Apparently there are people who start thinking about Christmas with the arrival of spring’s first blowfly. By the end of October they have their shopping done and menus sorted. The gardeners among them will have ordered lilium or hippeastrum bulbs and timed the planting of them to make a stupendous flowering gift.
Others delay even thinking of Christmas until Christmas Eve. Those of us following the middle way are currently starting to consider our options. Fortunately it’s not too late to grow gifts.
The indoor plantscape of newbie gardeners could be happily increased with a selection from your own collection. Easiest to establish are cuttings from easy-care, fast-growing pothos, also called devil’s ivy, or more correctly Epipremnum aureum. Pothos grows new roots from nodes, the tiny brown lumps on the stems. Cut a few pieces of stem from a healthy pothos specimen that each contains at least one node and one or two leaves. Take three or four cuttings to make a denser, more impressive-looking pot faster.
Place the cuttings in a clean jar with a few centimetres of water. Only the stems and nodes should be in water, not any leaves. Place the jar in bright, indirect light. Roots will develop in a few weeks, and once they are a few centimetres long can be planted into potting mix lightened with a handful of perlite. Take care not to damage the delicate new roots. Philodendrons can be propagated the same way.
Quick-result edible gifts include radish or rocket bowls. Sow seed into a container at least 30cm in diameter. Do it this week and the harvest can be eaten before the New Year. Cover the seeds lightly with seed-raising mix, press down to ensure contact between seed and soil and keep moist until germination. Keep up the water as they grow and protect them from hot sun.
If you don’t trust yourself with seed, buy salad or herb seedlings and grow them in a good-looking pot. Be sure to group herbs according to water requirements: drought-tolerant options such as thyme, oregano and rosemary won’t make good friends with water-hungry basil or mint.
If procrastination sets in for a few more weeks, garden-grown gifts will need to have been grown by someone else. The traditional choice in flowering presents is a poinsettia, which naturally flowers in the winter, but is manipulated by nurseries for Christmas colour. More seasonal is a Big Red geranium, which adheres to the traditional colour scheme and can be enjoyed briefly indoors before finding a more permanent home in a sunny spot outside.
For an indigenous feel, go with the dwarf form of Christmas bush, Ceratopetalum gummiferum “Johanna’s Christmas”, or search out Christmas bells, Blandfordia grandiflora, at native nurseries. Christmas bells start flowering in mid-December and continue until February, which is just the way we like our festive season – long.
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