Tenbury Auctions Week #2

Another mistletoe auction this week – and another week with lots of lots.  All very well-berried and mostly nice green foliage, so good stuff.  Some lots were looking a little yellow here and there. The standard yellow auction labels tend to accentuate any yellow in the foliage – which is a little unfortunate!

Prices this week were higher than last week “1st Quality” fetched up to £3 per kg and averaged £1.50, “2nd Quality” fetched up to £1.00 and averaged £0.50.  No great fortunes to be made but reassuring after last week’s low prices.  Full details are on http://nickchampion.co.uk/auctions/holly-and-mistletoe/

A few pictures below – click to enlarge them.

Meanwhile back in Tenbury Wells town centre every shop was still bedecked with bunches of ribboned mistletoe, following the mistletoe festival day last weekend.  And, on  this visit, I had a look at Tenbury’s new Tesco, built on the site of the old mistletoe auction yard (actually the old cattle market but most famous for the mistletoe!).

This Tesco has been 7 years in the making, controversial from the start, with worries about its effect on trade in the rest of the town and, because of the riverside site, the impacts on flooding (a serious problem for Tenbury).  But in May this year it was finally opened, and they’ve included a mistletoe theme around the car park!   All the bollards and the frieze alongside the open ‘market’ area have mistletoe imagery.

Or do they? It’s not very convincing mistletoe! Tesco’s designers need to try harder – they’ve got the paired leaves but not grasped the equally, if not more, distinctive geometric paired stems.  But it’s too late to grumble now – and at least they tried.  I’d give it ‘5/10’ and a ‘See Me After Class’. Make your own mind up from the pictures below:

An accurate design; with paired leaves but also its classic perfectly bifurcating branches

To be fair they’re not alone – despite mistletoe being one of our most visually distinctive plants a lot of seasonal Christmas designers end up designing the distinctiveness out.  It is sometimes quite baffling!

 


kissestest3

To grow your own distinctive mistletoe plants visit the English Mistletoe Shop and have a look at the Grow-Kits!

 

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December 1st, National Mistletoe Day! 

From the Daily Telegraph, 29th November: “A buyer carries bundles of mistletoe away after the first Christmas holly and mistletoe auction of the season in Tenbury Wells, Worcs, an event 160 years old”
From the Daily Telegraph, 29th November: “A buyer carries bundles of mistletoe away after the first Christmas holly and mistletoe auction of the season in Tenbury Wells, Worcs, an event 160 years old”

December 1st, National Mistletoe Day!  And interest in mistletoe is building rapidly (as usual!). The first of the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions was held last Tuesday and was, I’m told (sorry I wasn’t there guys, missed the craic, hope to be there next week), much the same as normal. Lots and lots of mistletoe lots, and the ever-present media interest.  The Daily Telegraph published a photo (see right) the next day but I’m not sure who else ran features.  Some may be waiting until nearer Christmas.

Prices for this first auction seemed a bit low – “Mistletoe 1st Quality” fetching up to £2.50 per kg but an average of £1.25 and “Mistletoe 2nd Quality” only £0.75p per kg and averaging £0.25p.  For details on these and previous years visit the mistletoe and holly page of Nick Champion’s website at http://nickchampion.co.uk/auctions/holly-and-mistletoe/

Those are wholesale prices of course – don’t confuse them with what you’d pay in the florist, greengrocer or supermarket – by the time mistletoe gets there much has been discarded and it has been handled, washed and cut numerous times (and therefore much more costly!).  But if you’re a supplier these prices are a little worrying – they’d hardly pay for your fuel getting the mistletoe to the auction.  I prefer to think of the mistletoe sales as a way to subsidise mistletoe management rather than a way to make mega-profit!

From The Guardian 29th November:
From The Guardian 29th November: “Mistletoe farmer Mark Adams harvests the Christmas crop from his family orchard in Worcestershire”

Meanwhile I’ve been busy all week with other mistletoe business, as indeed have others: I was the sole male at the 100-strong Wolverhampton Ladies Luncheon Club (est. 1932) on Wednesday where the table decorations were made with mistletoe supplied by mistletoe supplier Mark Adams.  Mark himself featured in a picture in the Guardian a few days ago (see left).

Tomorrow, Saturday 2nd, is Mistletoe Festival Day in Tenbury Wells, where there’ll be a mistletoe kissathon in the morning (details at http://www.tenburymistletoe.org/festival.html) and in keeping with the spirit of very ancient Christmas past, a Druid Mistletoe Ceremony in the afternoon.

The Druid Ceremony is organised by the Mistletoe Foundation and officially starts at 2pm at the Burgage recreation ground .  I won’t be there (sorry Suzanne!) as I’m busy talking about mistletoe elsewhere tomorrow, but I hope it goes well – it’s well worth attending if you can.  Just turn up at the Burgage at 2pm or, if you want to be part of the procession, volunteer for a part etc, be at the Rose & Crown (on the north side of the river just outside Tenbury) from 1pm.  Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/296475577498104/


Mistletoe Information: for general mistletoe info visit the Mistletoe Pages website.

