books, Poetry, Uncategorized

Audiobooks!

Hi everyone, I know it’s been a long time between posts — I’ve had lots of stuff going on both personal and book-wise lately, and it’s taken a lot of energy to keep up with just my usual daily routines. I’ll post a full update sometime next month, but for now, I thought I’d chime in with the audiobook release of two of my books:

Wings In A Wounded Sky is a middle grade fantasy featuring a cast of lively characters inspired by various mythical creatures, and the wonderful narrator, Sarah Brown, put a lot of heart into bringing each one to life. You can find the audiobook here (UK) and here (US).

Here’s the blurb:

While the orphaned Ogg, Rae, dreams of being able to socialize with humans, she doesn’t expect to be welcomed into the home of two complete strangers. When she learns they’re from another land and have no idea that humans are supposed to fear and hate Oggs, she begins to settle down and count them as family. 

But when the mysterious phenomena that brought them there—great gashes in the sky that cause dramatic shifts within Culmina’s landscape—suddenly get more frequent, the situation soon threatens Rae’s newfound way of life. Discovering that the cause is the war between the Fae and the Dragon-people, who live on floating cities high above the clouds, she vows to put an end to it to save those she loves. 

To do so, she must team up with the sassy ninth princess of the dragon-people, the downtrodden third prince of the Fae, and Max, a fellow orphan and hot-air balloon enthusiast. But when prejudice runs high and time is running out, can she get them to work together?

If We Could Hold Up The Sky is a poetry collection that covers the friendship of two neurodivergent people, based off personal experience. The audiobook’s narrator, Jessica Sinacori, did an excellent job of performing each poem, and from our discussions, I feel she very much understood the heart of the collection. You can find the audiobook here (UK) and here (US).

Here’s the official blurb:

Love is malleable and comes in many forms. It can be shaped into bridges and carved into doorways. It can become a hand to hold up the sky when everything threatens to crash down around us.

Inspired by personal experience,  If We Could Hold Up the Sky is a poetry collection revolving around the tale of two neurodivergent individuals who meet as colleagues, fall rapidly into an iron friendship, and gradually become romantic partners.

The collection also explores mental health, childhood, societal expectations, work-related stress, and how a solid foundation of support can make all the difference to overall well-being.

To celebrate the release of both audiobooks, I’m giving away ten copies of each (via promo codes that can be redeemed on Audible’s website). All you have to do to win one is email me at kathrynoftreeshallow@gmail.com and state which audiobook you’d like and whether you’re in the UK or US (to any readers elsewhere, apologies — the codes I have only work for Audible’s UK and US sites). I’m operating the giveaway on a first come, first serve basis, and will update this post when all copies have been claimed to prevent leaving anyone disappointed.

That’s all for now — happy reading and happy listening!

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What I’ve been up to lately

Hi everyone, I know this blog’s been quiet for some time — longer than I anticipated in my last update — so I thought I’d check in for a bit.

I’m still recovering from burn out, thus I’ve been trying to take it easy with writing and other ‘work’ things and instead have been attempting more hobbies/relaxing activities (like finally getting The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s DLC and messing around with that and other games. I’ve missed Zelda, a lot.)

I did start editing a children’s poetry collection (that I initially wrote back in January 2020) as a light re-introduction to other editing bits I want to do this year, however, I received edits for my upcoming middle grade fantasy novel from my publisher, and ended up deep-diving into those to get them done by the deadline. I could have asked for an extension, but I had some appointments for personal and medical stuff coming up, and I wanted to finish the edits before then, as appointments (for anything) drain me tremendously, so I pushed through. (And now I’m feeling it.)

I’m hoping to go back to gently editing that poetry collection sometime next week, once all appointments are done and over with. In the meantime, I’ve been compiling a huge (four pages) list of notes to show the doctor for the last remaining appointment in case I get overwhelmed and lose my words, or go hyper and ramble off into irrelevant information (sometimes, both of those happen, which is… interesting. Either way, having to explain things about myself always leaves me exhausted), and attempting to make my website look better.

