Homes

Outdoor flavour

Creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for guests can be a pleasant task and a great way to get in the mood for entertaining over the festive season. But with so many social engagements, time is of the essence, and quick and easy adornments are vital. I also allow a bit extra in the gift budget, because I know while I'm out Christmas shopping, I'm bound to see a few goodies to buy as gifts for the house and garden!

Final Finesse

Place solar lights in the garden and hang strings of fairy lights for a really magical touch come nightfall. Arrange sun umbrellas and deck chairs around the garden for extra colour and to create conversation areas.

Hang a hammock for sleepy guests and place hurricane lanterns and citronella flames around decks. Just before guests arrive, place brightly coloured scatter cushions and throws on your outdoor furniture to add a comfortable finishing touch.

Grand Entrance

one of the easiest ways to create a warm welcome is to simply place a large pot with a stunning flowering plant beside the front entrance. Potted hydrangeas always look superb right on Christmas Day and their massive flower heads last for several weeks.

once flowering finishes, they can be planted in the garden. The Regal Collection of small growing clematis are exactly that – regal! of the several varieties available, I particularly like ‘Arctic Queen’ and deep red ‘Rebecca’. For smaller containers and bowls, go for the newly released, compact Peruvian lilies called the Alstroemeria Inticancha series.

Perk up the Patio

Adding colour splashes to your alfresco dining area will impart an immediate sense of fun and frivolity! Give existing containers a makeover by refreshing the top layer of soil and planting hot coloured annuals.

Gather up old containers and fill them with tough red geraniums for sunny spots, or sumptuous tropical impatiens for shade. Smarten up the table with a bowl of easy-care succulents or a flowering plant.

New Florist Patio Gerberas make perfect table centrepieces and provide a lot more bang for your buck than a bunch of cut flowers.

Little kalanchoes also make lovely table plants and you don’t need to worry about watering them every five minutes.

Fuchsia baskets dripping with flowers are a worthy investment to adorn pergolas and verandas.

Dahlias are another summer favourite, flowering from December through to late autumn. Plant these in pots or garden beds surrounding entertainment areas, and look out for new Dahlia ‘Dream Catcher’ – the latest release from eminent plant breeder Dr Keith Hammett.

Indoor greenery

While the Christmas tree will take pride of place at present, it’s nice to have a little greenery indoors year round. I’m terribly fond of anything with rich colours, so I tend to opt for indoor plants with exotic flowers like guzmanias and anthuriums – especially as they last a very long time and are reasonably foolproof, making them exceptional value for money.

Peace lily is another all-time favourite for its lush deep green foliage and elegant white flowers. It’s also considered foolproof and perfect in cooler, darker areas of the house.

In the Evening

If most of your festive entertaining will be in the latter part of the day, mass plant white flowers and silver foliage. As night falls and natural light dims, these plants will shine out in the darkness.

oarguerite daisies grow fast and provide nonstop flowering until the first frosts of autumn. oass-planted white impatiens are simply the best to plant under trees and other shaded areas. Cosmos, petunias and smaller-flowering calibrachoas are ideal for sunny spots.

Plant white hydrangeas or fragrant white gardenias in strategically positioned containers.

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