Christmas Prelude in Kennebunkport Maine!
The Paul Parent Garden Club, next trip is to Cuba


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Reindeer looking for evergreen shrubs to feed on



This holiday story begins in May. It was to be a surprise for Mom, as all she wanted for Mother's day that year was a garden on the island in the center of the driveway turn-around. The island of green grass was nice, but flowers would be much better--so she asked her family for a colorful garden for her special day.

Down to the nursery the three kids and Dad went, as Mom would be away all day Saturday and the project must be done while she was away. Dad and the three kids asked for my help to design this special Mother's Day garden. The five of us talked about what Mom would like in the garden, because Dad wanted everyone to be part of the design.

One of the children said that Mom loves the pink weeping flowering cherry--and that's a great idea for the center on the island. The next child said Mom loves daisies and tulips, so we planned the garden to have several colors of daisies that would flower all summer long. The tulips could be planted in the fall for spring color. The third child said Mom would like to have a bird bath and bird feeder in the garden so she could watch the birds all year long.

Then Dad and I talked about an evergreen shrub border around the garden to frame it and to keep some of the green grass strip around the garden to prevent the soil from washing into the gravel driveway. Dad had been in Colonial Williamsburg several years ago and loved the formal yew hedges around the homes there.

We were set and the garden was all planned out. So the kids picked out a flowering cherry tree for Mom, several types of daisies, and a bird bath and feeder--while Dad and I selected 12 spreading yews for the border.

A truckload of topsoil was delivered and dumped in the middle of the island to create a mound, and the planting began. All three children worked along with Dad, and before Mom could return, the surprise was completed. Just this is a wonderful family story--but the best is yet to come, because this really is a Christmas story!

The children were getting to the age where the thought of Santa Claus was in doubt. On Christmas Eve, Mom and Dad were entertaining family and friends when it came to be time for the children to go to bed. All the adults encouraged the children to go to bed as Santa Claus would be here soon--but only if they went to bed. So the children went to bed with visions of Santa and Christmas morning in their heads. They were restless, like all children, that night and got out of bed several times to look out the window to see if Santa was coming to their home yet.

From the children's window, the front yard was all lit up, as the garden they planted for Mom was filled with white lights, making her weeping cherry as pretty as it was in the spring when the tree was all in bloom. Dad had also covered the yew hedge with white lights, making Mom's garden glisten for the holidays. The celebration continued with the adults, and slowly the children fell off to sleep on that Christmas Eve night.

Then all of a sudden the thunder of footsteps came running down the stairs and the excitement of the children laughing was everywhere. The startled guests, Mom, and Dad quickly halted the celebration, as the three children talked of Santa, Rudolph, and many reindeer. There was much talking and excitement in the living room but no one could understand what was going on until the children pulled Mom, Dad, and their guests to the window to see.

The garden they had planted was filled with eight reindeer. The reindeer had come to the garden to feast on the yew hedge we had planted for Mom that spring. The bird feeder was filled with seed, and one of the reindeer ate all that seed, as another was drinking from the birdbath--as if in a toast to the celebration. But the biggest of the reindeer was what brought all the excitement to all of those who were there. Because---as he ate the yew hedge--his antlers caught in some of the strands of white lights and tiny white lights dangled from his head. That is when the children yelled, "That's Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer!"

The deer stayed around for a while, entertaining the family and guests, while enjoying the yew hedge. As much as Dad wanted to chase them away, he knew the children would not want him to chase away "Santa's Reindeer." All were amazed--and that year, the belief in Santa Claus and the reindeer did not disappear.

It's a Wonderful Life - Hark the Herald and Auld Lang Syne la Longoria  la Longoria
I
it's a Wonderful Life - Hark the Herald and Auld Lang Syne 

Cutting the Christmas Tree

As you prepare for the wonderful holiday season ahead of you, STOP for a second and think back about the holidays of the past. I want to tell you about some of my favorite memories, as some of you have just joined my gardening family and I want you to know who I am. Then I want you to use your own memories to make your holidays even better for you and your family.

When I was 11 years old, my Mom and Dad packed up the car with us five kids, and we headed out to a secluded wooded area in Central Maine in search for the perfect Christmas tree. My dad had a friend who told him he could cut a Christmas tree on his land, so he took him up on the offer. Each of us also wanted to bring home a small tree for our classroom at school--remember when you could do that?

