with Deryn Thorpe

Add living colour to your Christmas!

Woolly bush

In my home the purchase and decoration of the Christmas tree, floral decorations in the home and the lunch table setting are all part of our traditional celebration of Christmas.

Around your home: Try decorating with home cut flowers as a new family tradition. A friend cuts bunches of the red flowering gum (Corymbia ficifolia) to decorate the room for her traditional Christmas lunch. In my garden the gardenias are in bloom and I use a line of the scented cream flowers, each one nestled in a tiny coffee cup, as the floral accent on my Christmas table.

Try a float bowl flower arrangement in the traditional red and green theme by teaming bright green ivy with red flowered mandevilla (which I grow on cone-shaped tee pees in pots).

In your garden: If it is a little barren, add festive cheer with some potted poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from the nursery. These plants originated in Mexico and are associated with Christmas because they flower in the northern hemisphere winter.

You can plant them out into the garden as they make good shrubs in most areas of Australia and flower in the cooler months. Poinsettia we buy for Christmas colour have been tricked into flowering by artificially altering the day length in the greenhouses.

Try decorating a living tree! Consider a touch of Australiana with our own woolly bush (Adenanthos sericea) which has the look of a conifer with dense, silvery-green foliage.

For a greener looking tree, conifers like cypress, thuja and juniper also have a dense habit and grow neatly. Thuja Smaragd is a book leaf variety and Leighton's Green cypress is a popular plant usually grown as a dense screen.

The fast growing Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla) is a more open tree that provides lots of space for ornaments but does not look as uniform or tidy as the conifers.

You can keep these plants in the pot and reuse them next Christmas. Never plant them into the garden without first assessing their size as Leighton's Green cypress and the Norfolk Island pine can become huge, eventually dwarfing the house and robbing the garden of light.

If you buy a cut pine tree (without roots) keep the cut base in a bucket of water and spray the needles with Yates DroughtShield. This is an anti-transpirant that reduces water loss from leaves and will keep the cut tree in good shape for longer and reduce needle drop.

Keep potted Christmas trees well watered because if conifers dry out they seldom recover.

Move potted plants outdoors as soon as you can after Christmas and remember that they will need some time to re-adjust to sunlight. Place in full shade to start with and gradually move them to a sunnier position.

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