Your Christmas garden
PHOTO BY TM O'SHAUGHNESSY
From solid reds to white-throated amaryllis to salmon and white, these blooms bring a bit of magic to anyone's Christmas decor.
By TM O'Shaughnessy
You’re right – it’s too early to be writing a Christmas column. But the thing is, it’s already almost too late. Because the time to plant your amaryllis if you want it to flower in time for Christmas is now, and there’s no time to lose.
Beautiful amaryllis is one of those must-have Christmas flowers and, like a good Christmas cake, must be planned far in advance of the day itself if it’s going to be any good.
With all the pine and spruce wreaths, garlands and boughs, not to mention whole trees brought indoors, the flowers of Christmas such as amaryllis don’t get as much attention. But they do add the loveliest touch to the holiday season and we all need some.
PHOTO BY CARMEN MARIE FABIO
The Christmas cactus tends to get a jump on the holiday season, often blooming weeks early
If it were up to every Christmas cactus I’ve ever known, Christmas would be scheduled right now, a full six weeks before December 25. I’ve never met a cactus that didn’t want to fulfill its holiday flowering promise too early. By the time actual Christmas rolls around, any flowering cactus I’ve ever had is done and spent, and put up its feet for another year. But it’s perfect for brightening November days and reminding us to get our Christmas baking supplies early this year, in case COVID wipes out our shelves again.
Poinsettias, it goes without saying, provide a high level of floral satisfaction any Christmas season. Though I find it can be strangely discomforting to watch them die off in the New Year because I’ve never known how to rescue them, my Christmas garden always needs a brilliantly red poinsettia.
Paperwhites are also currently on offer, though in my experience you are either strongly for or against paperwhites and their full-bodied scent. For me, I’m a true-blue, big fan of this seasonal narcissus, and have managed (with glee) to find more paperwhites than usual this year. Because that’s the other thing about paperwhites – some years, they’re everywhere, other years not so much.
I’m not sure why but, as with the paperwhites, I’m finding a ton of amaryllis bulbs this year.
Maybe it’s another symptom of that wave of gardening furor that erupted during COVID’s lockdown and shows no sign of diminishing. Anywhere from garden centres and hardware stores to Home Depôt are sporting big displays of this most beautiful bulb, the mysterious amaryllis that creates nothing less than its own world in its spacious bulb, and foliage that just keeps on growing long after the Christmas season is finished.
So as we settle in to a long winter’s nap of hiding from the corona virus and waiting our turn in vaccination lineups, why not have more than one Christmas flower this year? You could combine them. Whether it’s scarlet or crimson or plum – not to mention that gorgeous salmon kind – I think it could be a three-amaryllis-Christmas this year. With lots and lots of paperwhites. And of course, a poinsettia.
But the time to plant our amaryllis is now.