One thing I really should mention is that the lovely people at the RSPB put me forward for their ‘star volunteer’ nomination for the work I did on #52weeksofnaturepoetry, and somehow, I was actually chosen. I’m delighted and very thankful, as their fundraising team really did a lot to help me throughout my fundraiser, and honestly, it was just so nice to hear that they enjoyed my poems.

I’m also starting to query a new project (a paranormal teen/young YA novel with a mix of Garth Nix’s Sabriel and Hocus Pocus vibes) with literary agents, though as querying was one of the things that really took its toll on me last year, I’m trying to pace myself and be very selective with who I send my query to so I don’t overwhelm myself with it all.

Thanks for reading this far — this is all I can think of for now. Blogging will likely be sporadic this year, as I’m really hoping to focus on self-care and not bury myself under figurative mountains of writing. But it is hard, as every time I attempt to rest, my brain tries to tell me I’m not being productive or proving my worth to society, which isn’t helpful in the slightest. (For those interested, I’m on Universal Credit, which is a UK benefit that many people have to rely on for income for various reasons. As I’m on it because I can’t work in traditional environments and get overwhelmed by other people, I always feel like I need to be doing something to ‘earn’ the money I receive. It’s not a healthy way of thinking, but at the moment, I can’t shake it.)

Anyway, until next time!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Fundraising Goal Reached (and general update)

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything as I’ve been recovering from burn out.

As usual, for the past year I’ve been engaged in various writing projects, and as I seem to be incapable of resting until everything’s done, I went overboard and worked myself into exhaustion. (Finding a good balance with writing is a constant struggle for me, because if I try to rest/pace myself, my brain kicks in with telling me I’m being lazy or stuff won’t get finished. Which is sort of true, because if I don’t make a conscious effort to keep going with something, it is likely the project won’t go anywhere.)

But anyway, that aside, I am incredibly proud to formally announce that I reached my fundraising goal of £500 for my #52weeksofnaturepoetry RSPB fundraiser, which ran from 1st November 2020 – 1st November 2021. The lovely people on the RSPB’s fundraising team supported me throughout, as did all my family and friends — and, of course, the kind, wonderful individuals who donated to the cause. Thank you all so much, I’m overwhelmingly grateful!

It’s amazing to have actually achieved my target, as I’ve tried fundraising in the past and it didn’t go so well. No only regarding donations, but also support. It really does make a huge difference to feel supported, both practically and emotionally, while fundraising, as it can be very demoralising when others dismiss what you’re desperately trying to achieve.

I wanted to help the RSPB because what they do for our wildlife is wonderful, and much needed, but my difficulties being around people and busy environments mean that the bigger projects and public events aren’t an option for me to join in with. So I have to work with what I can do, rather than focusing on what I can’t, and even if the difference I make is small, it doesn’t mean it’s pointless. (For anyone wondering, yes, I have been told before that working to support nature and environment charities/organisations is pointless because bad stuff still goes on. But I’m now surrounded with more encouraging, positive people, and thus strive not to let such negativity get to me.)

Moving forward, I am looking to get the poems published as a complete collection, with a percentage of the proceeds going to the RSPB. How long it’ll take me to either find a compatible publisher or self-publish the collection myself, I’m not sure, but I believe it’ll happen eventually — and when it does, I’ll post about it here.

I may not post again before the new year, as I promised myself to take a decent break from everything for a while, but after that I feel it’d be nice to write more poetry for this blog and maybe an article or two of random things I find interesting.

Until then, ciao!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

More To Moles – Week 50 #52weeksofnaturepoetry: RSPB Fundraiser

Underground shadows,

excavating with spade-like paws,

redistributing nutrients,

aerating, creating

vital drainage in otherwise compacted ground.

