Gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT suggests presenting a brilliant show of real red plants for the Christmas table.
THE colour red is synonymous with Christmas, and real red flowers will look wonderful on the festive table this year.
Old-fashioned pinks, or dianthus, are flowering in many gardens at present, looking quite spectacular en masse. They also make a lovely border along the path to the front door.
I recommend two absolutely stunning, deep red dianthus, namely “Passion” and “Rebekah”. Both grow to about 30 centimetres high with a 50-centimetre spread. After decorating the Christmas table with the pot wrapped in colourful paper, you can either plant in the garden or balcony and continue to enjoy them in pots. Dianthus has been grown for many hundreds of years, made famous in Shakespeare’s plays as the gillyflower. They are renowned for their subtle fragrance.
The bright red bracts of poinsettia are popular around the world for the festive season, or for a true Aussie theme, try the red flowers of callistemon or bottle brush, one of the brightest reds being “Endeavour”.
Another option would be the gorgeous bright red and white flowers of feijoa.
Deep-red geraniums are also in flower and will continue so for the rest of summer.
“THE Waterwise Australian Native Garden” is a practical guide to garden design, plant selection and more. Written by Angus Stewart, one of Australia’s most knowledgeable native plant experts, and co-authored by AB Bishop, who was a researcher on the ABC’s “Gardening Australia” program for five years, this is an excellent Christmas gift for anyone starting their first garden. Profusely illustrated with nearly 300 pages of text and photos, it costs $39.99. I’ve known Stewart for many years and cannot recommend this book highly enough.
ANOTHER essential addition to the bookshelf is the Horticultural Society of Canberra’s popular “The Canberra Gardener”. It is written by long-time members of the society especially for our climate of four seasons. Available from bookshops and newsagents for $29.95.
I’VE BEEN urging gardeners to mulch without delay ahead of this long, hot summer and suggest using mushroom compost. It’s a combination of various items from horse manure to peat moss, with lime added to neutralise the acidity. The Mushroom Growers’ Association suggests avoiding using mushroom compost near acid-loving plants such as camellias, azaleas, rhododendrons and most natives.
POTTED plants will almost certainly need daily watering. If left too long, the potting mix dries out and shrinks back from the sides of the pot. This means you may think you are watering the plant thoroughly as water runs out of the bottom of the pot. However, the water is simply running down in the gap between the inside pot edge and dry potting mix. Watering every day will prevent this.