We traveled for about an hour and found the site to cut our perfect Christmas tree. First, we had to find the perfect tree for the family--and it was a beauty. Eight feet tall and no holes all the way around, dark green and with a fragrance I can still remember. My Dad had the five of us carry the tree to the car as he supervised the operation, with the promise that we could soon choose the trees for our class room. Back in the woods we ran and one by one we cut down our own 3 to 4 foot tree. I remember the five of us carrying the trees back to the car and helping my Dad tie them on the roof of the car.

Then it happened, a big man in a pickup truck pulled up beside us and asked us where we got the trees. My Dad told him that we cut them on his friend's land and we had permission to do so. Unfortunately, my Dad's friend's land was on the other side of the road and this man was a bit upset with us cutting trees on his land. He wanted his trees back and was going to call the police on us, until all five of us kids started crying at the thought of going to jail. The big man did not expect that and soon agreed that $20.00 would cover the cost of the trees. We quickly finished tying the trees on the car and got out of there fast, vowing to never cut down a tree again in the wild.

When we got home I remember my Mother scrubbing our hands with Comet cleanser to get the fresh pitch off our hands--and my sisters had to take a bath, as they had pitch in their hair. When was the last time you had pitch on your hands from a Christmas tree? While my mother cleaned us up, my dad built five tree stands for the classroom trees, and Monday morning, bright and early, the trees were off to school for the celebration.

Now the story is not over and the best part is yet to come--because the big family tree had a vine running up the middle of the tree that we did not see. We decorated the tree with lights, glass balls and tinsel; remember tinsel? How that beautiful silver foil made your tree glisten; I miss that. My brother Bob loved this tree as he showed--he spent much time playing with the tree branches and ornaments. Well...on Christmas Eve, Bob came down with a strange rash on his arms, neck, and face. Yes, Bob had poison ivy--and the doctor told my parents to get the tree out of the house or all the other kids could get it too!

My Dad took the tree apart, with all of us crying, on Christmas Eve but he promised he would find us a new one. Two hours later, Dad returned home with a big box marked Artificial Christmas Tree, as there was not a tree available anywhere. To our horror, we opened the box to find a silver tinfoil tree with branches that we stuck in a big wooden trunk painted silver. It even had a light that turned under it making the tree four different colors. My Dad said it was all he could find everywhere he looked, so it was better than no tree at all.

Now on Christmas morning, the fun really began as one by one our neighbors came to the door to protest that the Christmas tree was thrown on the snow bank in front of the house. One by one, they told my parents how upset they were with them, that they had punished us kids for being bad by taking down the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. What could those children have done that was so bad that you could punish them that way? A quick explanation--and giving them a look at my brother Bob's face and hands--and all was well again.

That silver tree never went up again--and we never cut down our own Christmas tree in the wild again!
White Christmas
White Christmas" 1954 Bing Crosby & Danny Kaye

     

Christmas Holly!
When thinking of Christmas plants or cut greens, there is no better plant than holly. With its shiny green leaves and red berries, holly contains all the colors of the holiday. Because the holly bears fruit and stays green all year, it is considered a Christian symbol of immortality. One legend is that the holly hid Jesus from Herod's soldiers during the flight to Egypt and holly was thereafter blessed with green leaves all year.

To insure good luck your holly had to be burned, not thrown away. Some legends held that the berries of the holly were once yellow and that the wounds of Christ on the cross stained them red. In early Yule celebrations, holly represented the male and ivy the female. Whichever type was brought into the house first was said to rule the house for that year.

One Pennsylvania tradition from Scotch and Irish settlers held that if holly was brought into the house in fair weather, the wife would rule. If it was cut in stormy weather, the man would be the master of the house for the coming year. But, if holly was allowed to stay up until the New Year, bad luck would stay with the house.

American holly was used as a holiday plant from early days in our country. George Washington, in fact, decorated the white house in Philadelphia with this native plant. He loved this plant so much he planted many holly types at his home at Mount Vernon. You can still see them today.

Because the holly plant is so beautiful and hardy in many areas, it became popular all over the country. This year let's decorate our homes with natural plants and enjoy the tradition, for they are part of our history

If you purchase holly plants this year from the nursery, keep them outside or on a cold porch. The holly is dormant, and if you bring it inside it will wake up within the warm house and start to grow. Then, you put it outside for the winter after the holidays or it will die. Keep potted plants on the shady side of the house outside during the winter or in the garage or tool shed.