Above, we see marks of their passage –

mounds of well-turned earth,

from clearing their intricate tunnels.

Occasionally, they emerge,

noses appearing first

like eager bulbs shooting up debut leaves.

But tunnels don’t dig themselves;

back to work,

shifting between activity and sleep

every four hours.

Shy creatures, they disturb few.

Still, they are called out,

considered ‘pests’,

driven away.

Caught. Killed.

Bodies strung on fences to prove the count.

And all to protect land

reserved for nothing more

than human pastimes

and profit.

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

Hello, My Name Is Dandelion – #52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 29

Let me start

by saying I sprout anywhere

that needs my help,

and I leave only when my job is done.

Fight me all you want,

I’m a stubborn one.

You might consider

calling me ‘Magical Nanny’ of flowers,

for all I do to help others;

my head of closely-packed florets

is plenty big enough to take the title.

Not convinced I deserve it?

Well, take a peek at my résumé.

Item One:

My tough taproot easily pierces

compact soil, splitting it apart like a geode,

loosening clumps, aerating,

making space for weaker roots

to settle in.

Item Two:

I can survive with few minerals –

in fact, when my leaves wilt

as I snuggle close to the earth,

they leave a healthy stock behind

so new seedlings

won’t taste hunger.

Item Three:

Every spring, up I pop,

(even if your soil’s a touch acidic),

offering both pollen and nectar

to ravenous emerging insects.

I’m quite popular with them, you know.

Item Four:

Though my blooms may close on chilly days,

waft some warmth my way

and I’ll stretch, blink open my golden lashes.

There, aren’t I glorious?

Item Five:

Need to make a wish?

Blow on my seed head, observing how many

fluffy white parachutes break away,

and it’s sure to come true.

(Okay, that one might be a myth.

But you’ve got to admit,

it’s a cool myth.)

Now, have I stated my case enough

for you to let me grow in peace?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, social fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

(You can also become a member of the RSPB and support them month to month. Members receive Nature’s Home magazine and seasonal guides for what to look out for when out and about. Details are on their website.)

[Apologies for how these poems are formatted. I do write them in stanzas, but WordPress rarely decides to keep them, no matter how much I argue with it.]

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My ADHD diagnosis

In my last update I mentioned I was waiting for my adhd assessment. Well, as the title of this post suggests, I got the diagnosis – and I’m so relieved that I did.

However, the assessment wasn’t easy, there were many tough and deeply personal questions asked, and though I was prepared to answer things about my childhood and school life, the ones that hit hard were actually nothing to do with those topics. I mean, I did cry when talking about my primary school teacher bullying me; for some reason, whenever I explain that to a doctor, the tears always appear. But I expected that, so after the influx of emotion passed, it was fine.

What got me was attempting to explain how, if I had ADHD and thus my concentration was so bad, did I manage to write books. Not only this, but the doctor (a psychiatrist specialising in neurological conditions) went on to ask how successful a writer I was, including how many books I’d sold. And considering I’ve had high imposter syndrome recently and have been questioning whether writing to be published is something I should even be pursuing still, it cut me deep.

Other questions that hurt were why I still had my birds when their sounds were distracting, why I don’t want kids, and how I knew I had something close to an eating disorder when I was younger (I didn’t have any diagnosis or records of one, but gosh did I have the mindset and sadly could slip back into it easily if I’m not careful). So, ouch, on all fronts, to the point where I completely broke down after the assessment was over.

But – as I’d also provided lots and lots of notes beforehand explaining my brain – I got my diagnosis then and there at the end of the session. Quickly, abruptly (as to my mind, things really hadn’t been going well. I’d been rambling and getting flustered, so it felt like my responses weren’t particularly coherent), and without much extra explanation. I was asked if I had any questions, but my brain was fried at that point, so any I had promptly left.

