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May 26, 2017

Mistletoe Alternative

Have you ever tried growing mistletoe?

Poor man’s mistletoe! – Have you bought any mistletoe this year? – Have you ever tried to grow mistletoe? –  If the answer is yes to the first and no to the second question it wouldn’t surprise me, because mistletoe is extremely difficult to grow. It is a parasite and will not grow on the ground only on a host tree. It prefers a member of the apple tree as they have soft tissue which allows the roots to penetrate easier into the bark and wood. If you do decide to grow it from seed that you have painfully stuck (although they are a bit sticky themselves which is the meaning of  their latin name -viscum )  to the bark of a tree, have patience for at least three years before you see any resemblance to a growing plant and the same time again before you see a flower and berries if they pollinate each other ! If you will manage to get a good few bunches of mistletoe growing, now is the time to forget about your apple tree because the parasite will take all the energy from its host tree leaving the apple tree with little strength to produce a good crop of fruit. So is it worth it? The alternative is to buy a few twigs , – at least now you might forgive the shops for selling the twigs at such an expensive price.

snowberrysThe good news is that I have an alternative idea for you – grow the Snowberry!

Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table:   12th Dec – 18th Dec

Botanical  Name: Symphoricarpos.    Common Name : Snowberry.

The snowberry is a shrub that will grow anywhere, in sun or in light shade and in any type of soil. The leaves are small and the flowers hardly conspicuous but that is because the human eye is only satisfied with bold colour and size but the birds and butterflies appreciate the flowers for their nectar making the symphoricarpos one of their favourites. When the autumn months arrives the snowberry becomes appreciated  by human beings with its white berries born singly and in clusters all along the stems. A well pruned bush after a warm summer will produce a better crop of berries but the tree is fully hardy, and in any given year you should manage to get enough berries to fill the home from a medium sized bush. The downside over the mistletoe is that the snowberry is not evergreen and often the leaves will be missing from the branches by December, but leaves are easy to camouflage by using leaves from other plants. Another difference is that even though there is a variety called ‘Mother of Pearl’ which is a variety that bears a good crop of berries , the berries are not as translucent as the berries of the mistletoe, but that is why I call it the poor man’s mistletoe because it isn’t the real thing!

Word of Warning! Similar to mistletoe berries, these berries are poisonous – but since mistletoe twigs have short stems they are usually placed out of reach of children. As the snowberry has long stems you might be tempted to put them in a vase on the dining table closer to children. Never the less there are very rare cases of poisoning by these berries as they are not palatable, but please take care.

Plants are readily available, you might find them in a catalogue or shop under the name of ghostberry or waxberry. If you want the plant to be used to imitate a mistletoe just make sure that you are buying a white berry variety as there are varieties of symphoricarpos that bear pink berries like symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry), so don’t get caught out!

About The Author

Profile photo of Boris Legarni

Boris inherited his green fingers from his mother, who was still planting potatoes and rhubarb in the sixties as she was afraid that they would once again be rationed. As a teenager he used to plant radishes in the corner of the school garden and sell them during break time for sixpence, to give his classmates a healthy crunchy snack. He and his wife both have had an allotment for years, but there is no competition – he does the planting and she does the harvesting and cooking. With a passion for growing anything edible, Boris has planted dozens of named fruit trees in his orchard. Nevertheless he is an avid flower arranger, and assists local communities and charities with his flower arrangements. Boris tells us that after so many years on the allotment he has made all the mistakes possible, and he will share with you his practice to make yours perfect!

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  1. Pingback: Mistletoe Alternative – Goto 4 Gardening

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