Plant a Christmas show
Get winter blooms in the ground now for a gorgeous garden – and ample flowers, foliage and berries to decorate the house during the festive period, says Hazel Sillver
ONE of the best jobs on Christmas morning is to head out into the frost-sparkling garden on the hunt for flowers, berries and foliage that can be snipped to decorate the house and table. And the right plants will enable you to celebrate the colours and scents of the season during the festive period.
“Anything that flowers from the second week in December until the end of January should find a place in every garden,” wrote the late plantsman EA Bowles. “Iris unguicularis is the best of all, and has often given me a large bunch of flowers for Christmas.”
The scented purple Algerian iris he was referring to is one of the joys of winter. However, it doesn’t always flower in time for Christmas. The best encouragement to have it performing on 25 December is a hot, dry summer, so – fingers crossed! – this year we could be in luck.
The Christmas rose (Helleborus
niger) produces charming white flowers from late December. You can ensure there are ample for a generous bunch by planting one of the new early flowering cultivars, such as ‘HGC Jacob’ or ‘White Christmas’. Similarly, there are early flowering forms of snowdrop (including ‘J Haydn’, ‘Faringdon Double’, ‘Three Ships’ and ‘Castlegar’), which will look adorable placed on the Christmas table in little glasses.
Flowering winter shrubs that can fill a vase on Christmas morning include mahonia, Christmas box and some varieties of Camellia sasanqua – all of which are evergreen and boast scented flowers. Wintersweet and Viburnum x
bodnantense – deciduous shrubs with perfumed blooms on bare stems – will also do the job.
The aromatic foliage of rosemary and conifers (such as juniper or thuja), as well as ivy and berry-laden sprigs of holly, will add a classic festive flavour to the house. Combine with yellow evergreens (try Abies nordmanniana
‘Golden Spreader’) for a touch of gold, or hunt out seedheads that you can spray gold or silver – the moon-white discs of honesty work particularly well.
All these plants can be bought in containers and, if put in the ground now, will fill both house and garden with blooms and scent over the holiday period.
You can also spread seasonal cheer by forcing the likes of paperwhites to flower indoors in time for the big day (others may be bought ready forced). Or try a ‘Christmassy’ houseplant like a poinsettia. Just think of them as the perfect gift to yourself.
A white Christmas is guaranteed with Helleborus niger. Surround with plants that supply flowers, foliage and berries in shades of white, green, red and silver and you’ll enhance the festive feel