Liv­ing proof of love

Plants make great fes­tive gifts – and we’re not re­stricted to the tra­di­tional poin­set­tia...

Leek Post & Times - - YOUR MONEY -

Not long to go un­til Christ­mas now and like me you’re prob­a­bly rack­ing your brains for last minute present ideas. Plants are liv­ing gifts that will bring much plea­sure for many months or even years to come and there are some re­ally fes­tive va­ri­eties that will de­light with sea­sonal colour and fra­grance.

Here’s my guide to the usual and not so usual plants that will make mem­o­rable presents for your friends and fam­ily this year, or dis­plays for your house.

Moth or­chids are a top seller at Christ­mas – they’re easy, beau­ti­ful and have long-last­ing flow­ers. But for some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, try a hang­ing orchid. These trail their flow­ers below them so would look beau­ti­ful hung in a con­ser­va­tory.

Cym­bid­ium ‘Ice Cas­cade’ is a very free-flow­er­ing orchid that drips wa­ter­fall cas­cades of fra­grant white flow­ers.

An­other un­usual hang­ing plant is Aeschy­nan­thus, com­monly known as the lip­stick vine. This refers to the bright red flow­ers that emerge from tubes – a very fes­tive look­ing species.

This is one for your green-fin­gered friends who like to lav­ish at­ten­tion on plants as it will need a good deal of mist­ing in sum­mer to keep it happy.

For lux­u­ri­ous fo­liage, look out for ca­lath­eas which have won­der­ful mark­ings on their leaves and of­ten pur­ple un­der­sides. They come from the floor of the trop­i­cal rain­forests so this is the type of at­mos­phere you are try­ing to recre­ate to en­sure their sur­vival – not very bright, warm and hu­mid, and the soil should be damp.

There are also some ex­u­ber­ant flow­er­ing va­ri­eties at this time of year such as the Eter­nal Flame (Calathea cro­cata) which sends up a to­tally trop­i­cal yel­low flower spike.

Pineap­ples were once a sym­bol of wealth as only those with money could af­ford hot houses and gar­den­ers to grow these ex­otic fruits. To­day they are a com­mon sight and there is a lovely or­na­men­tal va­ri­ety that would make a quirky gift this Christ­mas. Ananas can­dido is a cute lit­tle bromeliad with a minia­ture pineap­ple. It likes to be in bright light away from di­rect sun and, as with other bromeli­ads, you shouldn’t over­wa­ter them.

Off­shoots can be re-pot­ted and grown on. You can also try grow­ing your own by cut­ting the top set of leaves off a shop-bought pineap­ple and pot­ting up.

Hy­acinths, be they blue, pink or white, will al­ways de­light with their fra­grance. Dolly up a gift by putting them in fes­tive bowls and re­mem­ber they can be planted out­doors when they are fin­ished flow­er­ing. Once in the gar­den they will re­vert to nor­mal flow­er­ing times in spring amongst your other bulbs.

An­thuri­ums can look slightly ar­ti­fi­cial with their bright red waxy flow­ers but that makes them per­fect at this time of year when subtlety goes out the door! The flamingo flower is a trop­i­cal plant that likes bright, in­di­rect light and the soil to be kept damp. For best re­sults, tepid rain wa­ter is ideal and keep the leaves misted.

My fi­nal Christ­mas choice is a tra­di­tional one – the Aza­lea. Avail­able in cheer­ful reds, pinks, or­anges and white, it’s so lovely to en­joy this shrub that we usu­ally ad­mire out­doors.

The se­cret to keep­ing this plant happy is to keep it cool and moist so that’s away from hot ra­di­a­tors, open fires and stuffy rooms. Mist reg­u­larly and keep in a bright po­si­tion such as an unheated porch, along with your cy­cla­mens.

An­thuri­ums

Hang­ing orchid

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