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We can’t promise eternity, but here’s how to make your evergreen wreath last longer

We see them on doors and fences, windows and walls.

Some are even attached to the fronts of cars and trucks.

The evergreen Christmas wreath is a ubiquitous holiday adornment. So much so, perhaps, that it’s easy to overlook its rich symbolism.

“The evergreen wreath — its circular shape an emblem not only of perfection and unity but also of the warm, enduring sun — later became a Christian symbol for Christ’s suffering and ultimate triumph over death,” according to a 1988 New York Times article. “It is believed that the holly wreath, with its sharp, pointed leaves, first represented the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross, the little red berries symbolizing drops of blood. Later wreaths were formed from a variety of pines and firs, with evergreens embodying eternal life.”

The tradition of bringing evergreen trees into homes dates to the 16th century, according to a Time magazine article, crediting Germans specifically. Pruning trees to make them fit or more shapely left “pieces of greenery” that lent themselves to wreath-making.

“These people were living in a time when everything in their lives was used until it was gone,” said Ace Collins, author of “Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.”

Wreaths had other associations prior to Christmas, however: as “a prominent emblem of victory and power in ancient Greece and Rome.” Victorious athletes were crowned with wreaths of many sorts, including olives, laurel, wild celery and pine. Wreaths also were worn by priests, by brides and by guests at a feast.

‘Representation of eternal life’

In the context of Christmas, wreaths originally served as tree ornaments.

“They were formed into a wheel-like shape partially for convenience’s sake — it was simple to hang a circle onto the branches of a tree — but the shape was also significant as a representation of divine perfection,” Time wrote.

Similarly, evergreen trees were revered for their ability to survive winter.

“Together,” Time noted, “the circular shape and the evergreen material make the wreath a representation of eternal life.”

While you can’t make an evergreen wreath last forever, you can get the most out of one by following these simple tips:

–Fresh wreaths will get dry over time, but spray-on products such as Wilt Pruf seal moisture in (it works on garland and Christmas trees, too). Be sure to do this away from your door and before hanging the wreath to avoid making a mess.

–Wreaths can cook if placed between a door and a glass storm door, so hang them on an outside door exposed to the elements.

–Keep wreaths out of direct sunlight if possible, such as on a door under a porch roof.

 

Shedding holiday light on the mystery that is mistletoe

Oh, ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me
 

–“A Holly Jolly Christmas” 

Even if you’ve never seen mistletoe, much less smooched beneath it, it may have been a part of your holiday tradition since childhood.

That’s because the 1964 Christmas special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” features Burl Ives, in the voice of narrator Sam the Snowman, singing “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” All the while, prospector Yukon Cornelius hoists a tower of four elves hanging mistletoe and Rudolph gives the doe Clarice a peck on her cheek.

The poinsettia may be the most popular Christmas plant, but mistletoe seems to have the edge when it comes to appearances in Christmas songs. Everyone from Ives and Perry Como to Michael Buble and Alan Jackson has covered “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” Justin Bieber has a song titled, simply, “Mistletoe.”

For many of us, however, mistletoe is a mystery. Connells Maple Lee sells fresh poinsettias by the hundreds, in various sizes and varieties, but a much smaller quantity of preserved mistletoe, offered in a four-inch cluster with a bow packaged in a box.

“It’s a novelty more than anything now,” said Cheryl Brill, Connells Maple Lee’s chief operating officer. The typical customer is a young guy.

Not to be eaten

Yet while mistletoe is associated with kissing and Christmas, its role in nature is anything but beneficent. In fact, it’s the Grinch of holiday plants, an honest-to-goodness parasite.

“Mistletoe is an evergreen pest that attaches itself to trees, plants and shrubs, stealing their nutrients and water,” a CBS News story noted. “This can weaken or disfigure the host plant, and eventually even kill it.”

The genus name for North American oak mistletoe, the most common species in the eastern United States, is “phoradendron,” which is Greek for “tree thief.”

Mistletoe is difficult to remove because its seeds sprout and grow through the bark of trees and into their tissues, extending up and down within the branches.

“The most effective way to fight it is to remove an infected branch or limb entirely,” according to CBS.

