With Christmas rapidly approaching, our New Oscott Garden Centre has just taken delivery of that most seasonal of plants – the Poinsettia. These are David Hall's tips on to how to keep these beautiful plants at their colourful best.
The focal point of most families' celebrations, covered in lights and decorations, a real Christmas Tree needs to be kept healthy and look its best throughout all the celebrations.
Follow a few simple rules and it's easy to maintain the fresh look and natural scent of a tree, and avoid the downside of hoovering up dozens of fallen needles.
Rule One is to buy a fresh Christmas Tree. Most trees are cut down well before they reach the retailer so buy early – you are probably in a better position to look after one tree than a retailer who has hundreds.
Test the needles, if they are already falling off, walk away. Feel how heavy the tree is, if it feels too light this is a sign of dehydration.
Unless you like clearing up needles, don't buy trees have brittle stems that snap when bent or and that are dropping lots needles when you brush your hand across the branches.
Whether the tree still has roots or not shouldn't matter in the relatively short time it is in your house. 'Potted Christmas Trees' or container grown trees with roots can be cared for in the same way as indoor plants.
Once home, cut an inch off the bottom of unrooted trees. This will aid the tree's intake of water.
The tree then needs to be positioned in water, like you it won't survive Christmas without lots of refreshment, perhaps three pints a day. It's best to buy a purpose built stand, that has a reservoir of water, rather than messing about with buckets and bricks.
If you aren't ready to bring it into the house, leave the tree outside in a cool dark place. If it has netting, keep it on until your are ready to start decorating, it makes positioning much easier.
Locate the tree away from any sources of heat i.e. central heating radiators. Christmas trees like cool conditions, conservatories and unheated porches are great places to put them.
Remember to regularly refresh the water. Imagine it as a very large cut flower, the most important rule is not to let it dry out even once. Check daily whether there is enough water and replenish regularly.
Re-cycle. Many if not most local council offer this service. You can also use fresh needles in pot pourri and even tea. Keen gardeners will use them to introduce acid into alkaline soils.
Trees that have been properly grown in containers (not potted trees) can be planted in the garden for next year if you have moisture retentive acid soil.
So there you have it, a few do's and don'ts so that the all important tree remains in tip top condition for you to enjoy over Christmas and then will provide a useful resource after the festive fun finishes.
Nathan James Dodd
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