How to make a mistletoe kissing ring
This article was about our Christmas activities at Mottisfont in 2017.
Q: Can you tell us more about the mistletoe kissing rings?
Jane: They’re a Victorian tradition; each time a gentleman caught a lady under the mistletoe he was allowed to claim a kiss. They’re very simple but really effective. You’ll be able to find lots of these things in your own garden but, if you need to pick up the raw materials, we’ll have some available at Mottisfont for a small donation.
You can use anything that’s long, thin and flexible like willow or dogwood, anything that will bend into a full circle. Ours are about 15cm in diameter but you can make any size you want. It’s easy to add extra bits. Perhaps holly or a leafy branch on the final layer, or brighten it up with some ribbon. Don’t be afraid to be creative.
1. Pick a smooth branch and bend it so that it forms a rough circle
2. Take a second branch, bend and weave that around the first
3. Repeat this process with several more branches, weaving them together. You’ll find natural gaps to weave through, and the branches will begin to lock in place as more are added to strengthen the weave.
4. Use secateurs to trim off any excess until you’re satisfied with the final shape.
5. Hook your mistletoe through a small gap in the weave so that it hangs into the circle.
6. Use a loop of string, twine or ribbon to hang it in your chosen location.
Q: How long have you been a volunteer gardener at Mottisfont?
Jane: About five years now but it’s flashed by so quickly. I come in for a day a week. I spend a lot of my time in the rose garden with the national collection of old roses. It started by accident, I brought a group here and saw a sign advertising volunteering. I applied and the rest is history.
Q: How did you come to head up Mottisfont’s first team of Christmas volunteer garden florists?
Jane: Word got out that I’m a florist by trade. I was chatting to one of the gardeners about my background and she asked if I’d like to help with the decorations. That’s progressed and this year I’m helping to run a small team, teaching other volunteers a number of techniques. We’re responsible for enhancing the grounds with seasonal foliage arrangements. It’s lovely to be asked and really flattering.
Working within a team of gardeners who are all so enthusiastic is great and there’s no division between staff and volunteers. It also feels wonderful to get feedback from our visitors. It’s so rewarding knowing that people get pleasure from something you’ve done.
Q: What decorations are you and your team creating this Christmas?
Jane: Most of the designs we use outside have to be big and bold. It’s such a big canvas to work on that smaller arrangements get lost. All the foliage we use is cut and collected from the managed woodland on the estate, so it’s very traditional and in keeping with the place as a whole. Yew, conifer, ivy, holly, we use lots of contrasting sizes, shapes and shades to achieve the look we want.
This year we’re doing more than ever before. You’ll see long tray displays on the hand rails of the welcome centre bridge and flowing displays on the beautiful old brick bridge. The stable yard is hung with teardrop shaped arrangements and garlands below the windows. We’re making huge wreaths for the main gates. A first for us, these have been really tricky to figure out due to their size and weight. Red and gold baubles add a little bling.
It can be quite a juggling act between being ready on time and making sure the decorations last for the length of time required. The finished result will be well worth it though - the gardens will look fabulous!