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KISSING UNDER A MISTLETOE : ITS ORIGIN AND LEGEND
The original Christmas mistletoe, Phoradendron flavescens, is native to North America and grows as a parasite on trees. Though commonly seen growing as a parasitic plant, it can actually produce its own food by photosynthesis. The plant is a branching woody evergreen shrub, with yellow flowers, which develops into small sticky, pearly white berries. The plants are actually poisonous.. The Philippines has a different species of mistletoes, under the genus Amyena, often found in our forests, with bright red or orange flowers. The Christmas mistletoe has a long history, and was used before as a ceremonial plant by the early Europeans. In the earliest times, the mistletoe has been one of the most magical, mysterious, and sacred plants of European folklore. It was considered to bestow life and fertility; a protection against poison; to ward off evil spirits, a symbol of peace and an aphrodisiac. The custom of using mistletoe to decorate houses at Christmas is a survival of the Druid and other pre-Christian traditions. Kissing under the mistletoe was first found associated with the Greek festival of Saturnalia and later with primitive marriage rites. They probably originated from two beliefs. One belief was that it has power to bestow fertility. It was also believed that the dung from which the mistletoe grew would also possess "life-giving" power. In Scandinavia, mistletoe was considered a plant of peace, under which enemies could declare a truce or warring spouses kiss and make-up. Later, the magical appeal of the mistletoe was modified, with the creation of the kissing ball. At Christmas time, a young lady standing under a ball of mistletoe, brightly trimmed with evergreens, ribbons, and ornaments, cannot refuse to be kissed. Such a kiss could mean deep romance or lasting friendship and goodwill.
Whether we believe it or not, it always makes for fun and frolic at Christmas celebrations. Even if the pagan significance has been long forgotten, the custom of exchanging a kiss under the mistletoe can still be found in many European countries as well as in Canada. Thus if a couple in love exchanges a kiss under the mistletoe, it is interpreted as a promise to marry, as well as a prediction of happiness and long life. Nowadays, the spirit of this old myth has been transformed into the Christian tradition, in which, the mistletoe becomes an emblem of Love which conquers Death. Its medicinal properties, whether real or imaginary, becomes a symbol of hope, especially in uniting the family during Christmas. Its significance is parallel to the celebration of the Birth of Christ, which fosters love, forgiveness, unity and hope.
Chrysanthemums as a Christmas Decoration
Thinking of a potted flowering plant to decorate your home of Christmas? Try potted flowering Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemums are one of the most popular flowers in the world, next only to Roses, and its mass-produced in Baguio, Tagaytay and Davao. There are now a lot of varieties with flowers of varied colors and sizes, usually planted in a clean plastic pot. Aside from being a popular cut-flower, a potted flowering Chrysanthemum could be bought from a garden store and decorate it in your home this Christmas season. The name Chrysanthemum came from the Greek 'Chrys' meaning golden (the color of the original flowers), and 'anthemon', meaning flower. This name was given to it by Carolus Linnaeus, a Swedish naturalist also known as the father of modern taxonomy. Chrysanthemum nowadays bloom in various forms, and can be daisy-like, decorative, pompons or buttons. Chrysanthemum blooms also come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes and in a wide range of colors. In addition to the traditional yellow, other popular colors are white, purple, and red. With these, the blooming plants are good accents and gives living color in the home, alongside 3
your Christmas decorations. The Chrysanthemum flower symbolizes fidelity, optimism, joy and long life. After the Christmas season, Chrysanthemum plants with wilted flowers can be trimmed and repotted.. Shoot segments could be cut and used as a propagating material in producing another batch of chrysanthemum plants for next season seedlings. Use a free draining and fertile soil composed of a mixture of garden soil, sand and compost. Water the plants once a day. After a few weeks, Chrysanthemum seedlings can be pinched or their shoot tips cut to make them bushy. Fertilizing the plant is an important step in maintaining a healthy plant. Fertilize using a half teaspoon of controlled release blooming fertilizer once every 2 months and discontinue fertilizing after flower buds are formed. Plants usually respond to a longer period of light, about 12-16 hours for it to bloom. Check plants for insects and diseases. The plant is often susceptible to leaf spots, Botrytis, Fusarium wilt, and root rot. Thus, do not over water, and allow air movement in the garden. Insect pests like aphids, caterpillars, mites, and white flies can be controlled by regularly spraying a dilute soapy solution or an insecticide.
