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Thank you for donating more than 1,000 holiday cards and coloring pages for veterans

In this season of giving, you sure did.

Our annual “Holidays for Heroes” event, which ran throughout November, collected more than 1,000 holiday cards and coloring pages for veterans.

We presented these cards and coloring pages to the American Red Cross, which this year is distributing holiday cards to more than 700 veterans in 30 locations in its Greater Pennsylvania Region.

One of those locations is Frey Village, a continuing care retirement community in Middletown, where the Red Cross and Royer’s hosted a holiday party for 18 veterans on Dec. 16.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to Holidays for Heroes and helped us celebrate our brave, selfless veterans.

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 the wreath’s 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. Royer’s sells fresh poinsettias by the tens of thousand, in dozens of 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, Royer’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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lancaster County-grown poinsettias are arriving at Royer’s stores

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It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, but Christmas is in full bloom at Esbenshade’s Greenhouses Inc. just north of Lititz.

In one vast expanse of the so-called Gilbert greenhouse, the floor is a carpet of red poinsettias. A visitor asks Roger Esbenshade, president of the family-owned company, how many there are in this one area.

“Probably 25,000,” he said. “This is maybe 10 percent of the crop.”

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has been an Esbenshade’s wholesale customer for decades. Royer’s sells some 20,000 poinsettias every holiday season, most of which are grown by Esbenshade’s.

Only a week prior, Royer’s CEO Tom Royer and Geoff Royer, vice president of central operations, were at Esbenshade’s to review the poinsettia crop.

Esbenshade’s grows nine to 10 sizes and 30-some varieties. Red remains the most popular by far, but even red comes in seven or eight different varieties. The biggest plants come in 10-inch pots and grow to 25 to 30 inches in height.

Depending on the size, the growing season can range from three to five months. What are now almost fully developed plants began as two and one-half inch stems. From the end of October until mid-to-late November, the poinsettias required only watering and disease control while Esbenshade’s tended to its spring crops.

But with the holiday season here, once again poinsettias are the focus of attention.

“For me, being responsible for the growing, it’s a very challenging time,” Esbenshade said. “It’s not a difficult crop to grow, but a lot of things can go wrong.”

He lists the challenges of controlling plant height, temperature, nutrition, diseases.

“It can vary from year to year,” he said.

‘Longevity for the customer’

Timing is important. That sea of red described above arrived only four weeks earlier. All poinsettias are green until their ultimate color reveals itself. Some plants will get redder still, which dictates when they will be shipped to customers.

“We try to have good color development but not overly developed so that they have longevity for the customer,” Esbenshade said.

Wholesale customers such as Royer’s typically place master orders, or what they anticipate needing for the year. Then they draw on that order on a daily or weekly basis.

For example, Esbenshade’s will deliver to Royer’s distribution center in Lebanon on 15 dates between mid-November and mid-December.

Esbenshade’s has approximately 30 workers tending to poinsettias at this busy time. When orders arrive, the workers wrap individual plants in plastic sleeves and place them in corrugated boxes for shipping via trucks.

The plants that are on the floor receive water and nutrients from below. Water rises to a depth of two inches through holes in what are called flood floors. Once the plants have absorbed what they need, the water level lowers and excess moisture drains from the pots.

If cared for properly, poinsettias can last for months if not years. They will cycle back to green in the off-season.

Esbenshade’s mother, Nancy, founded the company with her husband, Lamar, in 1960.

“My mom, she usually has hers up till Easter,” Esbenshade said. “I think most people don’t do that. She’ll usually send me pictures around Easter time and say, ‘My poinsettias still look good.’ ”

No matter how long you plan to keep your poinsettias, they’re vibrant and abundant at Royer’s now through Christmas.

Royer’s Flowers donates $1,000 to YWCA Greater Harrisburg

From left, Mary Quinn, CEO, YWCA Greater Harrisburg, and Holly Newpower, Royer’s market manager.

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has donated $1,000 to the YWCA Greater Harrisburg.

The funds are earmarked for the YWCA’s emergency shelter, which provides housing to single women and women with children for up to 30 days.

Family-owned Royer’s donates $10 to women’s charities for every purchase of its “Admiration” arrangement.

Royer’s Flowers saluting veterans with free red, white and blue bouquets Nov. 11

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts will salute military veterans on Nov. 11 by giving them red, white and blue bouquets.

The offer is available in-store only at any of Royer’s 16 stores in Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties.

Non-veterans may purchase the bouquet for $3.99.

“Royer’s is grateful to the brave men and women who have served our country so that we may continue to enjoy freedom,” said Tom Royer, CEO of Royer’s Flowers & Gifts. “It’s our privilege to recognize our veterans in this small way.”

Royer’s Flowers offering free bouquet to donors at Nov. 9 blood drive in Camp Hill

 

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is hosting a blood drive Nov. 9 at its Camp Hill store, 3015 Gettysburg Road.

The Central Pennsylvania Blood Bank bloodmobile will be at the store from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Anyone attempting to donate will receive a free bouquet.

Appointments are not needed, but donors should have ID, eat within four hours of giving blood, and stay well hydrated. Orange juice and snacks will be provided after donations.

Royer’s collecting holiday cards and coloring pages for service members and veterans in November

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts is collecting holiday cards and coloring pages for service members and veterans throughout November in each of its stores.

Royer’s will present the collected items to the American Red Cross “Holidays for Heroes” program.

Cards and coloring pages may be dropped off at any Royer’s store during normal business hours. Free coloring pages can be downloaded at royers.com/heroes

The Red Cross offers these guidelines for preparing cards:

  • Use generic salutations: “Dear Service Member” or “Dear Veteran”
  • Be thoughtful with messages, expressing reasons why you are thankful for the service members/veterans; if you have a personal connection, such as a family member who served, consider adding that
  • Try not to be overtly religious, but messages such as “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You” are acceptable
  • Do not include inserts such as glitter, photos, business cards
  • Do not include personal information such as telephone number, address or email
  • Sign your name

 

Royer’s Flowers donates $3,000 to American Cancer Society in support of ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ campaign

From left, Tom Royer, Royer’s CEO; Stephanie Delp, senior community development manager, American Cancer Society; and Geoff Royer, Royer’s vice president of central operations.

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has donated $3,000 to the American Cancer Society in support of its “Real Men Wear Pink” campaign.

Family-owned Royer’s donates $10 to women’s charities for every purchase of its “Admiration” arrangement.

Real Men Wear Pink is designed to give men a leadership role in the American Cancer Society’s mission to eliminate breast cancer.

Royer’s Flowers donates $1,000 to Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County

 

 

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has donated $1,000 to the Community Action Partnership of Lancaster County.

The funds are earmarked for CAP’s Domestic Violence Services program, which provides emergency shelter, counseling, legal and housing services, and children’s programming for victims of domestic violence and their children.

Family-owned Royer’s donates $10 to women’s charities for every purchase of its “Admiration” arrangement.