And for mistletoe books, cards or kits to grow your own druidic berries visit the English Mistletoe Shop website:

A wander around in the nucleus of mistletoe country

Mistletoe Berries, almost ‘glowing’ in the winter sun.

Berkeley Power Station, the UK’s first commercial nuclear power plant, sits on the edge of the River Severn in Gloucestershire. Opened in 1962 and closed in 1989 it still dominates the area, though it is now in advanced stages of decommission. And it is surrounded by mistletoe, as this is the nucleus (geddit??) of UK mistletoe country.

Its sister Oldbury (operating 1967-2012, famous for featuring in Blake’s 7 and Doctor Who episodes) is visible a little further down river. Hinckley Point A (1965-2000)  & B (1976 to date) are well over the horizon to the south, as is the controversial part-built Hinckley Point C (20??- )

Berkeley Castle, just up the road, is at the opposite extreme of modernity, lived in by the same family since the 12th Century.

But back to the mistletoe – this is the Severn Vale, home of most of Gloucestershire’s mistletoe, growing in old orchards, parkland lime trees and riverside poplars – as well as lots of other habitats and hosts.  And, last Saturday, we took advantage of a sunny day (merging effortlessly into grey rain later) to walk a circuit from Bevington, just south of Berkeley town, along the high ridge of Whitcliff Deer Park, into Berkeley town, out onto the riverside at the Power Station and along the floodwall before turning back inland.

At first, not much mistletoe –the southern end of Whitcliff Park is planted with Beech and Oak, neither particularly good for mistletoe. But further north there is the inevitable line of Lime trees, typical of English Parkland and festooned with mistletoe.  Further on, in the vale itself there is a glorious excess of mistletoe on many of the road and streamside (aka drainage ditch-side) Poplars with yet more out by the Power Station site.  It makes for some interesting landscapes.  Nothing to do with the Power Station, obviously, but did berries glow in the winter sun more than usual?

Some pictures, some with captions, below…

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Lastly, some mistletoe links – for general mistletoe info visit the Mistletoe Pages website.

And for mistletoe books, cards or kits to grow your own glowing berries visit the English Mistletoe Shop website:

Mistletoe Diary 2017 season

Not long now until the first mistletoe trading of the season and yes, the plants are looking good yet again!  That’s several years in a row now. Perhaps a bit more variable this season but here are some quick snapshots (click to enlarge them) I took of mistletoe in my mother’s garden earlier today – good material, albeit a little out of reach.

And some nicely offset by holly, though only a male tree so no holly berries. It’s the best mistletoe she’s ever had in this particular apple tree (she did have a lot in another, smaller, tree a few years ago but that one succumbed, unfortunately, to a surfeit of mistletoe.  If only she’d known someone who could have given some management advice. Oh wait…).

Mistletoe Diary this season will be covering the full range of mistletoe stories, especially the weirder ones. Planned content includes the a family mistletoe tradition gift box, complete with sprig of, er, plastic mistletoe, the question of whether hanging up a plastic model of a KFC chicken basket could have the same effect as mistletoe, how best to use the Yellow Pages in a mistletoe encounter, the hazards of dwarf mistletoes in woodland ecosystems and a review of birdlime – a sticky mistletoe by-product of yesteryear used to ensnare birds, kill soldiers and which features, oddly, in literature ranging from Aesop to C. Day Lewis.

And anything else which happens to come along in the next few weeks.

In the meantime, if you’re interested in mistletoe in general visit the Mistletoe Pages website and if you’re after mistletoe books, cards or grow-kits have a look at the English Mistletoe Shop website:

 

Tenbury’s Mistletoe Events 2017

No berries on this specimen, but that’s because it is a male plant. A picture taken on the Severn Estuary yesterday, mistletoe on hawthorn in the foreground, old Severn Bridge (hardly contrasting against the sky) behind.

November already, and about time I started adding more to the blog.  So, to kick off, here’s a summary of the key mistletoey dates for Tenbury Wells this year:

Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Auctions 2017: 

  • Tuesday 28th November
  • Tuesday 5th December
  • Tuesday 12th December

Full details and downloads on how to buy or sell are on Nick Champion’s website here.

Mistletoe Foundation Druid Ceremony 2017:  

Will be on Saturday 2nd December at 14:00–15:00 at the Burgage, Tenbury Wells

Details from the Mistletoe Foundation here.

(and there’s a Mistletoe Kissathon in town earlier in the day – details here)

State of the mistletoe ‘crop’ this season?

Variable but generally good, lots of berries on the plants I’ve been looking at, but more about that soon.

General mistletoe information: 

Have a look at the (recently re-vamped, some work still in progress) Mistletoe Pages here

And have a look at the various Mistletoe Information Sheets (and other downloads) from the Mistletoe Matters consultancy.

