The Joy Of The Lord Is Your Strength

 

How are you feeling today?  Happy, sad, or ho-hum.  I always feel a little sad after Christmas is finished and as we start into the new year all the lights and decorations are gone from Christmas and I am faced with a mostly dreary days of winter.  As I think about that, it does seem very trivial to you if you are facing the loss of a loved one, loss of a job or any type of loss of anything.  Or perhaps looking at your life as bleak.

I love our text for today.  We can be so down and so dejected, but if we seek Jesus and his joy it will give us strength and purpose.  The song by Rend Collective brings that out, “The joy of the Lord is your strength. In the darkness I’ll dance, In the shadows I’ll sing, The joy of the Lord is my strength.”*

Over the years Loren and I have discovered that life has an ebb and flow, sometimes it is more like being on the mountain top and then sliding down into the pit of despair.   Look back on your life.  Can you see a pattern?  You have had a special moment, something which is intense or thrilling, then the next few days or so you feel a downer and you might not be able to explain why.  This really came home to us when we were in full time evangelism.  We would be in an intense relationship with a church for six weeks, preaching, praying and relating to people.  We would then have two or three weeks before the next series of meeting and we felt sad, life was a real downer.  It went on like this time after time.  It was then when we realized our emotions and bodies need the mundane and rejuvenating time.

There are times when this ends up stretching out in our lives and all of a sudden we realize we feel we are caught in a trap.  It is then that we have a choice to make.  Do I continue, or do I choose to praise the Lord and look for things to praise the Lord for and sing songs to his glory.  I tell you if you have every tried this when you are down, IT IS HARD!  As I have focused on the reward it will bring my spirit  so I am willing to choose to make the effort, as there is nothing worse than to stay in my sad state.

It has raised my spirit to do something for someone to bring them joy and in turn it brings me joy.  To love unconditionally and give with no thought of reciprocation. We often hear the catch phrase now, “Pay it forward.”  It does not always involve money, it can be in anything the Lord brings to your mind. We all need to find something bigger than ourselves.  That is something which has brought me much joy and satisfaction.

God wants you to flourish and grow in him.  Joy is not just for the optimist or for happy people but it is for you and me!  We can have that joy, but we have to actively pursue it. The Lord can guide you in what form that will take.  It is then you can find that strength.  Yes you will have down and quiet times, maybe even feel funky, but after the low you can look up and say “I need to find some joy in the Lord.!”  God doesn’t want you to just to survive, he has called you and birthed you to create a beautiful picture of life which will bring glory to his name whatever the lows might be.

No matter your storms or distress the Joy of the Lord really CAN be your strength.

Love to you,

Ruth


Added note:

*There are several different songs using the words “The Joy of the Lord is my strength.”  Below is lyrics of the song by Rend Collective.  They are a contemporary band from Ireland.  I also put the YouTube address if you would like to hear their rendition.  I was blessed by their song.—Ruth

——–———————————

 The Joy of the Lord

Though tears may fall
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
Though my heart may fail
My song will rise, my song will rise to You
While there’s breath in my lungs
I will praise You, Lord

In the dead of night
I’ll lift my eyes, I’ll lift my eyes to You
When the waters rise
I’ll lift my eyes, I’ll lift my eyes to You
While there’s hope in my heart
I will praise You, Lord

The joy of the Lord is my strength
The joy of the Lord is my strength
In the darkness I’ll dance
In the shadows I’ll sing
The joy of the Lord is my strength

When I cannot see You with my eyes
Let faith arise to You
When I cannot feel Your hand in mine
Let faith arise to You
God of mercy and love
I will praise You, Lord

Oh You shine with glory Lord of light
I feel alive with You
In Your presence now I come alive
I am alive with You
There is strength when I say
I will praise You, Lord

When sorrow comes my way
You are the shield around me
Always You remain
Like courage in the fight
I hear You call my name
Jesus, I am coming
Walking on the waves
Reaching for Your light

Songwriters: Edmond Martin Cash / Gareth Andrew Gilkeson / Christopher Dean Llewellyn — Joy Of The Lord lyrics © Music Services, Inc

Rend Collective – Joy Of The Lord (Lyrics And Chords)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3gLeCiMJqI


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January birth flower,

 

This beautiful, tiny flower pops up from under the snow, bringing with it hope that spring is coming–its purity and spring scent always brings joy to those who have them in their garden.  They are used as ornamental plantings, potted plants or cut flowers

They are often represented as shy flowers, who are afraid to raise their heads because of some misdemeanor or other. The real reason is that their dusty pollen must be kept dry and sweet in order to attract the few insects flying in winter. No mean feat in the February winds, snows and rains. And so – they droop!