Fortunately, after emailing the head ADHD nurse, who I’d been in contact with during preliminary screening, I had a good conversation the next day with full permission to explain my feelings and rant as much as I needed to to get everything out. After that, she went through reasons why certain questions were asked, and went on to detail all next steps and options open to me.

Though I’ve been hesitant to try medication before, on the grounds that if I’m to have it, I want to make sure it’s the correct type for my neurodivergent brain and won’t simply cover up the symptoms of an underlying condition (untreated ADHD can often cause anxiety and depression, both of which I have), I chose to be put forward for ADHD medication. After a few tests at my GP surgery, which included blood pressure, pulse, height, weight, and an ECG, I received my first prescription of methylphenidate, which is a slow-release stimulant.

Now, medication isn’t for everyone, and there are lots of treatment options for the parts of ADHD that interfere with daily life. But, for me, I’m really pleased I made the choice I did. Within an hour of taking the first dose, a subtle, yet tangible change occurred to my thoughts. Usually, my brain runs off at top speed on anything and everything, flitting from topic to topic. But, though I still had the thoughts – meaning, I was still very much myself – I could choose to follow only the ones that were relevant to what I was doing at the time, and go back to the others later. When I explained this to my partner (who we also suspect is ADHD), he came up with a great metaphor: instead of everything being dumped in a box that I have to sift through to find something, I’d been given shelves where I could see everything individually and just select what I needed.

As of writing, I’m on day six of being medicated, which admittedly, isn’t very long, but it does appear that my ability to maintain focus on writing has definitely increased (the very fact that I’m writing this, after not posting an update for so long due to lack of energy and motivation, is good evidence of this). And the thing that’s most surprising is the realisation that the fatigue I felt from doing any kind of task was caused mostly by my chaotic thoughts, and now they have (slightly) more order, that fatigue is nowhere near as bad. I can feel it, but I’m not completely crashing anymore.

Sadly, my laptop battery is now fading, so I’ll have to wrap this up. Getting confirmation of my full neurodiversity (I’m autistic too, and yes, you can very much have both conditions), has allowed me to understand and accept how different, yet cool, my brain is. Even though I struggle with things on a daily basis because of it, I can see my creativity and ability to notice things few others do all stem from it and make my world brighter.

This process has taken, well, a lot of processing, but I’m getting there. And taking medication, despite all the controversy surrounding it, is no different to when I wear my ear defenders or sunglasses to help lesson sensory overload when I’m outside. It’s an aid to help me, and it’s not a bad thing. (I will point out, though, that I’m taking my medication exactly as prescribed by my doctor and I’ll be having strict, regular reviews with them to make sure it’s still doing what it should and nothing else.)

Lastly, for those interested or considering pursuing diagnosis, some key details. I’m in the UK and went through the NHS, so the process may differ considerably in other countries, but here’s the route I took:

In mid 2019, I spoke to a general GP at my local doctor’s surgery, explaining that I wanted to be referred to the ADHD service for diagnosis. I had a few notes with me on traits I resonated with so they could easily see my reasoning.

After that, I had a very long wait (possibly made worse by the pandemic), but eventually got sent some screening questionnaires to complete and send back. After that was done, a phone call was arranged with the ADHD nurse for an hour long further screening conversation, in which I had to answer a lot of personal questions about school, family, work, social life etc.

Determining that I was eligible for a diagnostic assessment, I was then given a virtual appointment and completed the assessment I’ve spoken in detail about above, and as mentioned, after diagnosis, I was offered options for treatment, which included various therapies and medication. I received very detailed leaflets on the option I chose, so I could thoroughly research before finalising my decision.

So, there we go. I hope this essay of a post has been interesting and/or helpful. Thank you for reading!

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Querying, rewriting and ADHD

Hi everyone, it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything other than my fundraising poems, which, though I’d appreciate you all having a read of them and sharing, aren’t the sole purpose of this blog. I like sharing my writing journey and the struggles I have, in the hope that others currently struggling with writing (or anything, really) don’t feel so alone.

