BRIAN KIDD: Keep your poinsettia in the dark

Christmas favourites - poinsettias.

Christmas favourites - poinsettias.

Carnations

BRIAN KIDD: Gardening galore for the long weekend

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Thank you for all your letters, messages and cards. Pam and I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

It was good to see so many of you at the Theatre Royal for the The News We Can Do It Awards a couple of weeks ago and again at the Christingle celbration at St Mary’s Church on December 4.

Brian Kidd at The News Christingle service at St Marys Church, Fratton, earlier this month. 
Picture Ian Hargreaves  (161352-9) PPP-160412-182912006

Brian Kidd at The News Christingle service at St Marys Church, Fratton, earlier this month. Picture Ian Hargreaves (161352-9) PPP-160412-182912006

It’s always good to see you. Occasions like these bring us all together. All those wonderful infants with Christingles and glowing smiling faces was an absolute joy.

Despite the weather I suppose I ought to write a few lines about gardening! We will go indoors this week. Don’t go gardening if the weather isn’t kind.

You may receive a poinsettia for Christmas. What lovely plants. They originated in Mexico where they grow to become small evergreen trees eight to 12 feet tall. But we enjoy especially-bred hybrids which are more sensible for our homes.

Most people prefer those with red bracts but there are whites, pinks and purple varieties too.

Poinsettias are sensitive to sudden changes in temperature. Be careful not to buy one which has been sitting outside in the cold. It may be OK for a few weeks but the poor thing may have caught the equivalent of pneumonia if it’s been in freezing conditions before you bought it.

They enjoy an overnight minimum temperature of 7C/45F in a light window out of direct sunshine. They will provide those colourful bracts right up until June.

About July, when the bracts fade and new growth takes over, they need to be pruned. If you do this the original plant will be lovely and bushy and become a handsome house plant.

To keep the plants short and bushy cut back the tips of the new shoots to half their length with scissors with a piece of absorbent paper ready to catch the poisonous sap. No one ever takes this advice but this pruning will encourage more shoots and ensure there are even more bracts the following year.

Water only when the compost feels dry. Rain water is best as it doesn’t contain lime.

From September and all through the winter the plants must only have natural daylight. They are best kept in a room where it is warm but the light is never turned on.

Some people put them in a cupboard overnight. In the office where I worked the women covered them with a box before the lights were put on!

When grown in warm greenhouses they form the bracts in January and are at their best in the middle of February. Those we buy have been grown in greenhouses and are at their best at Christmas because ingenious growers use blackouts for six hours followed by bright lights for six hours followed by blackouts again so one day is turned into two so we can enjoy them at Christmas.

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIP

Tar oil winter wash for fruit trees was withdrawn some while ago to fall in line with the nanny state.

This doesn’t help us in the garden. However, there are alternatives at the garden centre. Look out for winter wash for fruit tress in an organic form.

Growing Success is a name you may be familiar with.

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