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A Gardener's Christmas

For gardeners, Christmas truly marks the end of the gardening year and the start of the new. Plans are devised, plant lists drawn up, seed and summer bulb orders placed. For the really keen gardener early sowing of begonias and pelargoniums begins now. But being a keen gardener doesn’t preclude one from ignoring Christmas, more incites ideas of how to bring the garden into the house with a festive feel and how to bring a festive feel to the outside of the house, in particular the front door and front garden with which to welcome visitors.

Homemade wreathes are always nicer and more welcoming than artificial plastic affairs (not that I can talk!). A simple wicker ring adorned with holly, ivy and some winter jasmine stems will keep going for at least two weeks, with the added bonus of the jasmine opening its buds slowly but surely over that time. Sarcococca (the winter box), with its delicious lily of the valley scent, is also a great addition. Brighten up your pots and containers with some artificial flowers – nothing too outrageous, maybe some stems of poinsettia or amaryllis flowers just to add some colour. A sprinkling of the ubiquitous ‘solar’ string lights will finish off the job nicely. These lights are also perfect for draping over specimen shrubs, especially holly, bay and conifers. And, if you must, plant some solar lanterns along your front path so Santa knows where to go…..

On the inside, again stems of evergreen shrubs mixed with berried twigs can be enhanced with either artificial flowers or Christmas baubles. A sprinkling of glitter or talcum powder can add a hint of snow or frost, scented candles can be inserted into the centre of the display, but make sure they are tall enough not to set light to the foliage. I also add dried orange slices, cinnamon sticks and pomegranates on kebab sticks to add to the Christmassy scent. Sprayed seed heads look stunning too – try allium heads (just throw these at the Christmas tree and they will stay there most obediently until after the festive season), crocosmia, hydrangea, teasels and any of the cow parsley family. Displayed on their own in a vase they would easily satisfy the minimalist with their elegant style.

Then come the presents. Gardeners can save pounds by creating their own home-made Christmas presents from the garden or garden centre, with a little early planning. Dip fir cones into hot wax to create attractive, scented firelighters, plant up some early hyacinth and crocus bulbs, make some dried flower arrangements, small hampers made up of homemade produce such as jams and chutneys, packets of collected seeds in decorated small envelopes. All should be much appreciated especially if they have been made with love.

A few ideas for you to think about over the Christmas break: look around the garden – the bare bones of winter reveal where additional evergreen structure is need. Don’t forget borders should be one third evergreen to two thirds deciduous / herbaceous. Hard prune roses and remove any intrusive or crossing branches in trees. And take note of any flowers that are out – they deserve some attention for shining at this time of year.

Have a lovely Christmas to all readers and a happy new year.

Our gardening writer, Lucy Watson, has a beautiful garden in Emsworth. She regularly opens her garden for the National Garden Scheme, raising money for charity. Visit Lucy's website for more hints, tips and information about gardening.

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