And wow, have I been struggling.

Last year, I did quite a few edits of older projects, drafted a new book — something I try to do every year — and starting querying literary agents for the…seventh time, I think?

Meaning that come New Year, I was quite worn out. Add to that a broken laptop, and work became rather hard, to put it mildly. (I’m currently still using my partner’s laptop, which I’ve grown used to and he’s more than happy to let me use for as long as I want, so I got over that hurdle pretty quickly). My focus, however, has been particularly bad.

I wanted to rewrite a project that, from feedback I got from agents, was about 15,000 words too short for the genre. As I never know how to relax and get bored between projects, I actually tried to start the rewrite just before Christmas, but then my laptop failed and it got put on hold until I could grab the files from the hard drive. (I’m usually good at backing up my stuff, but as I’d only started the rewrite about three days beforehand, I hadn’t gotten round to it. Naturally, the one time I delayed, ‘disaster’ struck.) When I did manage to get back to it again, despite engaging with the story and characters, it took hours to go over four double spaced pages. I tried repeatedly to go faster, to try and be more productive with my time, but it simply wasn’t working. By the time I reached the half-way point in the book, working on it felt comparable to digging a trench with a teaspoon, and I’m incredibly impatient with certain things.

Now, here I’m going to jump in with the ADHD part, as it’s likely relevant. I’ve been on the waiting list for assessment since mid 2019. I knew it’d be a long wait, just like for my ASD one, and when the pandemic happened, I resigned myself to an extra long wait. Several times I considered getting it done privately, but it does cost a lot, and as I get imposter syndrome, one week I’d be convinced I needed a diagnosis, the next I’d be unsure — I’ve heard this is common regarding ADHD in adults, particularly as it can present quite differently depending not just on age, but gender too. That aside, I was then super surprised when I got a phone call last month saying in-person assessments where I live were no longer supported due to costs, so the people in charge had decided to go with online assessments and mine wouldn’t be too far off. After another phone call and some screening questionnaires to make absolutely sure I’m eligible, I was finally given an assessment date. It’s early next month, and I am nervous as hell. But I already sent them extra notes, so hopefully it’ll go smoothly, whether the conclusion is ADHD or something else.

Anyway, back to writing talk. I’ve always struggled with focusing on and maintaining projects, but I’m stubborn and refuse to quit. So I ended up giving myself a tight deadline and marathoning the work until it was done. It worked, but as always when I do that, I ended up exhausted as it’s really not good for me. That’s the main reason I haven’t posted much lately. All my energy has gone to rewriting, recovering, or writing poetry. (I am happy with the way the rewrite tuned out though!)

As for querying, this round is going better than past attempts in that I’ve actually had a couple of full and partial manuscript requests, but not as many as I’d hoped. Which is disheartening and has led to many hours of ‘what if I never get an agent?’ thoughts. Of course, there are many options, one of which I’ve already pursued for my previous books — finding indie publishers. But the rejections piling up still hurt.

On a side note, though, my publisher recently informed me that two of my contracted poetry books are moving to the editing stage, so that’s something to look forward to (and also be anxious about. You may be thinking I’m anxious about a lot of things, and you’d be right. That’s just my brain.)

So, to bring this ramble to a close: if, like me, you’re a creative struggling with current projects, I see you and I understand. My family keep saying productivity shouldn’t be linked to self-worth, and while I get the idea of that sentiment, I haven’t yet found a way to make it stick. Even writing this post, which I could have left until I felt better and had more energy, is part of that. I didn’t feel like I’d done enough today, so words had to be written. But maybe someday, I’ll have a healthier approach to self-worth.

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Isle of Wight Story Festival 2021 17th – 20th Feb

Hi everyone, just a short post to say I’m part of this year’s Isle of Wight Story Festival. I’ll be giving a reading and mini workshop based on my book Nekromancer’s Cage, and reading some of my #52weeksofnaturepoetry poems.

