My wartime English stocking contained sugared almonds (from France), a home-grown apple and an orange from who knows where.
Our floral bouquets were red-berried holly, and ivy from the hedgerows.
In Australia, I like to alternate the native with the exotic, which are often white roses mixed with summer blues.
Give summer-flowering bulbs like agapanthus, canna, dietes, gladioli, daylilies, hippeastrum, liriope and tiger lilies that will be cut for the Christmas vase, a water with liquid plant food in the meantime, plus a light mulch of sugar cane to help keep the roots cool.
Wherever you source your Christmas colour for indoor decoration, flowers for the vase will first need to be conditioned. Cut from the garden in the evening when maximum reserves have been stored. Remove all the lower foliage and place the stems deep into tepid water with added liquid plant food. All will be ready for arranging in the morning.
Before re arranging, cut 2-3cm on the diagonal from the lower stems giving the maximum surface area for the flower to take up water.
Astilbe and campanula both great for the summer vase can dry out very quickly so are better used in water rather than florists foam.
Dahlias are at their peak between mid-summer and mid-autumn.
Hydrangea is good for all arrangements. Remove most of the foliage to give the flowers the best chance of a long and healthy life.
Liliums are long lasting and sweet scented. Remove the anthers to prevent pollen from staining any surface or allowing cats to lick from their fur – it is poisonous.
Roses, the most popular flower in the industry to their wide variation of colour and size, have a vase life from eight to 18 days.
Small planted pots will last longer than cut flowers. Yates have a few suggestions for Christmas colour creations: crisp, white lobelias, alyssum and ‘geraniums’ combined with trailing dichondra ‘Silver Falls’; hanging baskets of red calibrachoas and while lobelia; purple and white petunias with grey leafed cineraria ‘Silver Dust’; and for shady sites a combination of red and white impatiens. Add tinsel and fairy lights for some final pizzazz.
The northern hemisphere has long enjoyed red poinsettias over chilly Christmas weather which is when they naturally flower. Australia’s gardeners benefit from months of careful light control by Australian nurseries that trick the plants into blooming out of season.
Along with the traditional red are pink and white varieties collectively known as Princettia. Best placed in a warm, brightly lit room (protected from direct sunlight), kept moist and fed each week with liquid plant food. After the bracts have faded prune the plant back about 30 percent to kept compact and tidy.
From the same Oasis Nursery, daisies have gone to the next level in a new range called Grandessa. These hybrid argyanthemums have brightly coloured flowered that reach an impressive 8-10cm over spring and summer. Available in a great range of colour – dusky pink, vibrant red, buttery yellow and dark-centred white – these vigorous plants grow from 40 to 60cm tall in full sun and semishade as well as dry conditions and frost.
As this is our last column for 2018 – a Merry Christmas to one and all, lets meet again in the New growing Year.