Poinsettia, with its brilliant red bracts, has been tied in with Christmas for centuries, says gardening writer CEDRIC BRYANT.
SOME traditions never change when it comes to festive plants.
There’s lots of red and green, like in the popular British Christmas carol “The Holly and the Ivy”. In our climate we should be thinking cool colours at this time, but I don’t think the commercial interests will agree with me!
Poinsettia, with its brilliant red bracts, has been tied in with Christmas for centuries. Millions of these potted plants are sold around the world, including here. Particularly popular in its native Mexico, where it’s displayed in every home at this time for its religious significance, it’s known there as “Flores de Noche Buena” or Flowers of the Holy Night.
Poinsettias are not just for Christmas and can be kept as an indoor plant all year round, although they will not have red bracts all year. Keep them out of direct sunlight and do not overwater. Fill a saucer with pebbles and sit the pot on top of the pebbles. If you’re away for a couple of days, place some ice blocks on top of the potting mix.
Flowering at this time, Aussie red-flowering natives, such as Callistemon or bottlebrush, can make a perfect Christmas table decoration.
Pine trees are usually cut down by the millions, although I prefer to see trees grow and enhance our environment. Why not consider the unique Australian Wollemi pine, which won’t shed heaps of pine needles and can be kept in a pot for several years. It will eventually grow into a large tree, too big for the ever-shrinking Australian backyard. Perhaps pass it on to a friend with more space when it gets too big?
I DON’T recommend plants as a Christmas gift, for several reasons. Firstly, folk might be going away for the holidays, leaving no one to water the plants. Small plants in pots need watering every day. Secondly, they might not have space in the garden for another plant. Avoid tools or gadgets as a gift, too… I ended up on one occasion with three pairs of secateurs; I only have one pair of hands! My suggestion is a gift voucher, one of the most useful presents you can give a gardening friend.
IF going away, ask a friend or neighbour to check in on your automatic watering system. Valves can stick, ends of fittings can pop off or there could be a power failure. I’ve known people coming home to a flooded yard and a huge water bill!
FINALLY, I’d like to extend to all my readers wishes for a wonderful Christmas with family and friends, especially now we can have gatherings again.