The month of December is filled with a host of traditions, with the Christmas spirit overwhelming many countries around the world. For those born within this month, with the new year not far ahead, it can be a joyous time of spiritual renewal and family cheer. In the world of flower symbology, the lovely holly flower, and narcissus paperwhite are said to represent this time of year. We explore all there is to know, from fun facts to the nitty-gritty of how to grow your own.
Keep on reading to find out the:
- Holly Flower History
- Paperwhite History
- Holly Flower Symbolism
- Paperwhite Symbolism
- Growing Your Own Holly Flower
- Planting a Paperwhite Flower
Holly Flower History
Part of the aquifoliaceae family, the holly flower is the only genus in the family still in existence, with close to 500 species within it. They can be found as shrubs, climbers, and as evergreen or deciduous trees. It can grow anywhere from a few feet to upwards of 80 feet tall! The holly flower can be found in most subtropical and temperate regions of the world, with the largest concentrations found in southeast Asia and the Americas. It is recognized easily by its bright red berries, which hang enticingly from its small branches. It is not recommended to eat them though, as they are quite toxic and can cause nausea and vomiting. On the other hand, the leaves of the holly plant are very commonly used in South America to produce mate, a sort of tea with a host of benefits for mood and energy.
The Narcissus papyraceus, more commonly known as the paperwhite, is a perennial plant predominantly found in parts of the Mediterranean. Countries such as Portugal, Morocco, Algeria, and Greece have the largest plantings. It is a strongly fragrant plant, with quite a history of usage in perfumes. They are relatively small plants, growing only between 1 to 1.5 feet on average. They are almost exclusively white, with lovely, delicate petals growing in bunches atop a small green stem. There can be up to 15 flower heads upon each spike. The narcissus family is quite poisonous and best kept away from other plants, so keep that in mind if you are thinking to add them into your garden.
Holly Flower Symbolism
In the olden days, the bough of the holly plant was thought to protect against witchcraft and sorcery and was commonly hung in homes and churches as a ward against evil. Children were bathed in water that had been soaked with holly as well. In Christianity, it is known as Christ’s thorn, its leaves symbolizing the thorns Christ was forced to wear upon his brow, and with the red berries of the holly plant having been associated with the wounds Jesus Christ received upon the cross and the sacrifice he made for humanity. On a more positive note, way before Christianity, the Celtics thought of the holly as a symbol of good fortune and as protection, with chieftains wearing wreaths of holly around their neck and brow to bring good luck to their clans.
The narcissus flower received its name from the god Narcissus. It is said in Greek legend that he was so beautiful that every woman who laid eyes on him fell deeply in love but would eventually take their own lives due to his not caring for them. As punishment, the gods cursed Narcissus to gaze at his face in a lake for all of eternity, eventually leading to his falling in love with himself. He then took his own life and was then turned into a flower. The flower has come to symbolize narcissistic tendencies, selfishness, and rudeness. The yellow variety are given to lovers who tend to be insecure and jealous.
Growing Your own Holly Flower
Best grown in partial shade, the holly flower can nevertheless handle some sunlight. It needs some well-drained soil and a slightly acidic ph. to flourish best. When planting, adding a good amount of organic matter helps with its growth. If the soil is healthy, the holly flower requires no fertilizer. Leaving at least 5 to 25 feet of space between each holly is recommended, depending on whether it is a shrub or tree variety. Water the plant thoroughly after its first planting, as well as a good amount of mulch to retain the moisture.
Planting a Paperwhite Flower
Paperwhites are generally found in areas with lots of grass, or rocky land, with lots of sunlight and well-drained soil. In more colder regions, it is best to grow them indoors. Keeping them in a cool storage area until you wish to force them into blooming is recommended, as many people like to have them blossom in December. Just make sure not to store them for too long, as they begin to lose strength after two months or so. Once you are sure when you wish them to bloom, all the plants need are some water and heat and within a few weeks they flower beautifully. Place them within a vase or pot and add some stones to keep them steady and fill it up with water and voila! They are very simple to maintain, just make sure not to completely cover the bulbs when planting.
The Lucky and Selfish Flowers of December
For those who find deep meaning within the symbolism of flowers, the holly and narcissus paperwhite can be a bit of a rough reminder of some personality traits we may not be too happy with. But remember also that close upon the heels of December is the new year, and with it a chance for change and the start of a new life filled with love and renewal. The holly and paperwhite are lovely flowers that can bring a touch of beauty and gracefulness to the holiday months, so always remember to keep a positive mindset!