New year’s plants, symbols of luck and long life

Plants for new year include juniper.

Which ornamental plants are rooted in history and culture, traditionally planted in the garden or hosted in containers on the balcony for New Year’s?

Here are 5 iconic shrubs that will insert your home in the local cultural heritage.

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Holly and Mistletoe, traditional symbols

Holly leaves with red berriesBearing little white or red berries that are very cute, with evergreen bright green, lively leaves, mistletoe and holly represent happiness, protect from bad luck and are symbols of immortality.

With ornaments woven into wreaths on the main door and shrubs growing side by side in the garden, these simple beauties evoke the incredible magic of end-of-year feast days.

  • They are quite easy to find growing in the wild, sometimes in forests and sometimes in orchards and untended native gardens.
  • In North America, Yaupon is the native holly species.

Holly can be grown either in a pot or as a trimmed shrub outdoors. Its leafage is at times shiny, at other times it seems layered with a dull dust. It always makes the cute (and poisonous!) red berries stand out.

  • The Ilex genus numbers over 400 species, some of which grow up to 85 feet (25 m) tall, although smaller species max out at 6 ½ feet (2 meters).
  • They usually bear white blossoms in spring and will fit right into any type of garden.
  • This ultra-easy plant to care for will thrive whatever the exposure and soil type you provide, as long as not too heavy. It copes with pruning well and is excellent for topiary. Ideally, select both a female and a male plant!

Sprigs of Mistletoe dangling from above, with berries.As for mistletoe, even though it is elegant and beautiful, it often is the target of many a gardeners’ wrath.

  • Indeed, it is considered a parasite plant that often settles in the topmost branches of apple trees, pear trees, oak, lime tree and poplar.

With a sharp hand pruner, harvest it in droves to decorate your house (inside and out), and also give some away! Birds love the white berries – that’s how mistletoe spreads – but it’s poisonous for human beings.

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Juniper, yet another berry shrub

Juniper branch with green berriesThis little ornamental shrub with a naturally elegant bearing and multi-hued needles is easy to live with and will feel fine in all soil types and exposures, both in the ground and in containers (for a terrace or balcony for instance). Juniper is a long-living shrub that symbolizes eternity.

Bonus: it produces edible, even medicinal, berries that start off with a greenish color and shift through blue, violet and brown before ending up a rich black color. Use them to decorate your table and feast meals!

Cut branches will also make for great ornaments together with holly and mistletoe. Decorate a juniper bonsai for a miniature Christmas tree!

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Boxwood and bay, green over the winter

Boxwood under snow, for New Year's.Evergreen, not demanding at all and very hardy, these shrubs are two more must-haves in the garden for a sprightly joyful winter.

  • Growing about 6 to 20 feet tall (2 to 6 meters) with leaves that run in shades of green, both boxwood and bay are perfect for topiary.

Why not plant them squarely in the middle of the garden ? Shape them to a sphere, spiral, cone, or other fun shapes like animals!

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Bay laurel under snow

By Claire Lelong-Lehoang