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Bringing Your House to Life this Christmas

By this time of year most of the outdoor jobs are done so the emphasis is squarely put on what we do to enhance our indoor spaces. Even now, the garden centres have plenty of treats and not simply the obvious choices like Christmas trees and wreaths for your front door. I mentioned forcing bulbs back in my September newsletter and this is the time when they really come into their own. If you didn’t have the time to source bulbs for forcing back then, don’t despair, hyacinths and paperwhite daffodils are available now and once put in the right conditions will be ready to fill your house with perfume for days, just in time for the holidays.

This month, however, I have been concentrating on the other type of plant treat we fill our homes with - houseplants. I was delighted to team up with Urban Plant Life on Cork St. in Dublin 8, where I gave a workshop on Indoor Plants for Beginners and gave the participants an introduction to some of my favourites. These include the insectivorous plants such as the Venus fly trap Dionaea muscipula, pitcher plants Sarracenia leucophylla and Nepenthes all of which have ingenious and rather sinister ways of attracting prey only to trap them and slowly digest them for their nutrition.

We also looked at succulents such as Aloe vera, my very first plant and one which lead me down the rabbit hole of gardening! Other succulents worth mentioning include Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sanseveria trifasciata laurentii or as a friend from Belgium advised Women’s Tongue – make of that what you will! This popular species is grown for its striking foliage which is arranged in a rosette of variegated, thick, strap-like leaves. As part of the workshop I gave everyone a free succulent to get them started on their house plant love affair and the jade plant or money plant Crassula ovata was very popular. All of these are great starter plants as they are very forgiving when it comes to watering or lack thereof. Try not to leave them somewhere too cold but honestly they will survive living with the most neglectful guardian!

We couldn’t cover houseplants at this time of year and not mention Poinsettias, the red-leaved staple that sings Christmas. Most think those beautiful red tops are flowers but are in fact modified leaves called bracts. These brightly coloured bracts are used by the plant to attract pollinators to their otherwise insignificant flowers which can be found right in the centre of the red rosette. These are unusual in the fact that they are short-day plants. This means they require a specifically short day of 12 hours for at least five days in a row to colour up and those days need to be bright and sunny so they are traditionally grown in suitable conditions by nurseries hence the reason it’s tricky to get them to colour up again the following year. Beware though, they can be a bit fussy when it comes to watering and abhor a draught so make sure they are not too dry nor close to a window or indeed radiator and you should be golden!

Other specimens renowned for their foliage include Calathea and my new favourite Maranta. These attractive species have the most adorable foliage with unusual variegation and patterns which will decorate the house with ease. Similar to the Poinsettias, these are notoriously fussy when it comes to changes in temperature so make sure to keep them in a well-lit spot but out of direct sunlight away from the draughts of the front door or near the fire.

During the workshop I brought the group on a quick walk of the indoor plant collection which is housed in a heated area draped in plants of all shapes and sizes from fiddle-leaf figs Ficus lyrata and the 1970’s staple the rubber plant Ficus elastica to the trendy Swiss cheese plant Monstera deliciosa and the elegant kentia palm Howea forsteriana. There is plenty of choice to cater for all spaces big or small and all gardening abilities.

During the day, I chatted with a lady who was browsing the collection and she told me about her Cast Iron Plant Aspidistra so-called as they are virtually impossible to kill. We chatted about how this lady’s mother who is now in her late 80’s had inherited the plant from her own mother who was given it as a wedding plant so they estimated that it was at least 100 years old! The plant had never been moved or changed pot as far as she was aware so they really are aptly named!

If you are looking to buy someone something different for Christmas you will have plenty of choice with a visit to Urban Plant Life and do make sure to say I sent you!

After a hectic few months I will be taking a much-needed break for Christmas myself so will be back in February with my next jam-packed newsletter. I hope you continue to enjoy them next year and thanks for all your support so far!

As always, Happy Gardening!

H x

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