The best holly for most all of New England is a new hybrid called "Blue" holly. These plants are a cross of the wild American holly that lives everywhere south of Boston and the English holly, usually found on the west coast but numerous on Cape Cod. American holly is hardy, with dull green leaves and small red berries. English holly is not as hardy but has shiny green leaves and large red berries. American holly will grow to 25 feet tall and the English around 15 feet tall. The blue is more a bush type and grows wonderfully as a sheared large bush on the corner of your home. As a cut branch, English holly must go inside or the berries and leaves will turn black with very cold weather, but they are great in a vase of water. American and blue holly will tolerate the cold and do well outside all winter in addition to indoor use.

As you prepare to decorate your homes for the holidays, I thought you would like to know some fun facts and the history behind the use of holly and ivy. In ancient time,s people spent more time outside than we do today and these people knew the seasons well. Because they knew when the seasons changed they often celebrated those changes with festivals--and no change was more important than the Winter Solstice. The Winter Solstice is the celebration of the shortest day of the year (fewest daylight hours) on December 21.

In the days of the Druids, holly was worn in their hair as they celebrated this holiday, because of its magical power--they believed it gave them protection against evil spirits through the coming year. Holly branches were also brought into their homes at this time of cold weather as they believed it would give shelter to the Fairies, those tiny spirits who lived in the forest who protected them from wild animals.

The Romans used the holly to honor Saturn, their god of agriculture, during this celebration to help insure a bountiful crop for the coming year and to thank the gods for what they were able to produce during the past growing season. The early Christians used cut holly branches in their celebrations to avoid ill treatment by non-believers and, as these celebrations became more popular, the holly became a very important symbol of Christmas.

Another Christian legend says that one night the holly miraculously grew leaves out of season to hide the Holy Family from Herod's soldiers--and since then, it has been an evergreen plant. Holly was also hung on doors and windows to prevent the entry of evil spirits and witches, and to keep lightning strikes away from the home.

In England, holly had strong distinction between male and female due to the shape of the holly leaf. The holly that would protect the male would have prickly thorns on its edges while the female would be better protected with holly leaves with a smooth surface. On Christmas Eve, English virgins hung holly on their beds to protect their virtue from the Christmas goblins. Also, British homes always welcomed fairies and elves, so bunches of cut holly were hung in special hiding places in the home to protect them during the winter months.

The ivy plant soon joined the holly as part of the celebration of the Winter Solstice, as it was also an evergreen plant that helped to freshen the air in the homes during the winter months, and it reminded the people that spring was coming. The cold and icy winds during the dark nights of winter were believed to be ghosts and demons. Decorating your home with these two plants, holly and ivy, together would ward off these evil spirits during the winter months.

Ivy symbolized eternal life, rebirth, and the new spring season. Ivy was also a symbol of marriage and friendship. In ancient Roman times ivy was associated with Bacchus, the god of wine and revelry. Holly was thought to bring good luck to the man of the house while ivy would bring the same good luck to the woman of the house. It was thought that whoever brought the first sprig of these plants in their home during the celebration would "wear the pants in the house" for the New Year.

Today holly and ivy are still used in our celebration of Christmas. Both plants are used to create a holiday wreath for the front door, potted plants for the window sill, and fresh-cut plant tips to decorate the dinner table as we celebrate the holidays. The folk lore and legends may be forgotten but the beauty of the evergreen foliage will make your home festive for this wonderful time of the year. Enjoy!


Bells of Saint Mary's
Bells of Saint Mary's
 
The store of the Christmas tree
It is the time to visit your local nursery to select your fresh-cut Christmas tree. Most of us take the Christmas tree for granted each year, buying it and decorating it without much thought. This year I want you to know the story of the Christmas tree; it will change how you see your tree.

This is a once-upon-a-time story. It starts far away in the mountains of Germany, where the tradition of bringing a evergreen tree into house for Christmas began. The evergreen tree was brought into the house to ensure health and happiness through the season and the spring greening of Mother Earth. As people emigrated to other parts of the world they took the tradition with them and the popularity grew.

In America the tree grew from a table tree to a full-size floor-to-ceiling tree. As its popularity increased each year, problems rose due to unrestricted cutting of the tree in the forested areas. Conservationists warned then-President Theodore Roosevelt that if he did not act fast, the nation's forests would be depleted in just a few years. By 1900, roughly half of our timber had been cut--not, of course, all for Christmas trees. The topsoil was washing away and many birds were approaching extinction.

