The Durham Council of Garden Clubs was founded in 1929 in federation with the National Garden Club and The Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc.
The Council served more than eight decades as the umbrella group for garden clubs and junior garden clubs in Durham, NC. Today, Durham Garden Clubs continue the same mission of philanthropic projects of preservation, conservation, education and beautification under District 9 of the Garden Clubs of NC.
Each year at this time of year we use
plants and flowers to decorate our homes and declare the season. Ever
wonder about the plants and flower we use? Ever wonder where they came from
and just a hint at their meaning?
Note: This article was originally published on December 6, 2007. Your comments
are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles
may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments. We hope you
enjoy it as we count down to Christmas.)
Amaryllis - Hippeastrum - This is a much
loved plant to brighten up windows during the holiday season. The attraction is
that these plants bloom in the dead of winter with minimal care. They come in
the holiday colors of red, green, and white. Amaryllis can be grown in the
ground up to zone 8 year round without difficulty.
Christmas Rose - Helleborus niger – This
flower is said to have sprouted from the tears of a little child at the
Nativity who did not have a gift to give the Christ child. It was also used by
many, including the druids, to ward off evil spirits which were believed to
thrive in the dead cold months of winter. The snow white flowers are stunning
and a welcome surprise in any garden at any time of year.
Holiday Cactus - Schlumbergera x buckleyi
- A wonderful flower on a very hardy plant that will stand the test of
time. I have seen stunning specimens blooming in the same dirty pots for 20
years and more. If the temperature is lower than 55- 60 F, plants set flower
buds regardless of the length of the day or night. The story goes that a young
Mayan convert was the first to bring these into the altar of the church and
many churches in Latin America would not be without them on such a wonderful
day, even though their popularity is waning with the rise of the ever popular
Noche Buena – Poinsettia.
Holly - Ilex opaca - The single most
important plant as a Christian symbol of Christmas. Christians have found
meaning in the colors of the plant and in the leaves pointing to the crown of
thorns. Scandinavians gave branches of holly and other green plants in winter
to bring good luck. A simple plant to grow and branches can be cut and will
keep for a rather long time. The fruits are very helpful to local wildlife in
the cold harsh times of winter.
Mistletoe - In the dead time of winter many a
traveler has seen the mistletoe in the tops of the trees. Green, despite all
the elements around it, it became a symbol of hope and new life. The story was
told to me as a boy growing up in Oklahoma that at Native American funeral
mistletoe was often placed with the body in the ground to ward off evil spirits
and as a symbol of life starting again. Image thanks to kennedyh.
Poinsettia - Euphorbia pulcherrima – This
flower was the Aztec symbol of love and purity and it can be seen in the wild
in many of the mountainous areas around Mexico City. The Christmas connection
came with a poor child bringing green flowers to Mass for the Christ Child and
they turned the red color at the church. They are the favored flower and plant
for all Christmas celebrations everywhere.
Ivy - Hedera helix – It is ivy and not
evergreen that used to deck the halls and walls during Christmas time. The ivy
is a long standing symbol of the holiday season for many European cultures. It
is the symbol of everlasting life and was used by most cultures in Europe
during nearly every time period.
Christmas Tree and branches – Many – Germanic
tribes are the first to have used trees in winter with decorations on them to
give a hope for the spring ahead. Some scholars tend to believe it was not
until the eighth century that the tree was used with Christmas celebrations.
Can you guess what the most common decorations during the early years were?
They were bread and apples to represent the tree of life and the tree of good
Oranges - Citrus sinensis – These wonderful
fruits were the center piece on many a Christmas table for years. From before
the colonial era to the Victorian times, the Christmas table would have a bowl
of oranges built up like a pyramid. The meaning was a clear one to the guests
at the table. Oranges were rare and valuable fruit so only the wealthy could
use them in this manor. Thus, the taller the pile, the more wealthy the patron
of the table.