Sunday, December 02, 2007

Time to start planning for Christmas!

For our family, there are three plants that must be present in order for it to feel like Christmas!

My top three favorite "can't live without" plants for Christmas are paperwhites, Christmas Cacti, and a collection of beautiful, blooming amaryllis bulbs. And for most a house still isn't ready for Christmas without at least one poinsettia, of course, so I'll add it to my list as well! And as such an emotional being, I do get butterflies in my tummy when I even think about the days' arrival when it's time to start preparing them for their big show!

Paperwhites: I can't think of paperwhites without thinking of my dear Alal. She gave me my deep love for the intoxicating smell of paperwhites. Going to her house during the holidays is such a wonderful, sweet memory for all of us! But one of my favorite memories is pulling up to her home and seeing the beautiful display of white blooms' leaning on the windows, and once you entered her home you could smell her perfume in her white hair as she hugged you and then immediately afterward smell the beautiful aroma of the paperwhites behind her! And how easy can they be?!?!
I like to be among the first customers of the year to purchase paperwhite bulbs (in bulk for a discount, of course!) to give away as gifts, display in our home, and if I can, save a couple for another impressive display at Easter. A pretty container, some pea-gravel (my preference), an odd number of bulbs, a little water...and you're done! And I'm absolutely positive that one can watch them grow, if you stand still and watch closely! They're so eager to impress! And that-they do!
(Tip to stunt their growth: if they are growing too tall, a little splash of vodka [or other strong alcohol] will prevent them from growing to heights unseen!)

Christmas Cacti: At this time of year in particular, I see Christmas cacti for sale in all of the stores; however, they look so small and lonely. I like to live in my world where I think that everyone and everything has a special, wonderful story. So as I look at the lonely Christmas cacti, I know that one day they will be much bigger, showing a beautiful display of flowers, and being passed down from one generation to another for years to come! And easy is it to care for them?!?!
As sentimental as I am, I can't remember where I got my first Christmas cactus, but regardless it's been moving around with our family for years and growing larger all along. And when Alal passed away, I was able to smuggle one or two of hers into the back of the moving van (no, now I remember I had to hide them amongst several other plants that I hid in the back of the van that Jan and I were driving!). Anyway, it has adjusted quite well to life here with our little family...spending summers outdoors and coming inside to live with us once temperatures become cooler, and now what a wonderful display from this beloved houseplant!

Amaryllis bulbs: Well, it seems that I can't mention my third favorite "can't live without" plants for Christmas without mentioning Alal once more. Obviously, you can see that she gave me a love for the holidays as well as gardening (amongst many other loves!), and I think my fondest memory was her giving me the most beautiful container with three tall, beautiful blooming amaryllis bulbs as we were pulling out of her driveway. I still have the container and dream that I can once more get it to look as elegant as it did that day when she placed it in my lap as we drove away from her house. Of course, I also have to mention my gracious husband that drove me away from her house with the delicate centerpiece in my lap, his lap (when I was driving), or protectively seated on the console between the two of us.
Another fun memory of a beautiful amaryllis is the tallest amaryllis bulb that ever our home, at least! It grew so humorously tall that Eric and I contacted Steve Bender, the gardening editor for Southern Living as well as my favorite writer for SL, and he responded personally to us and agreed that exessive temperatures or too little light promotes a stalk that grows and grows and grows! Lesson learned!

And then the poinsettia: To most people this plant is considered easily disposable. And at this time of year when most outdoor plants have relocated indoors, I'm "this-close" to agreeing. And I can tell that Eric's about "this-close" to reporting plant suicide, when he tries to shimmy his way down to our basement, where I've convinced him our plants are enjoying living their snow-bird days! Anyway, it's quite easy to keep poinsettias alive and looking well, but once their red bracts die and reflower as "just green ones"... one has to really be dedicated to not tossing the plant in the trash with the rest of his brothers and sisters! Again, I said that I'm sentimental, so I do hang onto the plant year after year! However, this last Fall I wasn't as dedicated as I could have been to ensure that my plants rebloomed another brilliant red display this Christmas, so this year, my poinsettias will remain hidden...with the other plants on the steps to the basement and the huge fern that mocks Eric as he tries to pass it.
So for now I'll just wait and hope for the next poinsettia to grace my front door from an endearing friend...and I won't even tell the ones on the back steps that they've been replaced for the time being! If one of my gal-pals reading this also finds that poinsettia rebellion (refusal to being induced to reflower) is infuriating without diligence on our part, then lets just sit and sip some poinsettia cocktails! Jan, Mimi, Lorrie?!?

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