In the poem On Seeing a Tuft of Snowdrops in a Storm  by William Wordsworth gives the timid person, who like the snowdrop, seems delicate and weak, can stand strong against all odds.

When haughty expectations prostrate lie,
And grandeur crouches like a guilty thing,
Oft shall the lowly weak, till nature bring
Mature release, in fair society
Survive, and Fortune’s utmost anger try;
Like these frail snow-drops that together cling,
And nod their helmets smitten by the wing
Of many a furious whirl blast sweeping by.
Observe the faithful flowers! if small to great
May lead the thoughts, thus struggling used to stand . . . . .

Snowdrops are perennial bulbs from the Amaryllidaceae family, (bulb plant of the daffodil family) genus Galanthus.  They are very hardy bulbs, being the first to bloom of all bulbs, even before spring comes. There are various members of the snowdrop family one might encounter. The Galanthus nivalis is the most common. Galanthus means ‘milk flower’; gála meaning “milk,”  ánthos meaning “flower”  whereas nivalis means snow-like thus called the snow milk flower.

Snowdrops folk names: Snowdrop flowers have acquired many folk names over the last few centuries, some reflecting their appearance, some the superstitions associated with them, some their unusual winter flowering habit, and some their identity with the spiritual calendar.  Candlemas Bells, Christ’s Flower, Death’s Flower,  Dew-drops,  Dingle-Dangle,  Drooping heads.  Drooping Lily,  Fair Maids of February,  French Snowdrop,  Mary’s Taper,  Naked Maiden,  Purification Flower,  Snow-bells, Snow-flower , Snow-piercer, White-bells,  White-cups,  White Ladies, White Purification, White Queen,

History

Snowdrops have been known since early times, being described by the classical Greek author Theophrastus in the fourth century BC in his Περὶ φυτῶν ἱστορία (Latin: Historia plantarumEnquiry into plants)

Snowdrop is a native of Switzerland, Austria and of Southern Europe originally from Europe and southwest Asia.  They are said to be native to all Europe from the Mediterranean Sea to Great Britain.  There appears to be some uncertainty as to whether snowdrops are native to Britain or not. There seems to be no record of snowdrops growing wild in Britain before 1770, and the first garden reference is in Gerard’s Herbal of 1597. It is thought that monks may have brought snowdrops to Britain from Italy in the 15th Century, as the flowers are frequently found in the gardens of old monasteries.

 ‘Lupercalia’February 14th (possibly during 13th – 15th century) was a pagan Roman festival, supposedly held in Rome at the site where twins Romulus and Remus were suckled by the mother wolf. After sacrifice of a goat and dog, chosen men known at Lupici dedicated themselves to purifying the city before ‘The ides of March’ or Roman new year. Later, this date was dedicated to St. Valentine.  ‘The Feast of Purification’ was once celebrated on this day as the 40th day after Twelfth Night (Epiphany), before the calendar changes of 1752.

 Snowdrop Name: First mention of the common name ‘Snowdrop’ in its modern form comes from the Latin Galanthus nivalis, clearly classified by Carl Linnaeus, a remarkable Swedish botanist, in his pioneering work ‘Species Plantarum’ 1753.

 Victorians took snowdrop planting on the graves of loved ones to their hearts, and in many parts of the country, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was considered very unlucky to bring the little blooms into the house from their cold environment – a single bloom being the worst omen of all.

Christian church  – Snowdrops are affectionately known as the fair maids of February, and their pure white flowers, modestly drooping as if in prayer, were chosen by the Christian church as a symbol of Candlemas, which is celebrated on February 2nd.   It may be for this reason that the grounds of many old monasteries are carpeted with snowdrops every spring.  Because of this, they became known as the ~church flower.~ Traditionally on Candlemas (Feb.2) the image of the Virgin Mary was taken down and a handful of snowdrop blooms were scattered in its place. Their presence in churchyards generated an unlucky reputation as time went on.

