Colm’s Christmas Garden Gift Ideas

Alternative Gifts at Airfield Estate

Blue tubs of roses are two a penny in households, offices and waiting rooms country wide as the festive season rolls in. Simultaneously a Christmas rose of a different kind is starting to emerge in the gardens here in Airfield. Hellebores also known as Lenten or Christmas roses are a herbaceous perennial that begin to bloom over the Christmas period. Similar to its blue tub name sake the Christmas roses come in a diverse selection of colours so there should a flower colour to satisfy everyone in the audience.

Pinks, purples and whites and wines are some of the most common colours although my current favourite has to be the much coveted yellow. However unlike their boisterous confectionery name sake hellebores have a more subtle nature and tend to need some encouragement to highlight the potential of their colourful displays. Here at Airfield the Garden team remove the old foliage of the hellebores at Christmas to allow the emerging flower stems to be viewed without impediment.

Despite this act of encouragement the humble Hellebore still often bows its flower head to the ground prompting some gardeners to place mirrors under the plant so that they can admire the beauty of the flower through its reflection. Here in Airfield we instead choose to pick the individual flowers of the Hellebores and float them in a shallow bowl of water in the house to create a colourful display.

Given the large variation that can occur in hellebore flower colours it is often a good idea to buy hellebores when they are in flower to insure you get the flower colour you desire. This makes the Christmas Rose the perfect gift to a green fingered friend. Ashwood and Harvington Hybrids are some of the most impressive hellebores available but expect to pay a premium for the privilege of owning these varieties.

Snowdrops and sarcococca

The Christmas Rose is not the only festive themed plant growing in the gardens. Christmas box (Sarcococca confusa) is a compact evergreen shrub that is shade tolerant and unassuming for the majority of the year. However as bells begin to jingle your nostrils will begin to tingle from the sweet scent produced from its delicate white flowers. Although the flowers are rather small and unassuming their scent alone makes them a must have in any winter garden. It is often recommended that you plant them close to your home near a doorway or window to allow the heady scent waft into your living space on a winter’s day.

For many, Christmas would not be complete without decking the halls with boughs of holly. However how one goes about sourcing said holly can become a contentious issue. Ilex aquafolium our native holly may be found growing in woodlands and road sides throughout the country. Once protected under Brehon Law the holly bush holds a special place in Irish folklore.

Holly Tree

Although it may no longer be strictly illegal to remove a few sprigs of holly from a wild bush, sustainable and restrained harvesting should be encouraged. Holly bushes are relatively slow growing and their berries are an important food source for wildlife during the winter months. Better still why not grow your own Holly bush to ensure supply for future years. By growing a self-fertile variety of holly such as Ilex Nellie R. Stevens’ you could guarantee yourself an annual supply of berried sprigs to deck the halls with. Ilex aquafolium ‘Alaska’ is another excellent self-fertile variety with more deeply serrated dark green foliage which accentuates the red berries.” If you are purchasing a variety that is not self-fertile make sure you buy a male and female plant to ensure a supply of berries.

Cheers

Colm