Indigenous inspiration for Christmas

Go natural with an indigenous Christmas tree decorated with home-made accessories such as brightly painted seedpods and festive ribbons.

If you’re thinking of buying a new Christmas tree this year, why not opt for a live tree rather than an artificial one? Even better, choose an indigenous tree and plant it in the garden afterwards. Or you could leave it in its container and, once the festive season is over, place the pot in a sunny spot in the garden. Make sure you look after it throughout the year by feeding and watering it, and next December it will be ready for use again.

These are a few of the popular indigenous trees suitable for use as a Christmas tree:

Yellowwood (Podocarpus henkelli)

Has shiny, drooping, dark-green leaves and a neat appearance. It is frost hardy and grows slowly so can be used as a Christmas tree again and again. Place the container in either an east-facing or south-facing area as it prefers damp, cool and shady conditions. When planted in the garden it grows to 10m.

Podocarpus henkelli

Senegalia nigrescens ( Acacia nigrescens )


Outeniqua yellowwood (Podocarpus falcatus)

is an evergreen tree which has a conical ‘Christmas tree’ shape when young. The tiny dark green foliage is attractive. This indigenous tree can be planted permanently in a container as it is slow growing. Place the container in a shady or semi shady position and keep moist. In the garden it grows to 12m.

Real yellowwood (Podocarpus latifolius)

is also an excellent choice as a Christmas tree as it is evergreen with pretty blue-green foliage. These frost hardy trees with their stunning blue-green foliage can be grown in containers for many years and are therefore useful in smaller gardens. Place the container in a cool position and keep moist. In a garden they reach a height of 10m – plant in partial shade.

Cape gardenia (Rothmania capensis)

is one of the most attractive indigenous small trees. These evergreen frost hardy trees have shiny deep green leaves and flower from December until February. The heady scent of the white blooms fills the air when they are in flower. Cape gardenia reaches a height of 6m so is ideal for planting in a small garden or a container. It likes a position in full sunlight.

Cheesewood(Pittosporum viridiflorum)

has gorgeous shiny, dark green leaves and forms a neat, well-shaped evergreen tree or large shrub. Clusters of sweetly fragrant small cream blooms appear in November and December. With a mature height of 7m the cheesewood is an ideal plant for a container or small garden. This frost hardy bird attracting tree will grow in sun or partial shade.

Combretum zeyheri

Acacia erioloba

Go natural

Once you have selected your tree, make some beautiful decorations out of natural materials from your garden. Many seedpods and seeds look glorious if given a coat of spray-paint and enhanced with sequins, ribbons or glitter. You could also use berries, fruit and cones. If you’re not that industrious, choose from the many beautiful beaded and other accessories available from garden centres, markets and informal traders.

Here are some ideas:

  • Dry an aloe flower and spray it silver and enhance with a cone and ribbon.
  • Make a twig wreath and decorate with berries and leaves.
  • Tie a few cinnamon sticks with a pretty ribbon.
  • The star-like seed heads of lion’s ear (Leonotis leonurus) can be spray-painted silver or gold and hung on the tree with a ribbon.
  • Add some glitter to the velvety pod of the camel thorn acacia (Acacia erioloba).
  • The attractive pods of the candle thorn acacia (Acacia hebeclada) look great painted gold and decorated with sequins.
  • The winged seedpods of the large-fruited bush willow (Combretum zeyheri) are a favourite tree decoration as they are large and striking.

The umbrella thorn (Acacia tortilis) has unusual spiralling pods which will twirl in the breeze and can be decorated with sequins or glitter.

Leonotis leonurus

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