Candlemass – (The feast of White Purification.)  A Christian festival, remembering Mary’s purification in the Temple at Jerusalem. It was believed (and still is in some parts of the world) that a woman who has given birth is ‘unclean’, and at around five weeks after the birth, by law, she must be ritually ‘purified’. in her place of worship.
Some centuries after the life of Jesus, candles were used in procession to celebrate the day. Still later girls in white dresses would join the procession and snowdrops were strewn about the church altar. Families would bring their own candle to the church and light it from a central flame, where it would be blessed. (The candle is used as a symbol, standing to remind the congregation that on that day Simeon held the baby and made a first reference to his being ‘a light’.) Luke 2:32 (NLT)  He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people  Israel!”

 Russian Snowdrop Day – Celebrates March 1st. Legend tells us that the tiny flowers are the tears of winter snow melting into spring and that they bloom only on that day, You must go out into the forests at sunrise in order to see them. Children pick bunches to give as gifts to parents and grandparents as a symbol of thanksgiving for the passing of winter.

There are ‘First Day of Spring’ celebrations on this day in many Northern countries

Significance, Meaning And Symbolism:

The snowdrop flower has several meanings depending on the context.

The most common meanings are:

  • Hope, renewal, and romance
  • Represents snow and the welcoming of spring.
  • Given to a bride as a symbol of optimism, hope and virtue
  • Expression of consolation, sympathy or as an expression of celebration.
  • Message is typically positive, signifying hope, rebirth and a bright future.
  • In Victorian times snowdrops were considered foreboding of death, due to their appearance in cemeteries and people wouldn’t allow them in their homes.
  • They symbolize sympathy when given on a solemn occasion such as after death, loss or misfortune.
  • Color meaning – it come in only one color, white – thus it symbolized purity, the traditional meaning of white flowers.

Snowdrops in Folklore & Legends:  

 According to legend snowdrops first appeared when Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, after the Fall of Man, to a land where it was winter: cold, snowy, dark and barren. An angel consoled them by promising that, even here, spring would follow winter. As a token, he blew upon some falling snowflakes which, as they touched the ground, were transformed into snowdrops. In this way, hope was born. Ever since then, snowdrops have appeared during the bleakest winter weeks as a sign of the better times to come.

In Germany there is a different snowdrop legend. When God made all things on the Earth, He asked the snow to go to the flowers and get a little color from them. One by one the flowers refused. Then, very sad, he

asked a snowdrop to give it a little of its color and the snowdrop accepted. As a reward, the snow lets it bloom first whenever spring shows.

Another folklore says, the snowdrop is meant to represent ‘the passing of sorrow’.

In the West of England, it is believed that snowdrops cannot be brought into a house before the first chickens are hatched, or else all the eggs will be addled.

Snowdrops are so much like a corpse in a shroud that in some countries the people will not have them in the house, lest they bring in death.”

In “The Handbook of Folklore” published in 1913 by the Folklore Society, it was a common country belief that  “Snowdrops may not be brought in at all, as they will make the cows’ milk watery and affect the color of the butter.”

 Margaret Baker, in her well known book “Discovering the Folklore of Plants” 1969, mentions that, along with other spring flowers, bringing snowdrops into the house could affect the number of eggs that a sitting chicken might hatch.

Snowdrops were not held in fear everywhere “In Shropshire and Herefordshire the house was ‘cleansed’ when the snowdrop was carried in, with ceremony in the ‘white purification’.

If a girl eats the first snowdrop she finds in the spring, she will not get tanned in the summer. (don’t try this they are poisonous, this is just folklore)

In The Garden

There are around 20 species of snowdrop, of which Galanthus nivalis is the most common.

Snowdrops will grow on any soil type, but prefer rich, moist soils. When you purchase your snowdrop bulbs, plant them immediately after you receive them. The same goes if you are breaking up clumps and replanting.  They should be immediately replanted.  They are a tough bulb against cold, but when exposed to the air they dry out quickly and will not tolerate replanting. Snowdrops don’t often multiply from seed in a garden, but they will multiply by offsets. If you wait until the flowers fade but the leaves are still green, simply dig up the clump, separate the bulbs and immediately replant them in the new spaces that you already prepared.