Mistletoe has a misanthropic side, too. A person eating any part of it may experience drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness or seizures. These symptoms are caused by phoratoxin, which can be found in mistletoe berries and especially in the leaves. (Several types of mistletoe can be poisonous to pets, too.)

“Throw in the fact that some species are poisonous, and mistletoe starts to seem less like something you’d spy mama kissing Santa under and more like something Krampus would plant on your Christmas tree,” an article on the National Geographic website noted.

Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon in folklore that punishes children who misbehave, in contrast with St. Nicholas rewarding well-behave children with gifts.

‘Mystic branch’

But in this season of giving, it seems only fair to consider mistletoe in a positive light. Because it steals water and nutrients, mistletoe stays green year-round and is a symbol of fertility to some people.

“The plant’s parasitic nature is probably why people began to think mistletoe was special enough to kiss under in the first place,” according to National Geographic.

In Europe, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute website, “mistletoe extracts are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients.” However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Ancient Anglo-Saxons noticed that mistletoe often grows near bird droppings, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Hence, its name derived from “mistel,” which means dung, and “tan,” which means twig. Therefore, mistletoe means “dung-on-a-twig.”

Studies suggest that when certain species of mistletoe were removed from ecosystems in Australia and Mexico, birds suffered.

As it matures, mistletoe can grow into thick, often rounded masses of branches and stems that can reach as big as five feet wide and 50 pounds and sometimes called “witches’ brooms.” Some birds, including wrens, chickadees, mourning doves and pygmy nuthatches, nest in these witches brooms.

Some butterflies lay their eggs in mistletoe, their young eating the leaves and adults (and some native bees) feeding on mistletoe nectar. Mistletoe’s white berries are a no-no for people, but they are favored in the fall and winter by the likes of deer, elk, squirrels, chipmunks and porcupines.

Clearly mistletoe endures as a symbol of Christmas joy and wonder. Charles Dickens, in the “Pickwick Papers” in the 1830s, called mistletoe the “mystic branch.”

The Hallmark Channel carries on that tradition with movies bearing titles such as, “Moonlight and Mistletoe, “The Mistletoe Promise,” and “The Mistletoe Secret.”

Of course, the happy ending is always sealed with a kiss.

VALENTINE’S DAY: FROM FIELD TO FRONT DOOR

Whether you’re a planner or procrastinator, online or in-store shopper, you can expect the same high-quality product and customer service from Connells Maple Lee.

We really shine at Valentine’s Day. It’s our busiest time, and we enjoy the challenge of rising to the occasion. If a customer buys flowers once per year, it’s probably for Feb. 14. And with matters of the heart, the pressure really ramps up to deliver in a special way, for lovers and florists alike.

We handle a similar volume of orders during the Christmas season, but that’s over a month or longer. By comparison, the Valentine’s Day “season” squeezes a similar volume into several days.

FROM SOUTH AMERICA, WITH LOVE

But behind the scenes, Valentine’s Day is months in the making, and it takes us thousands of miles from our stores.

You see, we don’t just place a phone call and wait for roses to come to us. We go directly to the flower farms in South America, where we can see firsthand the crop that’s being grown just for our customers. This way we can make sure everything is to our satisfaction. If there are problems, then we have more time to correct them.

Once the Valentine’s Day crop is harvested, it is flown to Miami, where it is inspected by U.S. customs officials. From there, we move the flowers to a refrigerated tractor-trailer for their journey to our Grove City distribution center.

The flowers are either picked up by drivers from our stores or headed to another part of the building and our central design department.

CENTRAL DESIGN: THE HEART OF THE OPERATION

The demand is so great at Valentine’s Day that our stores simply can’t accommodate all the work. They get a big assist from central design, where a team of workers packs roses in boxes or turns them and other flowers into beautiful arrangements.

Whether you give or receive Valentine’s Day roses, or both, we want to make sure you get the most out of them. In fact, with the right amount of care, you should be able to keep your roses looking just rosy for a week.

Click here for specific care instructions, which differ depending on whether your roses arrived in a vase or loose in a box. Either way, it’s best to keep them cool and, of course, sufficiently watered.

From the farm to your front door, we love making Valentine’s Day special for our customers.

Thanks for letting us show you how.

Oh, Atlanta, we hear you calling

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We don’t procrastinate when it comes to holiday shopping. In fact, no sooner is one Christmas in the rearview mirror than we start planning for the next one.

