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.