Mistletoe is as closely linked to Christmas as holly and ivy and I love to hang a bunch from the ceiling, the symmetrical branching, silvery green foliage and white pearl like berries make it the most elegant yuletide decoration.
I am very fortunate as my Mother-in -law has vast quantities of mistletoe growing in her apple trees and willows. This year it was harvested and sold for charity, although you wouldn’t know, there’s still masses of it decking the bows of the tress. She very kindly cut me a magnificent mistletoe sphere. It looks fabulous hanging above our dining table, a carefully selected spot, as our ceilings are too low to hang it normally.
It would be lovely to harvest my own Christmas mistletoe from the garden. So I’m trying my luck at propagation. I have taken a few of the berries, slit the skin and then squeezed the seed and sticky goo out of it. I then stuck the goo surrounding the seed to an apple tree branch which is 3-4 years old. I understand that if the seed germinates the mistletoe is slow to establish and we’ll have to wait at least 4 years for a clump to form. February is the optimum time to sow mistletoe, I will save all the seeds from our Christmas sphere, storing them in the light. In February I will follow same process as above, selecting young 3-4 year old wood for it to establish on. Mistletoe also grows happily on willow, I have selected Bramley apple trees as they are the most established and sturdy fruit trees in the garden, I regularly coppice the willow so mistletoe would never have time to establish.
Mistletoe is steeped in tradition and has been linked with mid winter traditions and the winter solstice, pre dating Christianity and Christmas. Its link with pagan festivals means many churches exclude it as a Christmas decoration. Kissing under the mistletoe at Christmas is a tradition that stems from it being a symbol of fertility, originating from the evergreen mistletoe foliage being parasitic on deciduous trees, representing strong life and vitality. The forking paired branches, paired leaves and berries full of white sticky juice hint of sexual organs.