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The gift that keeps on giving

When I first moved into this house, when it was still a mess of boxes and unpacked chaos, my friend Deb dropped around, bearing two plants she’d propagated herself.  Zygocactus, or as many people call them, Christmas Cactus. (But since they flower in late autumn early winter here and Christmas comes in summer, I don’t call them that.)

A few weeks later the first one started to flower, this gorgeous soft pink one. Up to then, the only flowers I’d seen were on my mum’s plants, which were all the same, a kind of hot pink. I liked these ones much better.

I kept them indoors until they’d finished flowering, then put them out on the deck, where they get whatever the weather sends them, including rain

Now, a year later, the pink one is in flower again, so I’ve brought it inside. I know that when it’s almost finished flowering, the red one will begin to bloom. On these grey and gloomy days, the splash of color is such a joy.

They’re very easy to propagate, I found. Last year a couple of the little links fell off the red one, and I poked them into a bit of potting mix in a little pot, and they’ve grown and it looks like they’ll even flower this season. Another friend has expressed interest in the cuttings.

I’m now keeping an eye out for different forms and colors.

Do you propagate plants? What’s your favorite?

A hasty "tree"

What you can do in a hurry with a can of spray paint . . .

I like to make things, and at this time of year my mind turns to making Christmas ornaments. For a few years I really enjoyed making paper ornaments — there are loads of instructions on the web, and I’ve tried most of the easiest. I do like a good result for not a huge effort.  (The post I linked to has links to instructions for making them if you’re interested.)

For a while I made tiny ones and hung them from a few spray-painted twigs arranged in a vase. I really liked how the slightest breeze would send them twisting and turning.

And for a few years I made lovely “dangles” using crystals and pearls and other beads. They were lovely — but they need a big tree, or somewhere to hang them from.

I’ve sometimes used things from nature — seed pods and twigs, (picked up after they’d fallen and dried out) — and I spray them with silver paint (actually chrome paint is better — shinier).  I have to say, I love the look of them, especially against a dark background.   I also spray-painted some dead fronds from my old tree-fern. They dry in gorgeous curls that when hung, twist in the breeze. In my old garden there was plenty of raw material to gather and play with, but that’s gone now.

This year, with the Christmas things still unpacked, and with people coming for a friends Christmas dinner, I’d run out of time to make anything new.

I needed a hasty Christmas “tree”. When I went out to my much smaller garden and surveyed it for Christmas possibilities. I wasn’t feeling too confident. Apart from the beautiful “Silver Princess” eucalypt, the gum-nuts of which are naturally silver, I couldn’t imagine what I could use. Most things here are still green or flowering.

But looking around I found quite a few possibilities; a spray of dead bamboo leaves from a potted bamboo — bamboo is so elegant, isn’t it — some seed-heads from the parsley plant I’m drying for seeds, and a protea bloom that I’d picked a few weeks ago to go in my guest room. There were also a few native seedpods I’d picked up while walking the dog. I put them together with some clippings from the greenery in my garden and made this very small Christmas sort-of-tree.

Really I should have given the seeds and flower heads at least another spray painting — they’d be much shiner — but I didn’t have time, and I think they worked okay. 

The tiny “tree”  started off on the dining room table as a centrepiece, but then when I needed the space for food and drink, I moved it to the sideboard with my curly twigs and a couple of Christmas cards behind it and it looked quite cute. (see right)

Do you make your own ornaments and decorations?

Sunshine & Lilies

I stepped into my little courtyard the other morning to water my pot plants — after weeks of rain and cold, it’s starting to warm up — and got a lovely surprise. The lily bulbs I’d planted not so very long ago are starting to flower, and this bright yellow lily was like a little burst of sunshine. I have a few more coming into bud, and I have no memory of what colors I bought, so each one will be a surprise. (And yes, that’s Milly’s bottom in the background She’s peering through the slats of the gate in case there are enemies (dogs and especially cats) to repel.)

The courtyard is really just a place where my outdoor washing line is. I much prefer to dry my washing in the air than with a drier, and this is roofed in, so even if it rains, the washing doesn’t get wet.

Anyway, I plan to set up some shelves to arrange my various pot plants on, but I haven’t got around to it yet, and the pots are still pretty higgledy-piggledy — a couple of friends helped me move them and the pots are still where they were dumped. I will enjoy arranging them more artistically eventually, but in the meantime they’re giving me pleasure and nice surprises just by flowering.