THE GARDEN FANATIC
“Call a truce ... We are richer by one’s celebration of
-- With apologies to Rudyard Kipling
“An inadvertent holiday slight is even less important than whether
it is raining in Mexico.”
-- With apologies to Iris Murdoch
The continuation of the holiday season culminates with the twin
dilemmas of last-minute Christmas shopping and dealing with holiday
How many of you bought or received holiday gift plants? How many
of you have already killed your holiday plants? Stay tuned, dear
reader, because we’re going to explore the pleasures of caring for
The splendid and ubiquitous poinsettia has become as popular here
as in Mexico. The Noche Buena holds emotional and religious
significance for our southern neighbors (some Mexicans are still
irritated that former Ambassador to Mexico Joel Roberts Poinsett
decided to name the plant after himself). I wouldn’t doubt that the
good ambassador gave considerable thought to this “point,” while
remembering the Alamo.
Your poinsettia will eventually occupy too much space to be a
permanent indoor plant. However, if you follow my care instructions
below, they should retain their red, pink or yellow color indoors
well into tax time. Once outdoors, grow them in a sunny garden locale
with lots of space.
The azalea is a popular year-round gift plant and is also a
valuable addition to the garden. Available in white, pink, red,
salmon, purple and in combination colors, these profuse bloomers are
hybridized as either shade or sun varieties. It’s a must to grow
azaleas in an acid soil that retains moisture and drains quickly.
Your local nurseries can provide you with an azalea/camellia planting
mix; nine parts to one part garden soil for an optimal planting
Christmas cactus (Zygocactus truncatus) is a lovely hanging plant
from Brazil. Not a true cactus, this one needs more water and is a
favorite houseplant. The pink, red or white flowers are very showy,
and its blooming schedule will let you know next year that Christmas
Care of Christmas gift plants is easy; just follow a few simple
steps. Place the plant in a well-lighted window and free from sudden
temperature changes. Keep the soil moist, but don’t let water stand
in the plant’s saucer or foil. Gradual leaf drop is an indication of
not enough light; crinkling, yellowing leaves may mean too much heat
or lack of water and rapid leaf drop shows exposure to cold or
standing water in the saucer.
Living Christmas trees are generally pines or other evergreens
shaped in the traditional conical manner. Planted in a container and
pruned regularly, these trees can be “recycled” for a number of years
before planted in one’s garden (we’re beginning a new tradition with
a coastal redwood this year) or donated to selected municipalities or
schools. They will not grow indoors (even if you leave the windows
open) and should be moved outdoors before the year is over.
Catharine and I are celebrating the end of the holidays and the
beginning of the New Year somewhere in Baja with a few of our
friends. I am certain we will experience new adventures and encounter
exotic plants to share with you ... but of course that will be
another story. Happy Holidays, and see you next time.
* STEVE KAWARATANI is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,
1540 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist
Catharine Cooper and has three cats. He can be reached at (949)
497-2438, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.