The best time to plant snowdrops is in the early fall.  Snowdrop flower bulbs (Galanthus) are grown in both cold winter regions and moderate winters, they truly dislike warm winters.

Snowdrops are a pest-free plant. Rabbits and deer won’t eat them either, and most chipmunks and mice will leave them alone

They have a surprisingly strong honeyed fragrance, which is drawn out by the heat of a room when brought inside. Snowdrops are good as a cut flower if they are cut with a longish stalk. They also grow well in pots, especially small terracotta ones. Plant a small clump in each pot using a general-purpose potting compost and keep them in a cool corner, bringing them into the sun in the New Year. Although you can use these as houseplants, they will last longer if kept outside in the cold.

MEDICINAL USES

Although snowdrops are toxic, they are used in medicine to help treat disease.

Galanthamine (or Galantamine), an alkaloid found in the snowdrop flower is a chemical ‘messenger’ responsible for sending signals between nerve cells in the brain.  The term ‘alkaloid’ (meaning ‘alkali-like’) is difficult to define. The most usual definition is, a natural plant compound having a basic character and containing at least one nitrogen atom in a heterocyclic ring.  Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors have become the dominant form of therapy and is currently approved for the treatment of Alzheimer’s in several countries.  It has been helpful in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, though it is not a cure. The substance also occurs naturally in daffodils and other narcissi.

It may be effective in treating diseases of the nervous system and is being studied for its effectiveness in treating HIV.

ExtractApparently an extract from snowdrops was used to waterproof the fabric of the early planes, so they’re not just a pretty face.

—————————————–

References:

https://www.babiesonline.com/flowersbirthmonth/snowdrop.asp

http://www.almanac.com/content/january-birth-flowers

Snowdrop Flower Meaning

http://literarycalligraphy.com/birth_flowers/snowdrops.html

January

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2412/

http://www.seriouslyflowers.com/birth-month-flowers.html

January Birth Month Flower: Snowdrops

https://www.facebook.com/notes/amigos-flower-adoration-%E0%A6%AA%E0%A7%81%E0%A6%B7%E0%A7%8D%E0%A6%AA-%E0%A6%95%E0%A6%A5%E0%A6%A8/birth-flower/467789279941530/

http://birthflowerguide.com/january-birth-flower/

https://h2g2.com/edited_entry/A3694728

Snowdrops: welcome signs of spring

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galanthus

http://www.cornwalllive.com/little-known-history-surprising-facts-snowdrop/story-25906705-detail/story.html

http://www.angelfire.com/journal2/flowers/s.html

http://www.ecoenchantments.co.uk/mysnowdropmagicpage.html

http://www.flowerfairiespictures.com/january

Milk Flower of the Snow

http://www.peterorchard.me.uk/nature-notes/snowdrop-milk-flower

Information About Snowdrops And When To Plant Snowdrop Flower Bulbs


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  Vegan Recipe:

Over the years we have been adjusting our diet to be as healthy as possible.  But since last year we have been trying to adjust our diet, so when we get our blood drawn to monitor our health with our doctor, that the results will reflect good health.  Good cholesterol, normal blood pressure and no general inflammation and whatever else we need to know.  So excited at this time Loren’s blood work came back all normal, with the HDL just a little low.

I don’t know about you, but Loren and I often enjoy finishing of our main meal with something special.  Sometimes we grab a handful of nuts, but other times we like something on the sweet side. Cookies and candy just dump too much sugar into our system and are foods that cause inflammation which is the basis for a lot of diseases.   So I am always I am always looking for healthful recipes or experiment to develop my own recipes.

I found some recipes on how to make creamy vegan pops using oatmeal, garbanzos or other thickeners, and most popular coconut milk.  In making them they ended up tasting like “health food,” or they were too hard or would be filled with ice crystals. So I have been experimenting for months, finally got the fudgesicles where I wanted them, delicious.  But struggled with the strawberry.  They tasted fake, “blah” or like I wasn’t using real strawberries or natural flavorings.  I ended up eating a lot of hard or ice strawberry pops, more like hard popsicles instead of a nice creamy taste. I finally improved them on the last two tries to my satisfaction.  So I thought it was time to share the recipe.

You might want to tweak it more to your liking.  Have fun.  If you decide to make them I would love to hear from you in how they turned out for you.

