Jonathan's Mistletoe Diary

November 24, 2015

Mistletoe Auction, with guard cat

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe,social history — Jonathan Briggs @ 8:41 pm
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Guard cat?

First mistletoe auction of the year at Tenbury Wells today. Good to see some security staff on site keeping out any mistletoe rustlers. Their van said they had dogs, but the fiercest animal I saw patrolling the mistletoe lots was this cat.

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Worried dog

This, though it looked charming, was probably capable of playing rough. And judging by the mud covered paws, face and flank it had done so quite recently.

A small Chihuahua type dog nearby shivered continually. When I asked its owner if it was cold he said no, it was worried by the cat. Which I should perhaps have guessed – it was also standing on his shoulders at the time…

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A general view across the mistletoe and holly lots

Lots of mistletoe lots, as usual, all with loads of berries – yes, it has been another berry good year. And all gathered from local apple orchards, where mistletoe is plentiful.

Some of the mistletoe was a little too yellow

Some of the mistletoe was a little too yellow

But many of the lots were also a little yellowy-leaved, which was slightly worrying. It may, or may not, suggest that more than usual was coming from over-stressed trees – i.e. trees with too much mistletoe.

I’ll be saying more about the issues of too much mistletoe in some blog-posts in the next few weeks. There was no obvious effect on prices today though – but any trend won’t be visible until after the later auctions next week and the week after.

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Nick Champion in mid-auction

Lots of people too – in a straggling crowd of buyers, sellers, hangers-on (my canal background makes me want to call them gongoozlers) and media people. Including, predictably, several familiar faces ranging from Nick Champion the auctioneer to a variety of friends, acquaintances and, er, online mistletoe trade competitors.

Ben Sidwell of BBC Midlands Today, doing a piece to camera, clutching a little mistletoe sprig

Ben Sidwell of BBC Midlands Today, doing a piece to camera, clutching a mistletoe sprig

The latter are always worth chatting to, though I think we’re all slightly wary of saying too much about business! It would have been fun to get a competitive group photo – me from the English Mistletoe Shop, Nick from Intermistletoe, Mark from Kissmemistletoe and Simon from the English Mistletoe Company. But we were never quite all together at the same time, so that opportunity never quite arose. Maybe next time…

Media presence included the usual handful of stills photographers plus BBC Radio 4 Farming Today and BBC1 TV Regional News (Midlands Today). For broadcast next week (R4) and tonight (BBC1).

Nick from Intermistletoe, and Vernon Harwood from Farming Today. Not the most flattering portrait of either of them!

Nick from Intermistletoe, and Vernon Harwood from Farming Today. Not the most flattering portrait of either of them!

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

 

November 18, 2015

Missable Mistletoe Gadgets 2015 – the Drone

Filed under: Current Affairs,Mistletoe,social history — Jonathan Briggs @ 10:11 am

drone2015bTacky and tasteless ornaments are a reliable feature of Christmas, and mistletoe-themed ones are often amongst the worst. This year we are being offered the mistletoe drone, a concept arguably started by TGI Friday last year when they had a version flying round their restaurants.

TGI Friday’s promotion, by the way, was somewhat blighted when one of the drones crashed into a customer and sliced off part of her nose… 

I hope this new model, marketed by Hammacher Schlemmer, is much safer, though it is just as tasteless, possibly more so! Hammacher Schlemmer, for those who haven’t heard of them, are a US-based gadget company who have been offering ‘the Best, the Only and the Unexpected, for 167 years’, apparently.drone2015

Recent highlights from their website include a video camera baseball cap and a remote control rotating stand for your ipad. So a mistletoe drone fits right in. The main issue I have with these fake mistletoe offerings is that they are not actually mistletoe, and bear little resemblance to mistletoe, so whilst they sort-of echo an old tradition they also insult it by removing the primary requirement – actual mistletoe.