Growing Cymbidium Orchids
The genus Cymbidium, whose name refers to the boat-shaped lip or labellum of its flowers, was published by Olof Swartz in 1799 in Dianome Epidendri Generis Linn. Its name is derived from the Greek word kumbos, meaning 'hole or cavity'. It refers to the form of the base of the lip. The genus is abbreviated Cym in horticultural trade. It is commonly called Boat Orchid, and it is one of the best known and most widely traded of all genera of orchids. This orchid is more popular abroad than here in the Philippines. This is due to the fact that most of its modern hybrids 4
are temperate growing plants, and requires a cooler temperature or higher elevation to flower well. However, we also have tropical or warm-growing Cymbidiums here in the Philippines. The genus consists of about 52 species that are found from Korea, Japan, China, Himalayas, Taiwan, the Philippines, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and Australia. The Philippines have 6 species and two varieties, and two of the species are endemic. Our native Cymbidium includes Cymbidium aliciae Quis., C. atropurpureum (Lindl.) Rolfe, C. dayanum Reichb.f., Cym. dayanum var. austro-japonicum Tayuma, C. ensifolium (L.) Sw. var. misericors, C. finlaysonianum Lindl., C. gonzalesii Quis. and C. pubescens Lindl. Cymbidiums are sympodial, medium to large sized orchids, about 60-90 cm in height and are closely related to Grammatophyllums. Temperate or cool growing cymbidiums have erect blooms or inflorescence, with large flowers, while the Philippine cymbidiums species are warm growing and has long pendulous inflorescence, and medium sized flowers. The native species also blooms seasonally. The plants are variously terrestrial, lithophytic or epiphytic in habit with short or somewhat elongated pseudobulbs. Each pseudobulb bears a small number of leaves. In most cases the whole psuedobulb is covered with closely overlapping sheathing bases of leaves. The leaves are rather long and narrow, leathery, erect and curved, rarely stalked. Inflorescence arises from near the base of the pseudobulb, usually with long, pendulous inflorescence. The flowers are fairly large, sepals and petals about equal and free, usually spreading. Lip is 3-lobed, the side lobes erect and close to the sides of the column. In the central part of the lip between them are two longitudinal keels. Cultural Requirements: Light – Cymbidiums grows in full sun to partly shaded condition. However, during extreme hot summer months, provision of 2 layers of net maybe required by some plants. Watering & Humidity – Young plants in active growth needs to be watered everyday, but allowing time for plants to dry between watering. Mature plants would prefer 2-3 days interval 5
between watering since, they have pseudobulbs that store water and food. In inducing mature plants to flower, watering rate is usually lowered for a month or two, and only the surrounding companion plants are watered to provide humidity. Once the flower spikes comes out, it is then watered more often. Allow ventilation and air-movement between plants at all times. Most plants are usually tolerant to drought.
Potting Technique – Small to medium sized Cymbidiums are usually potted on 5 to 10 inch clay pots, with a mixture of chopped coconut husk and charcoal as medium. Gravel or broken pottery can also be used as potting mix. For larger plants, they could either be placed on 2 feet diameter or larger plastic pots, in hanging baskets, or usually mounted on live tree branches, on driftwoods or on large wood stumps elevated about 4-5 feet from the soil, so that its long pendulous blooms can be observed and enjoyed properly. Before potting, remove all dead and decaying roots, leaf sheaths and leaves. Anchor plants properly on the pot or mount properly on tree branches or wood stumps, so that they will not move. These will facilitate quick establishment. It was observed that these plants can break clay pots as they overgrow their container. Plants are usually evergreen and seldom loose their foliage . Pseudobulbs maybe divided into 2-3 bulbs each to facilitate propagation and at the same time prevent die back characteristics. Fertilization – Fertilize plants in active growth by spraying them with a dilute orchid foliar fertilizer once every week, usually after watering plants. Plants in dormant stages of growth or those being treated for flower induction are not fertilized. A small amount of slow release fertilizer may be placed per pot every 2 months. Their active root system tends to grow upwards, an adaptation to catch forest detritus for its nutrient requirement.