 Open .pdf to print recipe: Vegan Pops-Ruthies Kitchen

Fudgesicles

Strawberry Pops

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2-3 Tbs. honey

1tsp. (heaping) Nu-stevia

¼ teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons cornstarch

1½  teaspoons vanilla

(extract or pwd.)

2 Tbs.(rounded) chocolate powder

 

1 can full-fat coconut milk

2-3 Tbs. honey

1tsp. (heaping.)  Nu-stevia

¼ teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1½ tsp. vanilla (extract or  powdered)

1 Tbs. (heaping.)  strawberry powder

1 Tbs. (heaping.) powdered creamer or                            your choice of powdered milk

3-4 large frozen strawberries

 

Instructions:

  1. Shake the coconut milk thoroughly before opening to mix cream into separated liquid. (Sometimes the cream won’t be shaken into the liquid, spoon out, it will liquefy when warmed.)
  2. Reserve 1/3 cup coconut milk in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk the cornstarch, salt, and vanilla (I like to use powdered vanilla) into the reserved coconut milk, set aside.
  4. Pour remaining coconut milk into a saucepan.
  5. Add honey to the coconut milk while heating on the stove.
  6. Warm the coconut milk on the stove over medium-low heat, continually stirring until the coconut milk and honey just start to bubble. (Be careful because it can burn easily.)
  7. When coconut milk just starts to boil stir in cornstarch mixture with a whisk.
  8. Stir until it thickens and just starts to bubble, immediately removed pops mixture from the  stove.
  9. Whisk in chocolate/strawberry powder* or other flavors of your choice. (If using liquid vanilla stir it in at this time)
  10. Pour mixture into a pouring measuring cup with s spout – scrape sauce pan with spatula. (Makes it easier to pour into the mold.)
  11. Pour into popsicle forms
  12. Ready for the lid.
  13. Cover, put popsicle sticks into holes provided.
  14. Freeze for at least 4 hours to or overnight. (I prefer to freeze over night – some freezers are slower than others.)
  15. Removed from freezer, run warm water over the forms just enough to slide the popsicles out.  Don’t try to run the hot water on all of them, they will get too soft.  I run the hot water over just two at a time, first one side and then the other.  Keep testing them by giving a little pull on the sticks.  As soon as they slide a little bit remove them.
  16. Set in freezer for a few minutes till the slightly softened surface hardens, then slip into a cover.
  17. Slip pops into Ziploc snack bags with one end cut off.
  18. Put back into the freezer till you are ready for your tasty treat.

 

Notes:

*Strawberry mixture: After stirring in the strawberry powder put thee mixture into a blender or bullet – add the frozen strawberries and blend till smooth.  It is ready now to go into the molds.  To get a more fresh like strawberry taste it really helps to blend in the frozen strawberries.  When I tried thawing or thickening the strawberries the pops were filled with ice crystals.  The strawberries are so juicy that it just didn’t work.

Popsicle covers – I use snack zip-lock sacks and cut one end off.  That makes a great cover.  I wash them and reuse them over and over again.

Vanilla flavor:  I like using powdered vanilla, that is why I stir it in with the cornstarch.  If you use vanilla extract, then you will stir it in at the time when you stirring in the flavoring.

Loosening pops from the form:  When running the water run it only on 2 at a time, pull gently on the sticks, as soon as they are loose enough to come out, remove and put into the fridge to refreeze the soften part.

Flavorings:  I find when I used chocolate 2 Tbs. work great for “Fudgesicle” flavor.  If you want a lighter chocolate flavor, just use 1 slightly heaping Tbs.  If you use one Tbs. of flavoring it makes the pop more creamy to add a heaping Tbs. of dry creamer or your choice of powdered milk .

Fruit flavorings:  I have been getting organic freeze dried fruit powders from Nuts.com.  I find 1 heaping tablespoon of the powder is enough with the powdered creamer/pwd. milk.  When I used 2 Tbs., it seemed to give it a fakey taste.

I have raspberry & blueberry powder, but have not worked with them yet.  Will add information when I do.

If you decide to make them I would love to hear from you in how they turned out for you.

Ruth

Overwhelmed

 

December can be one of those month’s that might be overwhelming for you.  Work, meals, holiday planning, cards to get out and possibly guests to plan for.  I have had my times of feeling overwhelmed.  I am forced to sit back, and regroup my thoughts and my priorities.

