Living gifts for the holiday season
The holiday season comes around every year and plants that flower or are available during midsummer have naturally become associated with the festive season over time.
Among the most famous are the fir tree, poinsettia, holly, amaryllis, mistletoe and ivy. Less common are the new age Christmas plants - Christmas bells (Sandersonia aurantiaca) and the African indigenous plants - the yellowwood (Podocarpus spp.) and mistletoe (Tapinanthus natalitus). A living gift is a simple, inexpensive and environment friendly option this festive season. Look out for mixed bowls or baskets filled with indoor plants such as the kalanchoe, African violet or love palm. Poinsettias, ferns, and peace lilies remain firm favourites.
The poinsettia has become a traditional Christmas flower in Central and North America as it produces a blaze of colourful bracts in December. In Europe, it is common to place three or four poinsettias into a basket with moss as a Christmas lunch decoration. Whilst red poinsettias are traditional, look out for pink and lime green varieties this festive season.
The poinsettia is indigenous to Central America and tropical Mexico where it is known by its Spanish name of flor de nochebuena or ‘flower of Christmas Eve’. The story goes that a poor Mexican child on the way to church on Christmas Eve wept because he had no gift to place before the altar of the Virgin and Child. Through his tears, an angel suddenly appeared and instructed him to gather weeds from the roadside. When the child arrived at the altar with his wilted offering, they changed into starry crimson blooms.
Fill a gardener’s stocking with twine, labels, marking pen, secateurs and packets of seeds or a basket with sunscreen, organic soap, hand lotion and garden gloves. If you are thinking of green Christmas presents for kids, look out for little animal pots that grow hair, gardening equipment, boots, gloves, those cool seed germinators, a worm farm, the Jiffy propagation products or even a bug boxes. The living gift of a plant is always a winner, but why not go a step further and include a bag of compost and fertiliser for instant planting? A moisture meter is useful for checking the moisture level of soil in containers, and a rain gauge will accurately measure the amount of rain. Foot scrapers are useful for muddy gardening shoes.
Subscriptions to gardening magazines or gardening books such as Jane’s Delicious Garden by Jane Griffiths, an organic guide to growing your own food, Homegrown Garden Design by Tanya Visser & Anna Celliers, Creative Gardening with Indigenous Plants by Pitta Joffe and Waterwise Gardening by Ernst van Jaarsveld would be welcome. A bird enthusiast can never have too many birdbaths, bird feeders and bird tables. Nesting boxes or sisal nesting logs that can be attached high up in a tree where birds will be safe and sheltered from rain will also be appreciated.
Do remember that modern garden centres are also major stockists of Christmas decor such as trees, topiary, wreathes, silk flowers and baubles, glassware, gifts, ceramics, tools, fertilisers, water features, containers and a host of other decor accessories.