It's not that I don't like poinsettias – I do. They are festive, easy to care for (since they don't need much attention), come in a variety of colors and are available in many sizes. But before you pick one up in a shiny gold wrapper I dare you to be different this year. Here are a few quick ideas you can put together for the perfect gift that won't look out of place in February. Most offer seasonal color besides poinsettia but for the traditionalists I've even included a combination for you that includes one in a mixed design.
Monochromatic and Elegant
You can never go wrong with white. The cyclamen was the inspiration for this design, as much for its attractive marbled foliage as the pristine flowers. I decided to create an indoor arrangement in an embossed metal container. the bronze color and non-seasonal design makes this a great year-round choice. The striking deep green and white African mask (Alocasia 'Polly') added height and drama while the maidenhair fern brought a delicate touch.
Still hunting for interesting foliage I selected the fuzzy grey succulent called a panda plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa) to tuck at the edge as well as a green and white ivy to trail over the sides. Green moss covers any bare soil and a few glittery stems and silver ribbon adds a touch of bling.
Note; Like that African mask? Then you'll love the combination on pages 108-109 'Tribal Dance' in my book FINE FOLIAGE.
A non-traditional choice.
Do you like color but don't want red? Be different! Here is an example of a design using the same plants as above but switching to a magenta cyclamen. I also planted this in an oval container rather than a round one. I placed the tallest plant – the African mask – to one side and stair-stepped the plants down in an asymmetrical design. Fun!
A new twist on a favorite
This poinsettia takes up a lot of space even though it is only in a 4" pot. That means a lot of green leaves – unless you find one with pretty variegated foliage like this. It immediately elevates it above the 'normal' poinsettias and adds an extra splash of color to the design. A lime green Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa 'Goldcrest') adds height and a citrus fragrance. Button fern and ivy trail over the edge while green moss disguises the pot edge. I selected a ribbon to match the cypress in this design and since the container was covered in a thin veneer of birch bark I gathered lichen encrusted twigs from the garden to tie in with a more natural theme.
All the designs above were created during my Holiday Container Workshops last weekend. Each lady (men were welcome but only ladies registered!) created a unique design using the color scheme, seasonal plant and container of their choice. Adding baubles and polka dot bows or curly willow and fir cones they could completely change the look to suit their personal tastes.
Tips for indoor containers
1. Add a waterproof liner to your container if it does not have one already; heavy duty plastic will do
2. Add 1/2" of charcoal to the bottom of the container before you add soil. This helps absorb excess water and reduces odors
3. Keep your seasonal plant (poinsettia, cyclamen, Christmas cactus) in its own pot and 'plant it' into the soil. It can then easily be replaced with something different in the new year
4. Watering; use an indoor watering can with a long spout and water each plant lightly from the top except the seasonal flowering plant. Lift this out, still in the nursery pot and set it on a saucer of water for 10-15'. (They are less likely to rot if you water these from the base)
Maybe you'd rather give an outdoor container than something for the home? I saw these lovely designs at Sky Nursery recently and I was tempted to buy one for myself! They are the perfect size to give as a gift and would look so pretty on a covered porch to greet visitors. They would also be quick and easy to plant up yourself.
Notice that those cyclamen that we used in the indoor combinations will also do just well on a covered porch when the temperatures remain above freezing. (The silver licorice plant also needs to be kept above freezing). Here are the basic ingredients used;
Oval metal container
Qt. Dwarf, dark green conifer
4" evergreen winter hardy fern
4" green and white variegated evergreen grass (Carex sp.)
4" silver Dusty Miller (Senecio cineraria)
4"' wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) which has the red berries
4"red cyclamen to repeat the color of the berries'
2 x 4" white pansies
Qt White Jacob hellebore
Accents; silver stems add sparkle and highlight the white flowers while a soft gold bow subtly repeats the yellow eye of the pansies
Birch and grapevine container
Qt. Dwarf conifer
4" silver icicles licorice plant (Helichrysum)
4" green and white Emerald Gaiety wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunii 'Emerald Gaiety')
Accents; a few flocked twigs and a gauzy burgundy bow – festive yet it doesn't scream Christmas!
So what are you waiting for? A quick trip to the nursery and a fun hour planting in the warmth of the kitchen and you'll have a beautiful gift for yourself or a friend.