Christmas plants: fifteen gifts a-growing
by Drucilla James
One good thing about buying someone a plant for Christmas is, even if they’ve already got the one you give, it’s always lovely to have more! Which plant you choose will depend on the garden it’s going to, but if you’re feeling in need of a little inspiration, our panel of experts have shared which plant they’d love to give or receive this Christmas.
Pelargonium Scented ‘Cola Bottles’
“When buying plants for Christmas, I always try to buy a gift that is a surprise and something that I wouldn’t buy for myself.
For children I have recently discovered Pelargonium Scented ‘Cola Bottles’. Never has a plant smelt so like its name. Citrus and cinnamon jump out at you when you rub the leaves and for children it is such a novelty. I tried tying the little sweets to the plant and was going to tell my daughter they were fruit but her mother put a stop to that kind of thing. Maybe this is something for grandparents to try and get away with!”
“For myself, something unexpected is always wonderful. A collection of Auriculas from Drointon Nurseries in Ripon North Yorkshire would be a sheer delight. The perfect plants arrive perfectly packaged and will bring delight on arrival. They can be ordered right up to the last posting day before Christmas as long as their nursery doesn’t get frozen solid. (http://www.auricula-plants.co.uk/shop/index.php) . The added delight is when the Auriculas flower in the spring. If you can get hold of a copy Auriculas for Everyone: How to Grow and Show Perfect Plants by Mary A. Robinson, (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Auriculas-Everyone-Grow-Perfect-Plants/dp/1861081499) then you will have given the gift of a gardening interest that takes up very little space and will last a lifetime.”
David Lewis, Head Gardener at Kensington Roof Gardens (www.roofgardens.virgin.com )
The plant I’ve coveted for ages is actually a tree: Acer griseum. This is a remarkable Acer, its trunk has the most incredible peeling bark in a gorgeous rusty-orange colour. The leaves have a great shape and colour up amazingly in the autumn. It is quite a compact and slow-growing tree, which makes it right for smaller gardens. The only problem is that it can be difficult to find specimens with good shapes, as training the leader seems a rare skill. I saw a great example two years ago at the Chelsea Flower Show and really wanted to take it home- but it wasn’t to be! So, if you come across a good Acer griseum at any point, grab it right there and then, do whatever you need to do: beg, borrow or steal or put it on your Christmas list!
Ana Sanchez -Martin, garden designer (www.germinatedesign.com )
Viburnum x bodnantense ’Charles Lamont’
“Plant to give: Plants are always lovely to receive as gifts. For Christmas, it is logical to give winter plants so Viburnum × bodnantense ‘Charles Lamont’ is a good option as it flowers from November to March. The tiny pink flowers held in clusters have a strong scent and its upright nature makes this plant a good stalwart for the back of any border, let alone just a winter one. Although totally hardy, cold winds and heavy frosts can damage the flowers, so plant it in a sheltered sunny spot in moderately fertile and well-drained soil and you should have a plant that provides colour for many months, at a time of the year when a splash of colour is much needed.”
Mahonia eurybracteata subsp.ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’
“Plant to receive: It is always difficult to pick just one plant to grow but there is a relatively new Mahonia on the market now which has soft, elegant foliage without the alarmingly painful spikes that its bigger and more butch relations have, which manage so easily to work their way through clothing.
Mahonia eurybracteata subsp.ganpinensis ‘Soft Caress’ is a bit of a mouthful for what looks to be a very valuable plant for the garden (it won Plant of the Year at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show). Its yellow flowers bloom earlier than other Mahonia and are best from August to October but its foliage would combine well with Skimmia, Sarcococca, bare Cornus stems and Helleborus for a pleasing winter display. It is apparently also very good in a pot and happy in sun or part-shade. It sounds like a bit of a winner to me and if one of those turned up in my Christmas stocking I would be very happy!”
Kate Gould, garden designer (www.kategouldgardens.com )
Gooseberry and redcurrant plants
“Between late autumn and early spring is a good time of year to plant bare-rooted fruit trees and shrubs, provided the soil isn’t too wet or frosty. With that in mind, I’ll be asking Father Christmas for gooseberry or redcurrant plants to train as cordons, which will be ideal for my small garden. If I had more space I’d have raspberries on the list, is there anything more delicious than a freshly picked raspberry? “
Jenny Foulkes, Edible Gardening Project Manager, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (www.rbge.org.uk )
Ceropegia woodii and Edgeworthia chrysantha
Ceropegia woodii makes a good house plant for a sunny window. It is best grown in a hanging basket at about 10 to 25 C. But, be warned –over watering is the best way to kill it.
Alternatively, Edgeworthia chrysantha is a winter-flowering Daphne relative with nicely clove-scented yellow flowers. Good for a sheltered wall with moist soil, in cold areas it makes a good conservatory plant.
Pete Brownless, Nursery Supervisor, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (www.rbge.org.uk )
“Without doubt the number one plant people seem to want here around Christmas is Poinsettia – not terribly unusual but super-popular- we do bigger ones which are very impressive and not found everywhere.”
Rosa Gertrude Jekyll
“I would love to receive my very favourite rose which is Gertrude Jekyll, mainly because of its stunning fragrance.” (http://www.davidaustinroses.com/english/Showrose.asp?Showr=856 )
Matthew Wilson, garden designer, writer, broadcaster and Managing Director of Clifton Nurseries (www.clifton.co.uk)
“I love Cyclamen at Christmas time. They are great to use as decorations within the home. I like to use them as under-planting around the Christmas tree and also wired into the tree! They can then be taken into the garden in January! There are great colours to choose from including, red, pink and white.”
Helleborus niger -commonly called Christmas Rose
“I always have Hellebores at home for Christmas; they have such beautiful flowers which make a real statement feature. “
Ian Drummond, Creative Director at Indoor Garden Design (www.indoorgardendesign.com )
Bowiea volubilis, Sedum morganianum and Platycerium bifurcatum
On my list would be some unusual house plants such as Bowiea volubilis – an eye-catching plant which can be kept as an aerial bulb and which produces long trailing vines; Sedum morganianum – a trailing succulent with rows of fleshy, tear-drop shaped leaves and Platycerium bifurcatum – a fern with arching forked fronds.
Kate Wilkinson, Glasshouse Manager and Gardener at The Chelsea Physic Garden (www.chelseaphysicgarden.co.uk )