Gardens: how to display winter foliage

December is a time to bring bunches from the garden indoors – and keep them looking fresh for longer

Over the next couple of weeks, we drag bunches of foliage into our houses as if this were the most normal activity in the world. Gardens are hacked at, bushes snipped and florists ransacked. Mistletoe, holly and ivy appear on doors, swinging from lights and snaking up banisters. Greenery is as essential to Christmas as figgy pudding and fairy lights.

This evergreen frenzy has its roots in the past, and the plants we now associate with Christmas are remnants of an older celebration of the longest night and the shortest day: midwinter. When lives and livelihoods depended on a firm grasp of the changing of the seasons, the year’s darkest moment was hugely significant. After 21 December, the days grow incrementally longer, a fact that feels worth celebrating.

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