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Going to pot; Gardening club.

Byline: DAVID DOMONEY

It's easy - and great fun - to let December slip by in a whirlwind of mulled wine and crackers. Then suddenly you find that it's Christmas Eve and you're somehow not quite ready for the big day itself.

You've got one or two last gifts to buy and no idea where to start. Well, stop panicking and head to the garden centre - there's still time A houseplant is the perfect lastminute gift as it will still be lovely and fresh when the present swapping starts tomorrow.

And it's not just a great gift for gardeners. Everyone can benefit from having a houseplant or two in their home or office.

Studies have even shown that caring for a houseplant can help to reduce stress and anxiety.

The first three on my list are great ,f r somet low-maintenance options, perfect perhaps for a busy friend who could do with an unfussy touch of green in their home - or maybe for somebody who wants to get into gardening but isn't sure exactly where to start.

The last three all require a bit more care and attention and will thus make wonderful gifts for the keener gardener in your life.

Peace lily The peace lily is a gorgeous houseplant that is also wellknown for having the ability to remove airborne contaminants - giving your home a fresher, cleaner atmosphere.

It has tiny white flowers which adorn a central spike, surrounded by a large white spathe.

It really is a striking plant in its full glory - yet it needs surprisingly little attention, just very occasional watering and feeding.

Cacti and succulents Succulents make great houseplants that are perfect for adding a modern touch to a home.

As a bonus they can make great gifts for the younger generation, due to the recent surge in their popularity as "trendy" houseplants.

Crassula Ovata, also known as the money tree, is a succulent with a unique appearance that can bring a very special look to any home. It grows very slowly and is easy to look after, needing watering only sparingly.

Most cacti, especially if they are a winter-flowering variety, will reward you with a stunning display.

Bromeliads are epiphytes - meaning they are naturally found growing attached to trees rather than with their roots in soil.

They often have large colourful bracts (large, modified leaves) complete with flowers, making them a bold addition to any home.

Caring for them couldn't be easier - they simply need their central "cup" topping up with water every once in a while and they'll do just fine.

Orchids The moth orchid is always a popular choice and comes in a huge range of colours - so you can match the flower to your friend's home decor for an extra personal touch.

Make sure they leave them in clear pot, as orchids are also epiphytes and their roots (which are green) need access to light to survive.

Many people are prone to overwater orchids. Remember, they need watering only when the roots change from green to a more silvery grey.

Christmas azalea Azaleas naturally flower in spring but are "forced" to flower early so they can be sold as gifts at Christmas time.

Helpfully, they often come in a festive shade of red, too.

They favour a high humidity so providing them with the adequate conditions can be a little more difficult - a bathroom can be a good spot to put them.

Or you can try placing them on a tray filled with pebbles and water to help provide a little more humidity.

Azaleas also don't like too much direct sunlight, so will do well in a slightly cooler spot such as a porch.

Most importantly, they are thirsty plants - so keep them well watered.

Poinsettia These vibrant red plants aren't just for decorating with at Christmas time. They can be kept all year round if given the right care and attention.

Make sure to wrap it up in paper when you're bringing it back from the garden centre, as these plants do have a tendency to wilt very quickly when they are exposed to our chilly December climate.

They originate from Central America, so a cosy living room is the perfect spot for a poinsettia, as long as they aren't too near a radiator or a fire, where the fluctuations in temperature might cause it some distress.

And that's all you need to know. Now you're all set to pop down to your garden centre and pick up the perfect last-minute pressie - bringing Christmas joy and a beautiful living gift that will give benefit all year round.

You could even write out some simple instructions for caring for their new plant on a festive label, to help them get started.

Go on, there's still time to give the gift of gardening this Christmas.

Succulents are great for younger folks due to their resurgence as 'trendy' houseplants

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 24, 2017
Words:818
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