DOWN IN THE GARDEN: Christmas in Your Garden
23 December 2022
A Christmas Tree in Your Garden
Although the cutting of a tree and bringing indoors to celebrate the winter season and then Christianity, is an ancient tradition, the modern-day Christmas tree as we know it was popularised by Queen Victoria and her German husband, Prince Albert after a newspaper illustration of them with their children around the palace ‘Christmas Tree’ captured and inspired the people of the time. The delight of a decorated tree has now become synonymous with Christmas through across many regions the world. The debate as to what is more eco-friendly, a cut tree or a manufactured tree may rage but all would agree, a living Christmas tree in your garden is perhaps the best solution of them all!
Although there are traditional Northern Hemisphere trees that can be grown in your garden, how about an Australian native tree that will give you the look but will be far better suited to the environment here and fit in with the wildlife locals better? Let’s begin with the magnificent Norfolk Pine Araucaria heterophylla.
They do grow up to 35m in height and they certainly will be the closest native that you will find in appearance to a traditional l tree. Houseplant lovers listen up as this tree grows well indoors while young for a few years as well.
Oh, Woolly Bush Adenanthos sericeus
how divine you are! Perfect for small gardens as it will grow up to an easily manageable 5m and with bonus vivid orange-pink flowers in spring and early summer this will delight both you and your local pollinators.
If you have a dinosaur lover or botanical history buff in your family, then you just have to make a
Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis your garden Christmas Tree. One of the rarest and oldest trees on Earth, it will grow comfortably indoors and in sheltered spots in the garden.
Australian Christmas Bush
Depending on where you find yourself in our beautiful country, will indicate the type of plant known locally as as ‘Christmas Bush’. Here on the Central Coast and across our state, NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum is our Aussie festive native and it becomes more popular each year.
People in colonial times simply looked to flowers that reminded them of the key symbolism of the European Christmas of their birth places. Christmas bush, with its red flowers in tiny bell shapes and its appearance at the 'right time' would of more than fit the bill. Christmas Bush is mentioned as such in colonial letters and also found sketched and painted by the artists of the time on gifts, cards and greetings. Louisa Anne Meredith, an artist of the time, refers to it as such in the 1830s: “We used to meet numbers of people carrying bundles of beautiful native shrubs to decorate the houses, in the same way we use holly and evergreens at home… it is a handsome verdant shrub, with flowers, irregularly flower shaped and go from green to crimson in colour”
Similar in ways to the poinsettia, the flowers are not the part of the plant that endear us to it. The flowers are small creamy-coloured blossoms that fall away in spring to leave sepals that turn a gorgeous red by late December. Find a full sunny spot to plant your Christmas Bush and feed during spring with a native-specific fertiliser only. This is advised to increase the number of blossoms which will lead to a showier festive display. When harvesting your Christmas bush, never remove more than a third of the plant and cut branches at an angle with sharp secateurs. Remove all foliage that will sit below the waterline in your vase, change water every second day and snip drying bottom of stems as required. You should see your cut Christmas Bush last well into the New Year with a vase life of at least two weeks.
Other Christmas Bush varieties include Victorian Christmas Bush Prostanthera lasianthos and South Australian Christmas Bush, also known as Tasmanian Christmas Bush Bursaria spinosa, both of which will grow in Coast gardens.
NSW Christmas Bells
The flaming yellow-red Christmas Bells Blandfordia nobilis
and Blandfordia grandiflora
are two of my personal favourite flowers. They are members of the Lily family say everything ‘New South Wales’ to me and remind me of summer bush walks, family picnics and home. As with any native flower, it is illegal to pick these in the wild but that’s ok as they will grow easily in Coast gardens. You will find that Blandfordia nobilis grows well in full sun but is semi-shade tolerant while Blandfordia grandiflora needs full sun.
Christmas Colour Indoors
If you want to liven up your home in an instant, collect big bunches of foliage and display in vases. They will look very much like dramatic potted plants, fill your home with living greenery and if you are selective in your foraging, will add delightful fragrances to your living spaces. Soft Lemon Teatree branches are divine indoors and also help deter mosquitos. Try grouping different sized and shaped vases together for a really lush, tropical look, especially if you are using palm and fern leaves.
Our local nurseries are also bursting with summer colour at the moment and now might be the time to pop in a few new beauties in your garden to welcome visitors or for your own delight. Before you do get planting, why not make a blooming bright display for a day or two? African Daises, Inpatients, Coreopsis, Hydrangeas, Zinnias and Kangaroo Paw are all coming into flower at the moment and you could leave them in their pots (maybe cover with cloth or paper) and create a lovely display but only for a day or two at most as they do need to be out in the garden.
Congratulations Doyalson Community Garden
On top of their fourth consecutive year winning the ‘Best Community Garden’ category in the Wyong Garden Competition, Doyalson Community Garden has taken out a big national win in the inaugural National Community Gardens Awards. Doyalson Community Garden has been named the ‘2022 Australian Community Garden Champion’. This award celebrates the gardens that reach out to their community with valuable connections, activities and opportunities for locals. Garden Co-Ordinator Jules is proud of the achievement and the far-reaching possibilities, “I think the award is a good thing to help people realise what our community gardens do and hopefully they will want to join.” She commented. “Here at Doyalson we host community group gatherings and have opened our garden to a local support group to share education and life skill opportunities.”
Community Gardens Australia, the body that runs the awards, is a networking organisation that connects community gardeners around Australia. It is growing source of information, networking opportunities and support for all those currently working with community gardens or have an interest in them. Another feature is their very handy, interactive map to help you find a community garden near you. Communitygarden.org.au
Cheralyn Darcey is a gardening author, community garden educator at swampcentralcoast.com.au and along with Pete Little, hosts ‘At Home with The Gardening Gang’ 8 - 10am live every Saturday on CoastFM963, on air locally or download the app: communityradio.plus
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