The idea, of course, of their mistletoe drone ($69.95 plus shipping….) is that you pilot the thing overhead to extract a kiss from your partner/prospective partner/unsuspecting passer-by. An interesting idea, through fraught with hazards if you’re operating it DIY as you need to stop piloting when you start kissing.

In Hammacher Schlemmer’s promotional video (link opens in a new window) you can see that as soon as Mr PlasticGadget takes his eyes off the drone to kiss Mrs PlasticGadget the drone veers off. So he quickly abandons the kiss to, er, control his toy (!). The gadget really needs a geostationary orbit lock.

The promotional blurb talks, rather suggestively (or is it just me?), about ‘digital proportional throttle and directional control, enabling precise placement for optimal effect’. But I think that’s just about the drone.

It also suggests up to 20 drones can be flown at once – but doing that might risk straying into nose collision territory.

And if you think this is just a bit of plastic tack for the 2015 season, think again. The Mistletoe Drone comes with the Hammacher Schlemmer Lifetime Guarantee: ‘If this product ever disappoints you, for any reason, you may return your Hammacher Schlemmer purchase for exchange, credit, or refund’.

Sadly they can only fly for 5 minutes without recharging, so the fun and collisions will be over quite quickly.

 

More Mistletoe Matters – links to more tasteful mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

 

November 15, 2015

Kiss and Tell in the English Garden

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Media,Mistletoe — Jonathan Briggs @ 11:17 am
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EngGarden2015thumbnailAnother year, and another slightly embarrassing (I never quite get used to them) profile of yours truly in the national press. This time in the English Garden magazine, a glossy monthly about, er, English Gardens and gardening.

I have been featured in this mag before, way back in 2006 when they published an article on mistletoe and mistletoe planting, in which I gave advice on planting techniques. This time it’s a profile in their ‘Garden Paths’ series, where they interview someone different each month.

EngGarden2015detailIt is actually a very neat little feature, written by Victoria Mason, based on words I wrote in answer to her questions, and illustrated with a photo by Anne-Marie Randall, from a photo-shoot she did with me last winter.

I’ve got a very odd expression on my face though, as if I’m cross, or really concentrating on something.

Probably on not going cross-eyed, which I do sometimes in photo-shoots and is most unbecoming!

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

November 13, 2015

The first of 2015’s Giant Mistletoes, but will it be the best?

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:05 pm
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A rather cheap-looking giant mistletoe in Melbourne, 2013

A relatively cheap-looking giant mistletoe in Melbourne, 2013

Giant, pendant, but fake (obviously) mistletoes seem to be turning into a tradition, at least amongst corporate marketing teams and street decorators. In recent years there have many examples of these giant decorations – some stunning works of art (e.g. at RHS Harlow Carr back in 2008), some remarkable eye-catchers (e.g. Heathrow Airport in 2013) and some just plain tasteless (e.g Melbourne’s glow in the dark decorations in 2013, which looked as if was made of old scaffold poles and left-over street lamps – see pic right).

Covent Gardens' ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’ Christmas decorations, designed by Michael Howells

Covent Gardens’ ‘Meet Me Under the Mistletoe’ Christmas decorations, designed by Michael Howells

I’m expecting a good crop of these again this season, and the first that I’ve become aware of this year is in London’s Covent Garden, where they have not one but 40 giant mistletoes!

Designed by Michael Howells and unveiled yesterday, the 40 mistletoes, each about 3 metres tall, take the form of chandeliers with glowing berries (nearly 700 of those).

The most striking aspect, to me, is the accuracy of the design, with the paired leaves beyond the berries. Many artificial mistletoe designs tend to group the berries with the leaves, so it’s really satisfying to see a design with real commitment to accuracy.

But this is just the first of this year’s giant mistletoes – will any other venue do better? Covent Garden is setting a high standard to beat!

