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Green-fingered gifts; Give the gift of life this year... a plant! There are so many varieties that look vibrant in December, you don't even have to wrap them up!

Byline: GARDENING With Diarmuid Gavin

THERE'S nothing nicer than giving a gardening gift at Christmas, especially a flowering plant. It's a sure-fire way to a loved one's heart (or even a fail-safe reserve present for someone you may have forgotten!) An industry has evolved around making sure that a huge range of bright-looking or sweetly scented plants are at peak performance on December 25. So, join me at the garden centre for plant shopping and present planning.

Plants given as presents make people feel special. They indicate that real thought has gone into their choosing and, amazingly, from the boisterous eight-year-old through to your great granny there is something to suit just about everyone.

LEAVES OF THE LIVING DEAD KIDS like carnivorous plants such as the Venus flytrap or pitcher plants like this little Sarracenia.

The pitcher-shaped leaves attract insects with nectar but once its victim enters the tube it can't get out. As it decomposes, the plant absorbs the nutrients - a process fascinating to youngsters. Keep in a bright position standing in a saucer of water, preferably rainwater.

JASMINE PLAYS IT COOL GROWS ON TREES MEDINILLA 'Dolce Vita', has dramatic pink flowers. It grows on trees, but unlike our own mistletoe, doesn't draw nutrients from its host.

A TRICKIER plant to manage is Stephanotis floribunda, the Madagascar jasmine, but it's well worth it for the fragrance. It likes high levels of humidity so mist it regularly and sit it on a gravel tray with water in summer. It doesn't like to be too hot in winter - 13 to 15 degrees is best.

Place in a bright spot at room temperature between March and November without direct sunlight, but in sunshine for the rest of the year.

HYACINTH IS HEAVEN SCENT PERFUMES and candles are very popular gifts at this time of year but you can also give the gift of scent with a plant.

There's no better smell on a Christmas morning than that of hyacinth flowers. If you have been forcing hyacinth bulbs, they should be ready for planting up - on the right, I put some in a simple wooden container and covered it with moss.

Or for something fun, here's two gifts in one - a watering can, right, planted up with blue hyacinth bulbs and a bundle of cinnamon sticks to decorate. Don't let the soil dry out and keep in the light.

TO make something personal and unique, find an interesting container or pot or brighten up an ordinary one with some gold or silver spray and plant up with your own combinations. Here are two I've created, one for outdoors and one for indoors.

Gaultheria procumbens Red Diamond and Narcissus Tete T a Tete T I LIKE this red and yellow combo which would look quite festive as a window box - and, of course, you could have it indoors on your windowsill as well.

Other suitable outdoor plants available at the moment, which would be suitable for making up gifts are Skimmia ru bella, outdoor cyclamen, Bellis perennis and polyanthus or bulbs for a spring surprise!

Cyclamen and Christmas cactus (Schlumbergera) ADD compost to a planter or bowl - here I've used zinc-embossed pots which are light enough to carry and give someone as a gift.

As this planter has no drainage holes I've added some pieces of charcoal to the compost which will absorb gases. Without drainage it needs to be watered sparingly, just enough to moisten the compost but not drown the plants.


Plants can make great presents, but choose ones suited to this time of year. All pictures by Justin Kernoghan
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 17, 2015
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