The herbaceous border may be tidied and digging between the plants may continue providing the ground is not waterlogged. You are however going to be more concerned with indoor plants than outdoor.

The ‘prepared’ hippeastrum, more often known as amaryllis, can now be started into growth. It makes an entertaining house plant, growing at a magical pace.

The modern hybrids are magnificent, bearing huge, funnel-shaped flowers from pink to crimson.

The hippeastrum that has flowered should be gradually dried off and put in a cool place to rest until started into growth again.This is a star turn that should not be missed, and so much nicer when grown by oneself, and not bought.

If the weather is agreeable, it is back outside where there is still time to spray roses and the soil with Bordeaux mixture, at 8 ounces per 2& 1/2 gallons of water, at 1 gallon per 7-10 square yards, against fungus diseases. A warning here, you must use a coarse nozzle on the spray. Do not spray with Bordeaux mixture in spring or summer, otherwise the leaves will be scorched.

Heavy falls of snow may break branches or spoil the shape of yews, camellias and other treasured plants, and should be gently shaken off. Tender shrubs can be protected with bracken tied to the branches, or with a sheet of polythene. You should expect the worst weather in January and February. Compost from the heap can be wheeled to the shrubbery when the ground is frozen hard.

What is so lovely is that branches of yellow Jasmine nudiflorum brought into a warm room will burst into flower.

Now that Christmas is here, cut flowers and gift plants are our common concern. What can we do to make cut flowers last longer? As a start cut off a fraction of the stems when the blooms arrive and plunge them deep in water for some hours before arranging them. Roses, chrysanthemums and lilac benefit by having their stems hammered. Tulips have an unfortunate way of collapsing, so they should be wrapped up in parchment paper at night to keep their stems straight and stiff. You should always remove the white portion of the stem ends, because tulips only take up water through the green part of the stem.

A good tip I have learned is that a tablet of charcoal in the water will keep it clear, and Chrysal powder is particularly helpful in making roses last longer. Once arranged, top up the container every or every other day with tepid water.

The Author:

Ian SG Smith

Photo. Hilke Strodthoff-Schneider


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