Exiles Forum

Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland




Time for a tree

IT'S that time of year again, time to select and bring home a Christmas tree for the festive season. Already Christmas trees of all shapes and sizes are readily available throughout many garden centres and other outlets.

Whether you choose a Spruce, Pine or Abies Nordmaniana, it is important to keep the tree alive and looking its best indoors for as long as possible.

Keep rootless trees immersed in a bucket of water and top it up when necessary. Root balled trees should be planted in a large pot filled with moist compost before bringing indoors.

Keep the compost around the roots moist at all times and be sure to get it back outdoors as soon as the festivities have finished if you want to plant it in the garden and save it to do the same job next year!

Spare a thought for the wildlife in your garden. Migrant birds such as the jay and redwing join our local thrushes and blackbirds which are already feeding on the berries of cotoneaster and pyracantha. Smaller birds such as bluetits and robins will appreciate kitchen scraps, nuts, raisins and bird seed to feed on through the cold winter months.

Hedera or evergreen ivy makes an excellent hardy self-clinging plant for covering untidy walls, chimney breasts, fences or as a ground cover plant. Green leafed varieties are very shade tolerant and will survive under drought conditions. They are an ideal plant for a north facing wall.

Variegated ivy prefers more light and may suffer from wind and frost damage, but it will grow well in a sunny sheltered position.

Ivies may be pruned to remove damaged or untidy growth and to control the overall height and spread of the plant. Propagate by soft wood cuttings or layering in late summer.

Small yellow/green flowers appear in autumn, soon to be followed by black fruits. Hedera canariensis, colchica sulphur heart, gold heart and buttercup will make excellent climbers, providing all year round colour.

The lustrous foliage of holly gives great pleasure in the garden all year creating focal points with colourful berries and leaf variations. Ilex aquifolium, our common native holly is particularly popular at Christmas time.

When cutting sprigs of holly for indoor decoration, try to enhance the shape of the plant rather than spoil it. Remember Christmas only lasts a few weeks, but the holly tree has to look its best all year round.