Thinking about feeling overwhelmed, I can’t help but thinking of Jesus’ disciples the night they went across Galilee, Jesus had been preaching all day and fell exhausted into a sound sleep.  As the storm came up and they started battling the waves to keep their boat and themselves safe, talk about overwhelmed!  And of course what a relief when they called on Jesus, he stood up and said, “Peace be still.”  I am sure they collapsed in total exhaustion as they felt the calm atmosphere fall around them bringing untold relief.  Yet it wasn’t long till they landed at the land of the Gadarenes and two wild men came rushing out at them, a new terror struck at their hearts, and adrenaline rushed through their veins with their only thought was to get back to the boat and away from there!  Looking back, they saw Jesus standing calm and unperturbed by the scene.  The demoniacs were throwing themselves at Jesus’ feet they knew he was their only hope.  And what hope!  What utter joy when Jesus broke the demonic control on their lives.  What an awesome encounter with the one who could give them peace and bring back sanity to their lives.

I have a challenge for you, each morning as you are waking up, ask the Holy Spirit to come and live in your heart.  Ask for wisdom and peace throughout the day no matter what the day will bring.  Also thank God for the peace and insight he will give you that day.  If during the day you are faced with a storm or overwhelming craziness, take a few deep breaths and focus on God who will renew that peace, ask the Holy Spirit to help you refocus.  Think of some things you can praise the Lord for.  God WILL give you the peace and power you need.

Love to you,

Ruth

 

 

 

 

 


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Holly

The December Birth Month Flower is also known as Christmas Holly or English Holly.

Traditionally holly has been linked Christmas.

The holly berry is a plant traditionally used to symbolize the Christmas holiday. Its name actually comes from the word “holy”.

Although some animals and birds enjoy holly berries, they are poisonous and semi-toxic to humans.  It is from a large genus – between 400 and 600 species – of flowering trees in the aquifoliaceae family.   The holly flower is usually white in color, but there are times when the flower has a greenish tinge to it.  When the holly flower opens, it distinctively has four petals

History

In Ancient history Romans started the tradition of decorating with Holly during the observance of the festival of Saturnalia. This festival was originally held on the 17th of December and later progressed to festivities that went up until the 23rd of December. It is believed that the Romans used Holly to decorate their homes for this festival and has become a tradition that has been taken on by the modern world as well.  In the17th-18th century holly and ivy were used to decorate usually during the time of the middle of December when everything else on the landscape is dead or dormant, the evergreens remind us of better times to come — with a return of a green landscape in spring.

The popularity of Saturnalia continued into the 3rd and 4th centuries AD, and as the Roman Empire came under Christian rule, many of its customs were recast into or at least influenced the seasonal celebrations surrounding Christmas and the New Year.

Among the Celts, holly played a major role in summer and winter solstice observances.

Holly and ivy have been a mainstay of British Christmas decoration for church use since at least the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when they were mentioned regularly in churchwardens’ accounts

It was then holly took on a Christian connotation. Fully opened, the holly flower is shaped like a cross, its spine type leaves symbolized the crown of thorns that Jesus wore during the crucifixion, the red berries stood for the blood of Christ, and the green color of the leaves meant eternal life.

Significance, Meaning And Symbolism

The holly symbolizes your wish for domestic happiness.  It was also said to bring good luck, protection, and defense while warding off misfortune at the same time.

Holly flowers are attached to the number 7 in numerology.  It has the positive qualities of mediation, awareness, analysis and understanding.

To the ancient Celts, the sight of evergreens such as holly was a symbol of hope and rebirth. They also believed that woodland spirits would have a safe haven during the winter months when the holly was brought inside.

They are also representative of domestic bliss, and may be given on important romantic anniversaries.

Superstitions:  

People in the olden times planted holly around their homes so they have protection from lighting and thunder.  They also believed it protects people from the evil eye and witchcraft.
In relation to the Christmas season, people in West England believed that a young girl’s bed would have to be surrounded with sprigs of holly.  That works as protection to keep the goblins away from the little girl.
If the berries on the holly are numerous, this was also taken as a sign that the winter is going to be harsh.  The berries served as food for the birds so that they can get through the winter.

