Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

Feed the birds this fes­tive sea­son. Gar­den cen­tres are filled with seed hearts or seed bells that can be hung up in the trees. They will at­tract loads of seed eat­ing birds (red bish­ops, weavers) to your gar­den and are an ecofriendly way to cel­e­brate Christ­mas.

For a last-minute liv­ing gift, con­sider a spec­tac­u­lar gi­ant bi­colour aga­pan­thus (“Queen Mum”), poin­set­tia, an­thurium, glox­inia or chrysan­the­mum.

For a last-minute cen­tre­piece for a buf­fet ta­ble, fill a large fish bowl with red ap­ples al­most to the top of the con­tainer, add water and red roses or car­na­tions. The ap­ples will hide the stems and re­peat the red of the flow­ers.

Branches of dif­fer­ent ev­er­greens, trails of ivy, fern and dried bracken will trans­form the man­tel­piece and win­dowsills into minia­ture forests. Add small cones and clus­ters of nuts and red berries. If you pre­fer a more muted colour theme, thread dried hy­drangea heads, dried Natalia bougainvil­lea, dried bracken and grasses and hang these gar­lands on the man­tel­piece.

Should you de­cide to cel­e­brate Xmas out­doors this year, fill con­tain­ers and hang­ing bas­kets with plants to match the colours of cush­ions, table­cloths and crock­ery. There are plenty of sum­mer-flow­er­ing shrubs for out­door con­tain­ers. Dwarf bougainvil­lea, man­dev­illa (diplade­nia), hi­bis­cus and minia­ture roses suit sunny spots, while hy­drangea and fuch­sia need fil­tered shade.

If you are hav­ing a sit-down din­ner, fill tiny clay pots with minia­ture ivy and place down the cen­tre of the ta­ble. Ivy is usu­ally avail­able in seedling trays at gar­den cen­tres. Catch up the sides of the table­cloth at in­ter­vals with tiny wreaths made of ivy leaves, and con­tinue the ivy theme by twist­ing pieces of ivy to form nap­kin rings.

Keep a watch for yel­low and black cater­pil­lars that dam­age leaves and bur­row down into the bulbs of amaryl­lis, ifafa lilies, sca­doxis, ner­ines and clivias. Moths lay eggs which hatch out as cater­pil­lars that can de­vour a plant within a week. Spray with an or­ganic ins­es­ti­cide, Rip­cord or Kar­baspray

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