Editor's Note: This article was authored in 2011.
In the 1960s, a potted plant began appearing as a backdrop for television holiday specials. Very leafy and very red, it was the poinsettia, of course. With prime screen real estate behind Johnny Carson and Bob Hope, the conspicuous plants were an unmistakable message: poinsettias are the Christmas flower.
If garland was a dessert, it’d be your grandmother’s apple pie. Always there at the holidays, always delightful, but never much different than the year before. This season, add a contemporary twist to familiar tradition with new mixed garland and creative displays.
To celebrate the season, botanic gardens and conservatories decorate their collections with lights, ribbons, and sculptures. From Washington's glowing grapes to Nevada's illuminated cacti, gardens feature their emblematic plants as well as the always-lovely poinsettia.
Bellevue Botanical Garden Bellevue, WA
When hung over a threshold, a sprig of mistletoe is a matchmaker; in the wild, the plant is a parasite known as the "thief of trees." Now, thanks to a recent study in Australia, mistletoe has a new reputation: forest savior. Field research indicates it's actually a beneficial plant, critical to a healthy ecosystem.
Mistletoe: the Parasite
Designers around the world have crafted their own Christmas trees, inspired by lotus flowers, French macarons, and children's story books.
Here are a selection of extraordinary Christmas trees throughout the world—most are local traditions, many are breaking records, and one appears to break through a suburban roof.