Mistletoe season almost, but not quite, over

A recent feature about mistletoe, mistletoe berries, seeds and the growing season, from West Country Life, the Western Daily Press Saturday Magazine.
A recent feature about mistletoe, mistletoe berries, seeds and the growing season, from West Country Life, the Western Daily Press Saturday Magazine. Click the image to enlarge it in a new window.

Spring is just about here, which means it’s almost the end of mistletoe berrying – cutting berries for propagation projects and for the mistletoe grow-kit business – for this season.  Which is always something of a relief, after 6 months of life dominated by mistletoe queries, projects and talking, cutting, gathering, planting etc.  Though I expect, after many years experience, that this will, as usual, make for a disconcertingly directionless few weeks at the start of April.

But for the next 2 weeks the season goes on mainly, at this late stage, simply servicing the grow-kit demand, cutting berries to send out to wannabe mistletoe growers around the country. I say cutting, not picking, as we find that picked berries become, through being picked, damaged, with broken skin and oozing berry contents. And those deteriorate quickly, as well as just becoming a glutinous mess if posted en masse. So every berry is actually cut, using those tiny scissors made for florists, to retain a little bit of stalk, thereby keeping the berry intact.

This is done with bunches of mistletoe cut from the tree, so it can be done in relative comfort indoors.  But it does create an interesting new ‘leaning forward’ neck-ache, to add to the ‘craning-upwards’ neck-ache already prevalent after spending hours staring upwards and stretching to cut the mistletoe from the tree with an extending pruning pole.

The seeds in the berries are, by now, itching to germinate, with the hypocotyl primordia showing as a small but prominent bulge on the seed.  Within a few weeks any not planted will simply germinate within the berry, still on the parent plant – in a defiant final , but in their case pointless, effort to survive. By May any berries left on the parent will contain these tragic might-have-been mistletoes, their hypocotyls hopelessly extended and seeking a host branch yet doomed through being stuck, literally, within their own berry.

But this isn’t the fate of the seeds from the berries in the grow-kits – they’re the lucky ones, being sent out to be formally introduced to their new hosts…

Want to try it yourself?
Mistletoe grow-kits are available from the English Mistletoe Shop websites here: http://englishmistletoeshop.co.uk/live/ and here: http://growmistletoe.co.uk/index.html

 

Mistletoe on the radio

Some interesting (well I think so) mistletoe coverage here and there on the radio recently – including more local radio interviews for me (today I did BBC Radio Suffolk again, for the second time this season, and Suffolk has hardly any mistletoe) and a slot on BYU Radio, a talk radio station based at Brigham Young University, Utah but broadcasting widely via satellite and the web.

The BYU interview was unusual – not simply because it was a US-based station – but because the station is so scholarly and particularly as the interview was in Julie Rose’s 2-hour long Top of Mind show which features ‘Smart, informative conversations and interviews that go beyond mere headlines and sound bites’.  Nothing as trivial as a two minute chat on a BBC local radio breakfast show – instead it is structured as extended one-to-one conversations with a guest on topical matters.

Yesterday’s edition of Top of Mind featured Is Trump Risking War with China?, The Future of US-Russia Relations, The Nativity is a Refugee Story, “Rogue One” Review, and Britain’s Rip-Roaring Holiday Theater Tradition. Plus, sandwiched between US-Russian Relations and the Nativity as a Refugee Story, Why Mistletoe Matters, featuring yours truly.

A slightly challenging interview, as I felt I should try to bring in US mistletoes as much as I could, but also to champion European mistletoe – which is, as regular blog readers well know, the real mistletoe of mid-winter tradition. The others, though fascinating, have been conscripted into a Christmas-tide role that doesn’t quite suit them. And I felt that though the issues of England’s declining apple orchards might seem a little irrelevant to an international audience, I had to mention them anyway.  Overall I think it all hung together fairly well considering.

You can listen for yourself via this link:

http://www.byuradio.org/episode/40a9939d-028d-4ccd-8f11-c8fe10d61959/top-of-mind-with-julie-rose-one-china-us-russia-relations-mistletoe-s-secrets-nativity-story-refuge?playhead=2163&autoplay=true

Note that this will start you at the mistletoe section, missing out the Trump/China and US-Russian Relations interviews. If you want to hear the whole show from the start, follow this link:

http://www.byuradio.org/episode/40a9939d-028d-4ccd-8f11-c8fe10d61959/top-of-mind-with-julie-rose-one-china-us-russia-relations-mistletoe-s-secrets-nativity-story-refuge

It’s all worth listening to, especially if you’re a fan of informed discussion on proper talk radio but are UK-based and usually rely entirely on BBC Radio 4.

NB I know I said I’d be covering immigrant Blackcap birds and their mistletoe-berry-habits in the next blog. But I’m leaving those until next time, again…