Grow your Own Christmas Decorations
Whilst we’re getting ready for Christmas by merrily decorating indoors, our outdoor spaces can start to feel a little neglected at this time of year. With a little planning and a few hours’ work, your garden can look winter wonderful, too – with evergreens and flowering plants to brighten even the chilliest day, and provide a great source of materials to decorate our homes as well.
Pot-grown Christmas trees are wonderfully decorative both indoors and out, and are a great choice placed on either side of the front door, with a few subtly-toned baubles or battery-powered fairy lights. They can be re-potted as necessary in the spring and decorated each year until they become too large to move around, when they can be planted out as a permanent garden feature.
Ilex aquifolium (holly) is a Christmas essential, and it’s great to have growing in the garden for the colour and interest it provides—as well as a source of berries to feed those hungry garden birds! If you want berries you need a female plant, with a male planted nearby for pollination. Variegated holly varieties look as though they’ve been dipped in snow and are lovely for cutting, to create table centres and festive decorations – try I. aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’ for a really traditional spiky leaf with lovely creamy-white edges.
Dwarf conifers are a sure-fire favourite for winter colour, both indoors and out – they’re easy to grow and there’s so much choice, with foliage in a wide range of shades and textures. Slow-growing varieties with textural foliage are popular for ready-made planted arrangements, and you can visit your local garden centre and create your own to suit your design scheme and budget. Try Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star' for a spiky, silver-blue mound of hedgehog-like foliage which would look fabulous interspersed with miniature fairy lights. Or for a softer textured shape, I love Thuja occidentalis 'Sunkist' with its rounded habit and foliage which gives off a pineapple scent when you brush past the plant.
Scents of the season
Fragrance is a really important part of creating a festive feel, so plants which both look great and add their own aroma to both the home and garden are really worth bringing in from the cold! Daphne cultivars are known for their beautiful winter flowers and that amazing, heady scent which is such a welcome addition at this time of year. The earliest flowering variety, which can bloom before Christmas, is Daphne bholua 'Darjeeling', with its soft pastel-pink flowers and amazing fragrance. Grow in large pots on the patio, near to a door, where the amazing strong scent can waft in - or take cuttings to enjoy the flowers and fragrance indoors.
In those beds and borders, where bulbs will soon push through to herald the arrival of springtime, you can add some Christmas flower colour using hardy cyclamen in whites or red bloom or Skimmia Rubella with bright red flower buds it really looks spectacularly seasonal also try Gaultheria for its beautiful leaves and red berries.
Common ivy is one of the most tolerant plants you can grow, coping with full sun or shade alike, and is great for adding evergreen interest in the garden, as well as for making Christmas decorations and as an air-purifying houseplant. I like variety 'Ceridwen' which is a compact-growing variegated ivy. Grown as a climber, rambling over an archway or hiding an unsightly fence, it’s also great to pot up and bring indoors for festive colour. Ivy roots easily, wherever the foliage touches the ground, and these rooted sections can be cut off the main plant and potted up in multipurpose compost. I like to grow ivies as a structural plant, trained around a wire hoop or frame pushed into the pot, or have them trail from baskets of winter pansies for a soft yet vibrant effect.