It’s not that we’re eager for the passage of time. Rather, we’re beckoned by AmericasMart in Atlanta, which describes itself as the nation’s leading gift, home furnishings and area rug wholesale marketplace.

In Atlanta, we might purchase containers bearing a Christmas decoration, or snowflake or snowman stick-ins to complement an arrangement. We source Christmas décor at AmericasMart but also gifts that customers will give at the holidays, such as a picture frame.

A half-dozen Connells Maple Lee representatives visit AmericasMart’s three-building, 7 million-square-foot complex every January, buying gifts and arrangement accents for the next Christmas season, and again in July, when the focus will be on the next spring.

Focus on larger gifts

Jenni Eberly has made six trips to Atlanta, so she’s a veteran now. But as a first-time visitor, she found the experience daunting.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said, “looking at all that merchandise set out in the displays. Because then you have to take these huge displays and then pick out what you’re going to buy.”

As vast as AmericasMart is, Connells Maple Lee spends most of its time on five floral and holiday floors. In July, the group arrived in Atlanta on a Wednesday and worked through Friday. The pace is constant, and even lunch and dinner conversation turns to what each of them has seen from vendors.

Geoff Royer coordinates the Atlanta trips. He sets up meetings with specific vendors. He also arms each member of the Connells Maple Lee delegation with a folder that identifies, by holiday, items on their shopping list.

The needs range from broad to specific. In January, some of the focus was on larger gifts, such as clocks, afghans and pillows that are relatively new for Connells Maple Lee. In July, one of the goals was to find new versions of a heart stick-in and accent ribbon to give a new look to an existing arrangement.

Erica Bixby has been to Atlanta three times. With experience, she has learned to think beyond the initial appeal of new products to identify how they will work in Connells Maple Lee’s stores.

How will they complement other items, and will they work given the price at which they will have to sell, including once freight costs are factored in?

Something might look nice, Erica suggested, “but you can’t really sell it for $50.”

Moments of inspiration

Technology has made it easier to document the trips. Photos taken with a tablet or smart phone are invaluable for jogging memories. After all, Christmas giftware purchased in January won’t arrive until summer or fall.

Photos also capture moments of inspiration.

“I have a bunch of things that I liked for silks,” Erica said, with an eye toward Connells Maple Lee crafting similar arrangements in-house rather than buying them already made.

“Or I take pictures of displays that I’d like to duplicate in the stores,” Jenni added.

On her phone, Jenni pulled up a photo showing how one vendor used eye hooks and ropes to display pillows.

“It’s up, it’s still in the display, but it’s out of the way,” Jenni said, noting that pillows are vulnerable in a flower shop, where the need to water plants is constant.

One week after returning from the July trip, Erica and Jenni were looking at tables filled with arrangements being created or revamped for fall debuts. They estimated that 30 percent of the items were from Atlanta.

“That container, that container, that container,” Jenni said, pointing at specific arrangements. “That vase. Those deer [figures]. Those are all things that we picked up in January.”

Connells Maple Lee to honor active military and veterans by collecting ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ Nov. 11-25 in all stores

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Connells Maple Lee will collect cards and coloring pages for active military and veterans in each of its stores Nov. 11-25 as part of the American Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program.

Collected cards and coloring pages will be handed over to the Red Cross, whose volunteers will organize them for delivery.

Cards may be dropped off at any of Connells Maple Lee’s three Columbus-area locations during normal business hours. Free coloring pages are available at the stores or can be downloaded here:

Christmas Tree

Ornament

Santa

Reindeer

Dreidel

The Red Cross offers these guidelines for preparing cards:

  • Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member” as cards addressed to specific individuals cannot be delivered through this program.
    Include messages of support and thanks.
  • Sign your name to them.
  • Don’t include letters or other personal information (photos, addresses).
  • Refrain from choosing cards with glitter.

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors.

5 ways for children to celebrate National Grandparents Day

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Marian McQuade was an expert in grandparenting. A West Virginia mother of 15, she had 43 grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.

If McQuade’s name doesn’t ring a bill, her work no doubt will. She was the founder of National Grandparents Day, which President Jimmy Carter signed into law in 1978.