In The Garden

Holly bushes/trees come in all sizes, ranging from spreading dwarf holly shrubs 6 inches in height to holly trees 70 feet tall. Their shapes vary from rounded to pyramidal to columnar. Landscaping enthusiasts use this versatile plant in a number of different ways, including as foundation plantings.  (This was a practice in the olden days when foundations showed above the ground and bushes were planted near them in landscaping to cover them up.

Holly is a shrub with tree-potential. Unlike most other shrubs and bushes, Holly seems to exhibit an inner impulse for “uprightness.” It forms a central stem with clearly defined side-branches whenever it is allowed to. The shape of the 10-15 m (30-45 ft.) high tree is often almost cylindrical.

The flowers of the Holly open up in May or June, growing in bunches out of buds left near the attachment of the last year’s leaves. They are about 8 mm in diameter, with four white petals which may have a slight tint of pink.

The tree has the rare capacity to produce both “unisex” or “bisex” flowers, simply by letting either the anthers or the carpel degenerate. Thus we usually find trees with only “male” or only “female” flowers. However, if need be, as when there are not enough bees around to pollinate over a long distance, Holly can return to having fully equipped flowers.

 

 

They bloom in lush bunches that it’s hard to tell from a distance that they’re individual flowers.

 

 

The female holly sports a small green bump at its center which, when mature, will become a large, red berry. They also contain small, nonfunctional stamens that are barely noticeable at a casual glance. Male plants, on the other hand, grow in larger quantities and bear clear, large stamens.

Female Flower                  Male Flower     

 

They are an important food source for birds and other animals, which help disperse the seeds.  The good news is that deer tend to avoid eating holly.

Daily:

The leaves have the daily breathing rhythm of all trees, giving up oxygen during the day and taking in some oxygen at night. They “work” in the daylight building up substances (sugars) that are released at night time.

Seasonal:

Holly blossoms bloom from “late spring” into “presummer”, i.e. May through June. The fruits are ripe in October. The most striking characteristic in the seasonal cycle of holly is, of course, that it keeps its leaves during the winter.

Despite the deep dark green of the individual leaves, it has an element of light and levity at first appearance, due to the relatively loose arrangement of the leaves and the shininess of the leaf surfaces reflecting the light

When is the best time to prune hollies? Well, you may have to juggle some priorities and make a compromise. Some folks prune in early winter because they want to bring the cut stems with their holly berries into the house and enjoy them inside. Others prune later in winter, because they prefer their display of holly berries outside.

Of course, any floral buds (whether on a male or female shrub) located on the branches you prune off are buds that won’t open next year, resulting in reduced pollination and fewer holly berries (hollies bloom on old wood).

MEDICINAL USES

The fruits are generally slightly toxic to humans.  I don’t know about the nature of the poison in the fruit except I have heard eating a number of the red berries will cause stomachache, vomiting and diarrhea.  With that said, the leaves, berries and bark have been used in natural medicine.

In the 19th century, holly flowers as well as the other parts of the plant were thought to be the cure for fever.  Due to being poisonous, the berries are sometimes used in small quantities, as an emetic to purge toxins or the infusions of holly were used to cure pleurisy.  The leaves have been boiled to help with jaundice   Today, holly is used as a diaphoretic.

An infusion of the leaves is said to be great in curbing night sweats, and may also be used as a tranquilizer, while the bark can be cleaned and used as a fomentation for broken bones.

It is best not to use the holly in any form for medicinal purposes without guidance from a knowledgeable herbalist.

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References:

http://landscaping.about.com/od/evergreenshrubsbushes1/p/blue_princess.htm

http://www.flowersociety.org/Holly_plant_study.htm

http://www.birthdaybullseye.com/december-birthstone.html

Sprigs Of Holly Mean Christmas Is Near

http://www.almanac.com/content/december-birth-flowers

http://www.auntyflo.com/flower-dictionary/holly-flower

http://flowerinfo.org/holly-flowers

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holly

http://landscaping.about.com/od/helpforbeginners/f/holly_flowers.htm

http://landscaping.about.com/od/holidayplants1/a/holly_and_ivy.htm

http://landscaping.about.com/od/holidayplants1/a/holly_and_ivy.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Holly_and_the_Ivy

 


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