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Gardening with Gael - Potted Christmas


potted-145My last article outlined some ideas for Christmas gifts and on a recent tour of the Bows and Bells we came across some of the ideas I had been discussing. Outside the classroom and the church a local garden club had planted several containers of Christmas colour which decorated the paths and entrances.

They looked stunning. Rosemary Browne was responsible for the ones we were viewing and she had some helpful hints. In the weeks leading up to The Bow and Bells weekend she had fed and watered the container plants every few days. In between the colour she had filled the gaps with alyssum which contrasted beautifully with the red and trailed a bit over the edge of the pot.

She had also been extremely careful choosing her petunias, pointing out to us that some ascend (or are upright) and some descend (cascade). Both have their place but they do need constant deadheading to maintain their blooms. One of the houses had a beautiful white theme and all the plants I have mentioned do have varieties in white. One I haven’t mentioned is Sweet William, dianthus barbatus, an old fashioned plant with stems of up to 30cm, crowned with a cluster of dense flowers.

The taller ones make a great potted plant and in the photo they are shown on the right. Our local restaurant, Ivy, uses the petals of dianthus as a garnish. They are edible and have a sweet clove-like flavour. Do snip away the white heel at the bottom of the petals as it can be bitter. Back in 1989 the only flower we used as a garnish was nasturtiums. The peppery flavour of the flowers and the bright colours complement salad greens and liven the table. Think about using them on Christmas day.

There are many other flowers that can be used to decorate both savoury and dessert dishes. Daylilies or hemerocallis which are flowering now are edible. Check that your lilies are daylilies, other types of lilies are not edible. Marigolds and calendulas are also flowering now. The marigolds belonging to the calendula family are edible. Marigolds belonging to the tagetes family are not. While googling edible flowers I discovered hollyhocks are edible. I planted some outside the rose garden last year.

A biennial plant, hollyhocks take two years to flower. This year mine look amazing. Violets and pansies are also edible and because they, like rose petals, are sweeter, they can be used with desserts. For a bit of blue try small borage flowers and the petals of cornflowers. Plants in many ways are an excellent addition to the festive season. The photo shows potted colour I have bought for presents and made little bags to present them in. On the left hand side of the picture I have used old pages of the Focus; these can be planted in with the plant. To make the bags use two pieces of newspaper or Christmas wrap.

With the Christmas wrap put the plain sides together. Cut the width three times the finished size and the length twice the length of the finished bag plus six cm (the fold down). Fold down the top six cm (60ml). Turn it over and fold into three, tucking the last third in under the folded down bit so it forms a flap. Fold up the length and tuck it under the flap as well. This makes a great little bag for your Christmas gifts. Have a great festive season and don’t forget to water your plants.

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