This week Paraic walks us through how to choose and care for your Christmas tree as well as some suggestions on what to add to your garden for the coming months.
When should I buy a Christmas tree and what should I look for?
With two or three weeks to Christmas, now is the perfect time to buy a freshly cut tree for your home. The earlier you get out the more choice you have so go out and have a look at what is available! In order to make sure you get a good quality tree there are a couple of things to look out for. First of all, the tree should be a good weight for its size. This shows that it has retained most of its moisture and has been freshly cut. It should have a healthy green colour and feel moist to touch. Ideally you should look for trees that are non-shed, the Noble Fir and Normandiana varieties are ideal. They have a rich green colour and plenty of room for decorations. You can also buy pre-potted trees such as the Abies and Picea varieties. They also need to be kept in a cool area and watered regularly. They can be bought at around 3-4 feet in height, but they need to be re-potted or planted in your garden after use as they will soon outgrow their pot. A lot of trees nowadays come in a nylon stocking, so make sure it is taken out and you are able to have a proper look before you buy. Look for a tree that is nicely branched, broad at the base and tapers into a nice conical shape.
How should I care for my tree to make sure it lasts the whole Christmas?
With just a little bit of care your tree should remain green and lush over the Christmas period. You should treat your tree just as you would freshly cut flowers. First thing you need to do is to cut 3-4 inches of the bottom of the tree, just enough to expose some fresh wood. After this you need a good quality tree holder that will allow the tree to sit in 2-3 litres of water. Some tree holders are designed for this purpose such as our Nordman Christmas Tree stand available at Horkans, but necessity is the mother of invention! A healthy tree will adsorb about half a litre of water a week. Paraic advises that you add some cut flower food to the water or alternatively some sugar can be effective as a natural supplement for the tree. It is important to keep the tree in a cool place away from radiators or other sources of heat, not always easy this time of year but try your best!
Indoor plants for the Christmas
One of the most iconic Christmas plants we all know of is the Poinsettia. It has been become known as the Christmas star because of the shape of its leaves alongside its beautiful striking red colour. This plant is native to Mexico so it enjoys a warm atmosphere so it is perfect to add some colour to your toasty sitting room over the Christmas. See our previous blog here for more information on these festive plants. Other plants such as Azaleas are fantastic for a slightly cooler environment such as a porch, conservatory or bathroom. They normally flower out of doors in April or May but we trick them into flowering at the Christmas period. They come in a range of colours and are very easy to care for. They can be planted outdoors in February or March after they flower to be grown as a shrub. Cyclamen are also perfect for cooler conditions, and Begonias with their lovely red flowers will make a lovely addition to any indoor setting. Orchids are also a very popular indoor plant. These plants are often over watered, so it is important to note that as little as half a cup of water per week will keep them healthy. Add some Orchid feed to them for added nutrients and make sure to re-pot them when spring arrives. Orchids will also flourish outdoors most of the year but do not forget to bring them indoors for the autumn and winter!
There are a variety of different plants that will add some colour and character to your garden for the winter period. Now is a great time to start your outdoor display with some bright and colourful winter additions. Outdoor Cyclamen, Winter Pansies and Winter Heather give a nice variety of colours and are relatively easy to manage. Another popular addition is the Skimmia shrub which will add vibrant red colour to your garden. It has decorative, domed clusters of cream flower buds in September that gradually change to pink, opening in spring to white fragrant flowers. Another common question people have at this time of year is how they can add some colour to the grave of a love one without being too overbearing. The above mentioned Outdoor Cyclamen and Winter Heather are perfect for this and will flower all the way up to March or April of next year.
Mistletoe is probably the shrub that people associate most with this time of year. Not many people realise that mistletoe seeds actually start off under the bark of another tree. In nature they are transported by birds who deposit them under the bark when they wipe their beaks. You can replicate this process if you have a tree which is a suitable host. Trees such as hawthorn, walnut and apple trees are perfect for this purpose. After harvesting the mistletoe berries in January, simply make a small slit in the bark, place the mistletoe sees underneath and cover it with some breathable material to keep the birds away. It is recommended to place several seeds at once to increase the chance that they will grow successfully.
What can I do in the garden at this time of year?
This year we have had unseasonably warm weather and very little rain in November and December. This has left soil reasonably warm with a low moisture content leaving perfect conditions for planting. Now is also an ideal time to start pruning back your rose bushes and shrubs to encourage new growth come spring. Putting an autumn feed on your lawn now will give it a really rich green colours. A little work now will deliver great results in a few months! This time of year is when you should tackle the moss around your garden. Paraic recommends applying a treatment of Zero Lawn Liquid to eradicate most of the problem and save you a headache when spring arrives.