Coming soon from Mistletoe Diary:

  • Mistletoe Surveys – updates and new links
  • Mistletoe Management – issues and opportunities
  • Mistletoe Conservation – news and views
  • Mistletoe Auctions 2015 – quality and prices
  • Mistletoe Oaks – news and views
  • Mistletoe in the Media – 2015’s hits and misses
    And other marvellous mistletoe minutiae…

More Mistletoe Matters – links to mistletoey things to read, buy or do

Grow-Your-Own Mistletoe – kits and gift cards from the English Mistletoe Shop
A Little Book About Mistletoe – printed and Kindle versions
Mistletoe Matters Consultancy – all about mistletoe in Britain
The Mistletoe Pages – even more about mistletoe
Mistletoe Surveys – seeking your input…
Mistletoe Matters on Facebook
Mistletoe Matters on Twitter

November 4, 2015

Not-so-wild but fairly western mistletoe

Filed under: Current Affairs,Gardening,Mistle Thrush,Mistletoe,Orchard,social history,Travel — Jonathan Briggs @ 9:46 pm
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How far west can mistletoe grow in Britain? The main population is in the south-west English Midlands, overlapping into eastern-most Wales in Monmouthshire. But despite this being western-ish (this is definitely west of Britain’s geographic centre) it is not really a western plant, being quite rare in Devon and Cornwall, and in the rest of Wales. There are a few isolated populations, here and there, but they can be hard to find.

And those odd populations may not be ‘wild’ as they are so far outside the species natural range they are probably planted, though often many decades ago. Indeed a few are known to be over 100 years-old, the date of planting being known, with the whole colony arising from that one historic action.

Llanerchaeron - mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden

Llanerchaeron – mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden

I’m always on the look-out for new examples and so was very pleased (and surprised!) to come across a new one today, on old apple trees in the walled garden of Llanerchaeron, near Aberaeron in Ceredigion. When I say ‘new’ I mean new to me, I’m sure the National Trust, who run the place, are already well aware that they have mistletoe. But it was a particularly interesting find for me, as it is very western indeed, possibly one of the most western I know.

Aberaeron itself is way out west, with the Llanerchaeron estate a little to its east, and today’s mistletoe is at UK grid reference SN480601. That’s an Easting of 2480, which is most definitely a very western Easting. How does this compare to other western mistletoe populations? Fairly well actually. The most obvious one to compare it to is the small population at Cotehele, another National Trust-owned historic estate, away south in England on the Cornish/Devon border, overlooking the Tamar Estuary. The mistletoe there is acknowledged to be some of Britain’s most western. But could today’s mistletoe be even further west? Has the west just been won by Llanerchaeron mistletoe?

Llanerchaeron - detail of mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden, with berries just beginning to show white

Llanerchaeron – detail of mistletoe on apple trees in the walled garden, with berries just beginning to show white

Back to grid-references and calculations… The mistletoe at Cotehele, also on old apple trees, is at SX422685, which makes an Easting of 2422. This means, ever-so-slightly-disappointingly, that today’s mistletoe doesn’t win. Cotehele is 5.8 kilometres further west. Cotehele wins, but not by much.

And was today’s mistletoe natural – i.e a wild population? I doubt it. It’s in a classic location for planting, a big country estate with an apple orchard. Plus the plants don’t look very old, maybe less than 20 years, and I know that some NT staff have been planting it here and there.

The Cotehele population is fairly recently established and perhaps this one is too. Though you can never be too sure of these things. There are remnant historic orchards in the Tamar valley near Cotehele that have a little mistletoe, and there is mistletoe in gardens just upstream at Calstock and across the river at Tamerton. Which was there first? All are very close together as the Mistle Thrush flies.

That’s the situation as I understand it near Cotehele, so perhaps there’s more in the area around Aberaeron…. I’ll have to come back when the trees have lost their leaves…

Edited to add: 

A map, for those who are unsure where these places are… The two red crosses mark the two sites, the top one is Aberaeron and the lower one Cotehele. Locations are only approximate on this scale!

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Commercial break…  East or West, why not grow your own mistletoe?

If you want to grow your own mistletoe, east or west, a good way to start is with a mistletoe grow-kit from the English Mistletoe Shop… 

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