place the tree (minus container) in the hole, do not break up the soil from the container, then fill the hole with fresh compost to the base of the tree, firm in, stake and tie in. Water in well and apply a mulch.

If you are growing a tree in a container, half fill a large tub with soil-based potting compost and place your tree on top (minus container) fill the tub with more soil to the base of the tree, water well and feed regularly.

In dry weather water your fruit trees regularly until they are established.

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