Fearing that our great forests would be destroyed, the President banned the Christmas tree from his home and urged everyone to do the same. Unfortunately for the President, his two children did not listen to their father and smuggled a tree into the closet of their room. As punishment for their deeds, the children were sent to the office of the National Forest and Parks Service to hear the explanation of the problem. To the President's surprise they came back with a plan that would help thin the forest selectively and save the tradition of Christmas trees. New conservation practices helped to relieve the strain of the tree shortages, and the forests were saved from unnecessary destruction.

Some years later, his cousin President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a farm in Hyde Park N.Y., and in an effort to encourage soil conservation he experimented with growing Christmas trees commercially. He chose land that was too stony to farm, too steep to plow or otherwise unsuitable for cultivation crops. The project was a success and he encouraged others to do the same.

The Christmas tree farmer became a American hero. Tree farming helped relieve the pressure on our forest, preventing erosion of our soils, helped prevent the extinction of some wildlife and created thousands of new jobs on land unsuitable for farming. The Christmas tree of today is possible because of two children, Archie and Quentin Roosevelt, who wanted something badly enough to work for it and their father, who helped make it possible. So you see, there is more to our president than the teddy bear and the Rough Riders.

By the way, the state of Maine was the home of the Christmas tree for America. The first Christmas trees sold in Boston came from Maine--and many still do. Maine had the best growing conditions, soil and climate for the balsam fir tree. Then and today the balsam fir is the number one selling Christmas tree in America from Maine to Florida and west to California. The tree has everything we want for the house--fragrance, color, hardiness, shape and affordability.



"the joy of brightening others lives, bearing others burdens, easing others loads, and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes the magic of christmas"

W C Jones

Christmas Fig and Date Coconut Balls

Growing up in Maine the holidays were and are still special to me and my family. The Christmas tree, the wreath on the front door, the visiting of the relatives on Christmas day was magic. The food was amazing with traditional turkey, or ham and all the fixing but the pies were even better. Last week I gave you the recipe for traditional French Canadian Salmon pie and next week I will tell you about our French Canadian Pork pie. There is one more little bit of Christmas that is a must for everyone who came to the house during the holidays and that is today's recipe, Date and Fig Coconut Balls. It's easy and when they are done place them in a container that has a tight seal to keep them from drying up, If they last that long. They should keep for a week or more in a tight container but hide the container or they will disappear before the holidays arrive.

Ingredients:
1 cup of dried Dates
1 and cups of dried Figs
1 cup of finely chopped walnuts
2 to 3 tablespoons of coconut Oil
1 cup of fresh shredded coconut.

Directions:
1} Chop up the dates and figs as fine as possible and place in a medium bowl

2} Chop up your walnuts as fine as you can and add to the bowl. Add your coconut oil and mix well so all the ingredients are well blended. I use my hands to mix everything together, if the ingredients are a bit on the dry side add a bit more coconut oil to the mix.

3} I use a 1 inch Ice-cream scoop and make small ball shape mounds that I roll in the palms of my hands, squeeze slightly to firm up the mixture.

4} Roll the small balls in your shredded coconut and cover them well with the coconut. Place them in your container and between layers place a piece of wax paper to prevent them from sticking together. They store best in the refrigerator in your air tight container. Label the container" keep out" and but a rubber band around the container or tie it up with string. Enjoy! 

 


      

Garden Journal

        Garden Journal - A garden is a friend you can visit any time. Gardens require planning and cultivation, yielding beauty and joy. This garden journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This book makes a great gift for gardeners, family, friends, birthdays, Christmas, new home or as a self purchase.

 

Cover holds a 5 x7 or 4x6 photo, Heavy-duty D-ring binder

1. 8 tabbed sections
2. 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags....
3. Weather records page
4. 6 three year journal pages
5. Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
6. 3 annual checklist pages
7. Plant wish list page
8. 2 large pocket pages
9. Sheet of garden labels
10. 5 garden detail sheets
11. 5 graph paper pages for layouts
12. 5 photo pages holds - 4- 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format

Journal, Planning, Inspirations. 

 To Order call 207-590-4887

Regular price $34.95  Special Price $31.95!  special!        Supplies are now limited!

 

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