National Grandparents Day is held on the first Sunday after Labor Day (Sept. 13 in 2015; Sept. 11 in 2016; Sept. 10 in 2017). September was chosen to signify the autumn years of life, according to Legacy Project.

To help celebrate the holiday, the Connells Maple Lee Kids Club offers five activities that children can do for or with their grandparents:

Send flowers: OK, this is an obvious one, but our founder, Hannah “Mom” Royer, was a doting grandmother and much loved by her grandchildren, as was her husband, Lester.

Make a card: Draw a pretty picture and write a note to tell your grandparents how much they mean to you.

Interview them: Grandma and grandpa have seen and experienced a lot of things in their lives. This handy interview form can help get you started. Listen closely to their answers because you can learn a lot.

Trace your family tree: Here’s a family tree chart that will make it easy to identify the people in your family by generation.

Read a book together: The kids club is a big believer in the power of reading. Here’s a terrific reading list to get you started.

Of course, there is an endless list of things that grandchildren and grandparents can do together.

What are some of your favorites?

 

There’s no cutting corners with these square holiday wreaths

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Teddy Roosevelt had his Square Deal. Huey Lewis said it was hip to be square.

We have the square holiday wreath, and it’s pretty hip.

Of course, you’ll still find more round wreaths, but we’re stocking a small number of square wreaths in each of our stores.

No matter the shape of your evergreen wreath, here’s a great tip for keeping them in great shape throughout the holiday season: hairspray. Click here for details.

Poinsettia primer: learning about and caring for the most popular holiday plant

Poinsettias

We typically think of the North Pole when it comes to Christmas, but the most popular holiday plant originates with our neighbor to the south.

Poinsettias are native to Mexico and were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.

In fact, Poinsett’s death in 1851 is commemorated every Dec. 12 as National Poinsettia Day.

Some other facts:

  • The colored parts of poinsettias aren’t flowers but bracts (leaves).
  • Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower.
  • Poinsettias are not poisonous, to humans or pets: An Ohio State study found that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts (leaves) might have a slight tummy ache.
  • Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states. For instance, the 20,000 poinsettias that Royer’s receives each year are from Lancaster County.
  • Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.

Source: www.urbanext.uiuc.edu/poinsettia 

HOW TO CARE FOR POINSETTIAS:

  • Average room temperature is fine; they cannot tolerate cold.
  • Bright light is best, as they originate from the warm, bright southwest and Mexico. If given ample sunlight, they’ll last well into the new year.
  • Avoid keeping a plant too wet, they like moist but not wet. Frequency and amount of water will vary depending upon amount of sun, humidity in house and pot size.

You’re invited to our holiday open house, Nov. 29-30

There’s no need to stop at Black Friday. What are you doing the rest of the weekend?

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Join us for our annual holiday open house. All of our stores will be open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

We’ll be offering:

• 30 percent off Christmas silk arrangements
• Door prizes
• Free balloons for children both days
• Refreshments on Sunday

And through Dec. 5, all of our stores are collecting holiday cards and coloring pages for the American Red Cross’ “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program. For details, click here.

Of course, we’ll have lots of beautiful flowers, plants and giftware available, too, as we usher in the holiday season.

We hope to see you there.

Connells Maple Lee stores collecting ‘Holiday Mail for Heroes’ Nov. 17-Dec. 5

Holiday Mail for Heroes Recipients

Connells Maple Lee Flowers & Gifts and the American Red Cross are teaming up this year to deliver “Holiday Mail for Heroes.”

From Nov. 17 through Dec. 5, Connells Maple Lee stores will collect holiday cards and coloring pages that the Red Cross will deliver to service members, veterans and their families. Cards may be dropped off during normal business hours.

The Red Cross, which created the national “Holiday Mail for Heroes” program, offers these guidelines for preparing cards:

• Include messages of support and thanks;
• Use generic salutations such as “Dear Service Member” as cards addressed to specific individuals can not be delivered through this program;
• Don’t include letters or inserts such as photos;
• Don’t include email or home addresses on the cards: the program is not meant to foster pen pal relationships;
• Sign your name to them;
• Refrain from choosing cards with glitter as it can aggravate health issues of ill and injured warriors.

Coloring pages are available at each Connells Maple Lee store or can be downloaded here, courtesy of Coloring-Page.net: