Brian Kidd does a Mexican bract dance of delight

Bracts the way to do it ' poinsettias are at their best now.
Bracts the way to do it ' poinsettias are at their best now.
he South East In Bloom judges visited the Fareham area where they concluded their tour with a visit to Ferneham Hall. From left: Fiona Phillips, Stuart Lees and The Mayor of Fareham Councillor Geoff Fazackarley     
Picture Ian Hargreaves  (170760-1)

South East in Bloom judges praise standard of gardens in Fareham area

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It was really wonderful to see so many of you at The News Christingle service at St Mary’s Church a few weeks ago.

If you missed it, make a note in your diary for this year – the first Sunday in December at 3pm. Father Bob is a great friend and the children look like angels in the candlelight and St Mary’s choir is angelic.

Thank you all for your letters and cards.

Did you have a poinsettia for Christmas? Aren’t they beautiful? There are three colours to choose from but most people like the red ones best.

The beautiful red bracts are at their best right now. The actual flower is very small and at the centre of the bract.

Poinsettias are actually small evergreen trees where they originated from in Mexico. They were introduced into greenhouses here in England in 1834 but they have been hybridised, which means the breeders have selected strains which keep reasonably small and are easy to grow.

You didn’t get one for Christmas?

The best idea is to buy one from a garden centre where they know how to look after plants. It’s not a good idea to buy one from somewhere where the plants are out in the open in cold weather.

Why? The plant may have pneumonia before you buy it.

How can we keep them going? Too much water is the main cause of failure. Keep them on the dry side. If in doubt, feel the compost at the top of the pot. If it’s dry put some water in a saucer, followed by the plant for 10 minutes, and the root will absorb all the water it needs.

Give the plant plenty of light, but not in a very sunny window. A window with morning sun is OK but even at this time of year a sunny window may be too hot. Keep the temperature above 50F at all times.

If lower leaves turn yellow the plant has been over-watered. Take off the yellow leaves and water the plant only when the compost feels dry. Many people keep poinsettias for years

When they begin to become very large, in spring round about the middle of March, they can be pruned back.

All shoots are cut back to half their length. The cuts will bleed with white sap so use a tissue to stop this.

If you want to get the poinsettia to produce more red bracts it is important to remember to allow the plant to enjoy natural light from a window. It needs to be in a room where the light is never turned on.

If left in a warm greenhouse in a temperature of 50F minimum the plant will produce red bracts about February.

How do they get them looking so good for Christmas? They are grown in greenhouses with extra light. The growers are really clever. They use lighting to turn two days into one.

Don’t over-water. Make sure there’s lots of light but not hot sunshine and keep them in a temperature not less than 50F.

TIP OF THE WEEK

Want to keep your Christmas tree looking good until twelfth night? Then it will need water even if it has no root. There are water retainers which you’ll find at garden centres. They’re not expensive. Ensure there’s a tray under the pot otherwise mum will be cross when a brown mark appears on the carpet.