The festival is completely online this year, as most other literary festivals have been, which means it can be enjoyed by everyone. Along with myself, there’s plenty of other authors taking part plus oodles of fun stuff going on including shadow puppetry, story telling, arts and crafts, nature themed workshops and much more.

If you’ve been home schooling, tuning in to the festival would be a great way to keep kids excited about learning during half term!

All events can be found on the festival’s Youtube channel here, and below is the complete programme:

#52weeksofnaturepoetry, Poetry, Uncategorized

#52weeksofnaturepoetry Week 15 – Ms. Blackbird

Feathers of leaf drop, plain and inconspicuous:

you won’t see her until she darts, stone-skipping steps,

across the path and on, on

into the grass. Shape distinct now against the green,

her partner still outshines her in his black evening jacket,

tangerine beak lifted in lively chortle-song.

Often, his bold appearance

is what gives her away – rarely are they far apart;

a tiff or two won’t separate them for long.

While he entertains the gardeners, watchers, afternoon ramblers

with his dashing looks,

she hurries about, a curious rain of leaves and twigs

misting the inches above her head.

Her search for morsels is never-ending.

Unafraid is she of getting close

if it means a beakful of worms might be claimed.

Fuel for creating her latest architectural project,

this year’s nest. You may find it one day,

long after its time.

How many broods were raised in it, you might wonder.

How many indeed?

This poem is part of a project I’m doing to raise money for the RSPB, a UK wildlife conservation and protection charity. Being autistic, nature is often my only place of solace, and I want to do all I can to protect it. As I’m not very comfortable around other people, most of the standard ways of helping out (volunteering, sport-style fundraisers etc) were not a good fit for me, so I came up with #52weeksofnaturepoetry, where I have to post a nature poem here on this blog each week for an entire year without fail.

If you’d like to help, please share this poem to encourage others to take joy in nature, and if you have the time and means to donate, you can do so here. Let’s help keep our wildlife wild!

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12 Plants of Christmas!

Hi everyone! I thought I’d do something a little different from my usual ramblings, so here’s a list of plants associated with Christmas/Winter Solstice. Some are used specifically for decoration, others are used for cooking, and some are used for both. I’ve also made some notes on either the traditions behind each plant, or how they’re used now. Enjoy!

Holly – A very hardy shrub, holly is the sacred plant of Saturn, the Roman god of agriculture, who was celebrated around Winter Solstice time. As Christianity took over, the use of holly as decoration was adopted from the older festival.

Ivy – A climbing (and potentially invasive if left uncontrolled) evergreen, ivy was used initially by pagans to decorate their homes in winter due to its rich green tones that brim full of life. Due to its ability to latch on to almost anything, it often represents faithfulness, friendship and loving relationships. It was apparently banned by the church at one point though because of its shade loving nature, which gave it associations with shady (no pun intended) or inappropriate behaviour.

Mistletoe – Partly a parasitic plant, as it takes nutrients from whatever it’s growing on. Apparently, druids believed it to bring luck and ward off evil spirits if hung around the home, and in Norse mythology, it is a symbol of love and friendship. In more modern times, having mistletoe around at Christmas comes from the idea of bringing something living into the home at a time when most plants die down. As mistletoe produces berries in winter, and those berries contain seeds that in turn become new plants, kissing underneath it became a sort of good luck act for couples wanting to have children.

Norway Spruce – Native to Northern Europe, it’s one of the most popular trees grown for Christmas. However, its popularity in the UK is fairly recent (compared to some other trees that are often used), and came about because of Prince Albert, who introduced the German tradition of decorating them with candles. As thanks for aid given to Norway during WW2, the Norwegian capital, Oslo, gifts large specimen trees to the cities of Edinburgh, London and Washington DC each Christmas, where they are displayed in each city’s largest square.

