It may be grey and miserable outside, but Christmas indoors should be filled with colour.
And there’s a whole host of houseplants that can lend festive cheer to your home. We perhaps associate Christmas most intimately with the poinsettia and its shock of bright red, star-shaped leaves that are often mistaken for flowers. But they’re not – they’re known as bracts and, in this case, they help attract insects towards the real flowers in the centre. Poinsettias make a great centrepiece for a table or look good by the fireplace. Water twice a week and feed every three to four weeks to keep them in tip-top condition. Some will last for ever, others may see out Christmas then wither.
But there are so many more plants to choose from. I’m a huge fan of Christmas cacti (schlumbergera), which is originally from Brazil and is resplendent in magnificent colours. Smile They’re a great bathroom or kitchen plant and for the sake of a couple of quid, they’ll last for years. They’re low maintenance and there’s no reason why they can’t flower at least once, and in some cases twice, a year. Don’t forget Christmas azaleas, either. They’ll put a smile on the face of every mum and grandma and come in a range of colours from white to red to pink. The trick is to give them a drink of cold tea. The tannins and slight acidity of your cuppa help support the plant. Another favourite is the cyclamen, which is synonymous with Christmas in my house. It’s a lovely upright plant with swept-back flowers sitting above a cloud of silver and green leaves.
Your local garden centre will be full of them. They come in all sizes and some varieties will happily go outside once the weather brightens. My final suggestion is the Christmas cherry (solanum pseudocapsicum), a small bush that looks like it’s got loads of little oranges on it. They’re actually inedible berries, so keep it out of reach of kids and pets. But they give a sprightly splash of colour and are very seasonal. Any of these will embellish your home with colour and aroma and help make Christmas that bit more special.
1. Test tree ties Check your tree ties to make sure they’re all secured. And make sure any new trees are properly staked and safeguarded from winter gales. Stakes can also rot, so give them a thorough check. There’s nothing worse than finding your pine’s snapped after a gale.
2. Make a bed of roses It’s a good time, as long as the ground’s not frozen, to plant roses. You can buy rootwrapped ones from most garden retailers. They’ve been dug up and put into sleeves rather than grown in pots. It’s a cheaper way to buy roses – and they’ll flower next year.
3. Cover compost Remember to cover your compost heap. With all the rain, you don’t want those good nutrients washing away. A sack, some empty compost bags or some old timber will do the jobs just fine and save your heap becoming sludge.