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Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

Poin­set­tias have be­come tra­di­tional flow­ers for dec­o­rat­ing the ta­ble at Christ­mas. Amer­i­can grow­ers sell poin­set­tias worth $220 mil­lion at this time ev­ery year. Re­searchers sug­gest that 80 per­cent of poin­set­tias are bought by women. Most Amer­i­cans still pre­fer red poin­set­tias; 8 per­cent pre­fer white and 6 per­cent pink. All three colours are avail­able in lo­cal gar­den cen­tres.

If you are en­ter­tain­ing at home these hol­i­days, buy colour­ful bags of an­nu­als and use them to fill any gaps in beds, or to add in­stant colour to pots on the pa­tio.

Buy hy­drangeas in flower and plant in pot­ting soil in large con­tain­ers to give in­stant colour at shady en­trances and on shady pa­tios. Keep the soil moist by spread­ing a thick layer of mulch (bark chips, pine nee­dles, coarse com­post) around the root area and spray fo­liage on hot days.

Don't ne­glect to water shrubs and climbers grow­ing un­der eaves. Hos­ing fo­liage can be ben­e­fi­cial for re­mov­ing dust, for dis­lodg­ing aphids and dis­cour­ag­ing spi­der­mite on the un­der­side of leaves.

Go­ing away? Group pot plants to­gether so it makes it eas­ier for a friend to water them. Most in­door pot plants can be left out­side but will need shel­ter from di­rect sun, heavy rain and wind. A tem­po­rary shel­ter of shade cloth will fil­ter sun.

Ar­range for some­one to mow the lawn reg­u­larly. Water flower beds and shrubs thor­oughly a day be­fore leav­ing for your hol­i­day, then mulch with a thick layer of coarse com­post, bark or straw to keep soil cool and moist.

Add colour to your bor­ders and vegetable patch with lime-green ni­co­tiana, dwarf orange marigolds and let­tuce, red stems and green leaves of Swiss chard “Ruby” and red pep­pers, and ruby-red let­tuce with dark-leaf basil. Orange cos­mos com­ple­ment blue-flow­ered bor­age and yel­low sun­flow­ers are set off by the feath­ery fo­liage of bronze fen­nel.

BLOOM­ING FES­TIVE: Now is the time to buy a poin­set­tia to dec­o­rate your home this fes­tive sea­son.

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