Category Archives: Holiday


European Mistletoe (Viscum album) courtesy of

A surprise, mischievous smooch under the mistletoe is a December tradition steeped in folklore. Many historians believe that pre-Christian Europeans believed the plant possessed powers as an aphrodisiac, fertility stimulant, and poison eradicator, to name just a few. Our contemporary adaptation of this yuletide custom is far more innocent but still retains the spirit of romance.

Ironically, while mistletoe is synonymous with affection, it is far less hospitable to many tree species.

Dwarf mistletoe. Colorado State Forest Service

Mistletoe is the common name for several families of parasitic plant species that grow on the branches of trees by root-like structures which bore under the plant’s bark. These “roots” extract nutrients and moisture from the host plant; over time, the host plant will develop deformed or discolored growth, called witches’ brooms.

Infected trees decline from the top down and may die prematurely. Damage can, in some cases, be reversed with proper pruning maintenance. Details can be found in this Colorado State University fact sheet. 

In Colorado, five western North American species of dwarf mistletoes (Arceuthobium species) infect conifers. Common host trees include lodgepole, limber, pinyon, and ponderosa pines.  

Unlike the decorative European mistletoe (Viscum album), that has woody stems, white berries, and smooth leaves, dwarf mistletoes are small, leafless, yellow-ish plants with inconspicuous berries. 


Mistletoes in Colorado Conifers. Colorado State University Extension, Fact Sheet 2.925

Dwarf Mistletoe: Parasitic Plants.  Colorado State Forestry Service


Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener


Giving Thanks for Our Gardens

Photo by Anne Burke

Thanksgiving 2020 is a good time to reflect on a year filled with a cornucopia of challenges. Many gardeners consoled themselves by planting flowers, tending vegetable beds, pruning neglected shrubs and pulling up weeds.

Our gardens never looked better.

This year let’s serve up a heaping helping of gratitude to every garden for the comfort provided during such difficult times. (Compiled by Jodi Torpey, CMG since 2005)

My garden gave me sanity and some sense of normalcy. My garden had no idea a pandemic was going on, my plants felt extra love from me for sure!
Merrill Kingsbury Master Gardener Program Assistant
(Photo by Parry Burnap)

More than ever, my garden this year gave me purpose, peace and perspective.
In the spring when we were in lockdown, the garden was there to give me purpose. Rather than being stuck at home I felt safe at home and happy to have the time to work in the garden. In mid-summer, my husband was severely burned. During the four surgeries, skin grafts and lengthy recovery, I had our lovely garden to find solace and peace. As summer turned to fall, the harvest of blooms and vegetables brought joy and at times laughter. Like the perennials in my garden, I was grounded in the garden and I was growing where I was planted. It was here I found perspective. To all that and so much more, I am grateful this Thanksgiving!
Anne Burke, CMG since 2009


Covid’s confinement directed me to my garden. There I could see the lives of plants, insects, animals, fungi, carry on as usual. Usual! The garden’s delightful creatures allowed my world to expand to their universes and notice so much with focused time. How thankful I am for my bit of land that gives so much by its own being.
Susan Tamulonis, CMG since 2018


This Covid year, the routine of lockdown days spilled into our gardens. We all had more time to focus our energies on tweaking, replanting, dividing and sharing. I was concerned for the birds who came to my feeders; they learned to ignore the barking puppy. Now I have the most overfed doves in Denver County.
Anna P. Jones, CMG since 2019
(Photo by Susan Tamulonis)

This year my garden gave me a bit of solace from the trauma and immense grief of losing one of my daughters. I am grateful for the beauty, bounty and peace it has given me as I struggle.
Donna Baker-Breningstall, CMG since 2012

Our garden gave us zucchini bread and heirloom tomatoes for Caprese salads this year…it was the highlight of the summer and fall to pick and eat the tomatoes or bake the bread.
Dee Becker, CMG since 2010
(Photo by Anne Burke)

Tips For Caring For Your Cut Christmas Tree

If a real Christmas tree is a beloved tradition in your home, you’ll find these tips for its care helpful. Following these research-based findings will help your tree stay fresh and aromatic through the season. Some may surprise you.

First and foremost, check the water level daily. The ideal stand will hold at least a quart of water per inch of the stem’s diameter. A gallon capacity stand is generally sufficient. Be sure the cut end of the trunk is always submerged in water.  

Clean, plain water is best; water temperature will not effect absorption. Additives such as aspirin, floral preservatives, water-holding gels, sugar, bleach and soda are not beneficial and some can even retard freshness.

Anti-transpirants or wilt-reducing products have also not been found to significantly reduce moisture loss. 

Take care when placing your tree in the stand. The outer layer of the trunk is important to water absorption, so avoid “shaving”  or scarring the bark to make it fit into the stand.  (I’ve been guilty of this!) 

Cooler temperatures will help the tree stay fresh. Lowering the thermostat and placing the tree out of direct sunlight is recommended.

A well-cared for cut tree should remain fresh for three to four weeks. Always monitor your tree for excessively dry needles, a sure sign that the tree should be discarded.

At the end of the season many communities offer free tree recycling programs. Denver residents can find information on the 2019 Treecycle program here.

Reference:  “Caring for Your Cut Christmas Tree” Rick Bates, Department of Horticulture, Pennsylvania State University.

 Image: Garreth Broesche,

Written by: Linda McDonnell, Denver County Master Gardener