Poinsettia – Native to central America, poinsettias are actually a type of shrub, and their signature red ‘flowers’ are in fact leaves that change colour in response to lower light conditions. The real flower is tiny and clustered in the centre of the red leaves. These plants are associated with Christmas because of an old Mexican legend about a poor girl who had no gift to present to baby Jesus, so she gathered a bouquet of weeds instead, which then turned into bright red flowers. (Fun fact: you can keep poinsettias going long after the festive period as a year round houseplant, though you need to trim off the top bracts first as the flowering stems often die down once they’re spent. Once this is done, the growth reverts to the plant’s usual deep, lush green. It is possible to get them to change colour again, but it takes some investment. I’ve left mine green, and I think it’s just as lovely that way, and it’s gone woody too, so reminds me of a mini tree.)

Orange – Now quite affordable, oranges were once luxury fruits, and one of the stories as to why they’re traditionally put in Christmas stockings is down to a tale about old Saint Nicholas himself. It says that one day, Saint Nick, who was a somewhat wealthy and generous bishop, heard of a widower with three daughters struggling to make ends meet. So Nick snuck into their house and left gold coins in stockings left to dry by the fire, meaning that the girls had dowry money and could get married. Due to their initial rarity, oranges were used to represent the gold coins.

Rosemary – This perennial herb is used for so any things that it’d take a long time to list them all, but I’m sure most of you know it as a seasoning. It’s also long been used in winter decorating, and is now grown in shrub form as a small, potted Christmas tree. Historically, Roman priests used it as incense, and in other cultures, it was said to ward off evil spirits. It was also sometimes burned in the homes of people who had died from illness, as well as being placed on coffins before the graves were filled in.

Pear – Why was the partridge in a pear tree? (Or in any tree, for that matter, as they usually nest on the ground.) Well, I couldn’t find the answer, but pear trees, particularly wild pears, are said to represent good health and future happiness. Their fruit has also long been associated with the female form due to its curvy nature, so is often used in art and symbolism to represent femininity and fruitfulness.

Mint – This humble plant is used in a variety of foods during Christmas, from mint sauce to candy canes, and has many older uses, too – like being used to treat upset stomachs and being scattered around the home as a deodoriser. As it grows fast and spreads everywhere if you’re not careful, it’s very easy to get hold of. (It also grows well indoors too, though it can attract aphids.) Mint gets its name from Greek mythology, in which a nymph named Minthe tried to seek the attention of Hades, but Persephone grew jealous and turned her into a plant.

Brussels Sprouts – These small balls of green are often present at Christmas dinners, and seem to be the object of extreme distaste, particularly with younger family members. It’s also interesting that there’s not much in the way of records as to when or why sprouts were introduced into Christmas festivities, though food historians suspect the Victorians had something to do with it. The general thought appears to be that they’re easily grown during wintertime and produce good crops, therefore making them readily available during the season. (My personal thought on sprouts is that they’re edible as long as they’re covered in gravy and cranberry sauce. But they’re not my favourite vegetable by a long shot.)

Sage – Often used alongside onion as stuffing for the Christmas roast, sage is a very aromatic herb with interesting blue/purple flowers. Long before its use as a seasoning, it was grown for its medicinal properties, and indeed, its name comes from the Latin word ‘salvare’, meaning to heal or save. It has been used all over the world to treat a variety of ailments, and to protect against spells. (It’s also quite easy to grow, too!)

Cranberry – Commonly used as a condiment for Christmas dinner and also a popular winter fragrance, the wild cranberry is native to America, and was a popular source of food, drink and medicine for many Native Americans. However, the cranberry vine wasn’t commercially grown until the early 1800s, though once it was, its popularity steadily grew, and in 1940, its use as a sauce/jelly was born.  

So, there you are, 12 plants of Christmas. If you’d like to know what research sources I used for anything in particular or want further reading, just let me know in the comments. (I was going to leave a list of links here, but WordPress decided to auto-embed them and it messed up the rest of the post.)

Wild Ivy (Hedera Helix)