December 2016 article
Here we are gardeners finally coming to the end of another year. The length of day has been growing steadily shorter as we approach the December or winter solstice, December 21st, in our Northern Hemisphere. With the mild weather we have been experiencing I race around completing my outside chores within a smaller window of time once the frost burns off and the temperature rapidly starts cooling down again. The earth is now tilting the farthest away from the sun so that its light warming rays reach us for a shorter time each day. On the winter solstice, we will experience the least amount of daylight in a 24 hour period, a meager 9 1/2 hours, that is exactly opposite from the June summer solstice that gives us the greatest amount of light in a 24 hour span. Then the earth will slowly begin turning back toward the sun steadily increasing the length of day again. Thank goodness, we have the distraction of holidays and plant material to help us prevail over this darker time. Festive Thanksgiving is full of vibrant fall colors. We can decorate with interesting gourds, pumpkins, cornstalks and hay bales. Then cut greens, wreaths and trees deck the halls in December. Universally, red and green are the traditional colors associated with the Christmas season. The color green represents life, nature, peace, eternity and hope for the future; a reminder that although the earth maybe asleep, spring and a reawakening are just a few months away. For Christians, red is an important symbol of Christ’s birth and death celebrating his selfless love and sacrifice. The beloved red poinsettia or star flower supposedly resembles the star that hovered over Bethlehem following his birth. Since poinsettias bloom during the Christmas season they are known as Flores de Noche Buena, or Flowers of the Holy Night. Bringing wishes of merriment and celebration they are a sign of good cheer and success. Another representation of the Christmas season is the holly plant which is common to the winter landscape with its shiny green leaves and red berries. The prickly leaves signify the crown of thorns Christ wore on the day of His crucifixion and the bright red berries embody the drops of blood shed for the sins of mankind. Many of us are familiar with the Christmas song “The Holly and the Ivy.” According to folklore, when paired together they are supposed to be good luck plants. The holly brings blessings to the man of the house and the ivy blessings to the lady. For many the evergreen holly plant is celebrated for the green it adds to a colorless background outside. Then there is the wreath, one of the most popular decorations for the Christmas holiday season. Traditionally, a wreath is hung on a front door as a sign of welcome to greet guests who gather together for some holiday cheer. Being fashioned into a circle shape over time has made it a symbol of eternity with no beginning or no end. And of course the Chritsmas season is not complete without an evergreen tree glowing with lights and glittering with ornaments.Like an individual’s garden it can be uniquely decorated. So. let’s embrace the winter solstice and make it a December to remember.