Pest and Diseases – These plants are tolerant to most fungal diseases and insect pests. Weevils are one of the worst pest of Cymbidiums, and can be controlled by systemic insecticides against weevils or by sprinkling diatomaceous earth between leaf crevices. It is best to keep plants dry as much as possible to prevent rotting. Limiting the watering to once every 23 days will solve this problem. Apply fungicides like Captan, Ridomil or Bavistin as a propylactic during the rainy season or when there is fungal disease. Apply Lannate or Sevin only when there is serious insect infestations. Propagation -- Cymbidiums are propagated by division of pseudobulbs. Clumps are divided into 2-3 bulbs each Care must be taken that only sterile pruning shears be used. Sanitize cutting instruments by washing them in soap and water and wiping them with 70% ethyl alcohol solution before dividing plants. Cymbidiums can also be propagated through seeds. Flowers maybe artificially pollinated and these will form seed capsules within a month. Mature seed capsules, about 3-4 months old, should be ready for harvest. Seeds are artificially sown in the laboratory using orchid seed technology, to produce thousands of seedlings in a year’s time. A group is currently doing breeding works to produce warm-growing Cymbidium hybrids for Philippine setting.
The Money Tree: Bringing Good Fortune into the Home
The Money Tree, or scientifically known as Pachira aquatica is a hardy tree that can vary from a small-sized Bonsai to 7 feet tall tree, which can placed on a pot and used as an indoor house plant or be kept at the office. The plant originated from southern Mexico to Guyana and northern Brazil.
Some interesting theories on where the Money Tree got it’s name from is because of the fact that it has five shiny evergreen leaves on each branch, which symbolizes the 5 fundamental Feng Shui elements -Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth. The tree is also very commonly sold made up of 5 intertwined trees. The plant symbolizes good wealth. Most people believe not only it brings green color into your room, but also bring luck and fortune to any household, business or people you care. It is also popularly known as Malabar Chestnut, Feng Shui plant, and “Lucky Bamboo”. The plant is easy to maintain. Water the plant regularly, in order to keep the potting soil moist but do not overwater, as too much water is not good for this plant. The soil should preferably composed of equal proportion of river sand, and garden soil to help with the drainage. Keep the tree in medium light. It can stand sunlight or shade if it has to, but for optimal growth, a bit of both is recommended. Prune the large leaves if you would like a lot of new leaf growth.
When trees are permitted to mature on the soil, they produce magnificent cream-colored flowers, which develop into woody pods containing edible nuts, eaten raw or roasted.
Repot the plant into a bigger container, if it has outgrown it its previous pot. If it has really become big, it can be planted directly into the soil and grow into a big tree. In its full maturity, it gives a spectacular cream-pinkish flowers, producing an woody green pod with edible nuts. Nuts can be eaten raw or roasted. The plant can also be propagated by stem cuttings or through seeds. Young leaves and flowers can also be cooked and used as a vegetable. The Money tree is commonly pest and insect free, but may occasionally visited by usual house plant pests like mealybugs. Nevertheless, just wash the plant with dilute detergent and clean water. The plant is truly a ideal home or office plant, as it is easy to maintain, give an ambiance of greenery and “new life” at the same time gives luck and fortune.
The Bat Flower
The strange Tacca chantrieri, also known as the Bat Flower, is an exotic tropical perennial plant from the rainforests of Southeast Asia and Africa. It belongs to the Taccaceae plant family and it has weird looking deep purple-brown and white flowers that at first glance, look like a black bat. Specifically, the center of the flower has an uncanny resemblance to the face of a bat. It even has whiskers and a tail. From these striking flowers, clusters of tiny orchid-like purple pods and 30 centimeter long whiskers hang down. The plant can produce 10 to 12 of these amazing 20inch flowers in one flowering season. The Bat Flower reaches its flowering size in about three years. It’s an excellent outdoor pot plant, and it’s best placed in shaded, humid places, most particularly under trees. Like many ferns, its lush, green, and heavily veined foliage benefits from filtered light. 9
It can be planted in a free-draining, high humus or compost potting mix. The pot must be initially placed in a plastic bag until it germinates. When the seedling reaches two inches in height, it is placed in soil in a threeinch pot. As the plant further grows, it is transferred to a bigger pot. Aside from daily watering, the plant must be misted twice a day. Fertilize plants with a dilute solution of liquid fertilizer every two weeks. While it takes three years for the plant to flower, the wait is well worth it. Once it flowers, it flowers all year round.
The Urban Gardener is an official electronic publication (in PDF Format) of the Plant Biotechnology Project, Research & Development Center, Rizal Technological University, Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City, Philippines. It is published monthly. For more information, please inquire thru email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com and landline (+632) 534-8267 Local 135 or Fax (+632) 5349710. Edited by N.R. Bautista © December 2010 The Plant Biotechnology Project Committee is composed of: Alexander B. Quilang, Norberto R. Bautista, & Jovita A. Anit.
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
“To plant a garden is to believe in the future”
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