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Beautiful floral Christmas gifts for thrifty gardeners.

As fireworks night comes and goes in the blink of a locked down eye, we are soon going to turn our mind to Christmas and gifting. As gardeners we have a spade-full of skills that we can use to bring a joyous, beautiful and colourful Christmas to our nearest and dearest for a wallet cheering price.

Hyacinths, Coleus and Amaryllis make beautiful Christmas gifts

I always gift green to my neighbours and best girl-friends, as busy mums we love presents that cheer our house and don't clutter our precious space. This year I'll be forcing Amaryllis bulbs and giving houseplants sown from seed, but here's a list of other horticulturally inspired gifts.

Amaryllis bulbs

Level: Easy

Start Month: November

Cost: £10 per bulb approx

There are so many different colours and forms of Amaryllis that can be easily forced from a bulb in time for gifting at Christmas. The bulbs are large and sturdy so you only need one to make a big impact.

Pot up in to a decorative container, a terracotta pot, a lined basket or a galvanised metal bowl work well but use whatever you can find that looks the part. Ideally use bulb potting mix which is sweetened with charcoal but any potting compost will do.

The bulb only needs to be half covered with soil so ensure the top half is above the soil line and that it fits neatly in the container. You will need just 1-2cm of space between the edge of the bulb and the edge of the pot. Amaryllis like being pot bound. Water before moving to their forcing position.

'Force" the bulb somewhere warm and dark like an airing cupboard for 2-3 weeks or until there is a good 3 cm of growth. Once the bulb has started to shoot, then move it to a warm and sunny spot to grow on. It's so easy.

Once it is a good size and has started to flower then you are ready to gift, just clean up the pot and if you can, pop some horticultural grit on top of the exposed soil to keep the gift clean and give it that professional finish.

Hyacinth bulbs

Level: Easy/A little tricky

Start Month: September

Cost: £5-£10 for 5 bulbs depending on variety

Hyacinths are forced in a similar way to Amaryllis but with two distinct differences. Instead of warmth, Hyacinths need a period of cold to promote root growth and they take much longer to force.

Hyacinth bulbs are fairly small so you will need 5-6 for a decent display or if you are gifting a small token, then one alone in a pretty little vase is perfect.

As with Amaryllis, they only need to be half buried in potting mix and they will want watering before moving to their forcing position. This with Hyacinths can be an unhealthier greenhouse, a potting shed or cellar so they can enjoy a long period of cold.

They also require darkness so covering them with a black bin bag or covering them with a cardboard box will help to trigger their growth.

In 6-10 weeks you will see the bulbs start to show green shoots. This means that they have put on good roots and can now be moved to a cool and bright position to grow on and flower which will take another 2-3 weeks depending on the variety.

Once they are ready to gift, you can either cover the exposed soil with horticultural grit or find some moss from the garden centre to decorate between the bulbs.

Coleus plants

Level: A bit tricky

Start Month: September

Cost: £3 for a packet of seeds

Coleus are multipurpose, super easy plants to grow from seed and make great non-traditional gifts for the indoor gardener.

Coleus are perennial houseplants or annual bedding plants if grown for use outside. As houseplants they are low maintenance and versatile being sun and shade loving plants they can brighten even the darkest corners and come in a range of colours.

Suttons Seeds 'Rainbow Mix' is a good option and will provide lots of colour options as the name suggests.

Sow in seed compost in a warm and sunny place in September and prick out at the true leaf stage. Once the plants have made a good root system then they can be potted in to their final containers and grown on in a sunny position. If you feel the plants need a little extra help in the cooler months before Christmas, transferring them on to a heated root mat can help stimulate growth.

Once the plants have reached the required size, pinch out the tops to encourage bushy growth.

Pair the final plant with an attractive pot or container and you have a great gift for the houseplant enthusiast in your life.

Succulent bowls

Level: So Easy

Start Month: Any month if you have existing stocks or you are buying from a garden centre

Cost: £0 if you have existing stocks or whatever you choose to spend at the garden centre

Succulent or Houseleek bowls are the easiest of gardening gifts, especially if you already have a good supply of succulents in your life.

Once established, succulents will keep providing you with new plants, or 'pups' or 'hens and chickens' depending on your vernacular and they surprisingly hardy. I have sempervivums/houseleeks along my fence line to fill a stony gap between fence and driveway and they have been there for years, rain or snow, shine and drought.

To make a lovely, hardy display for the less than green fingered folks in your life, all you need to do is fill a decorative container with potting soil and some grit, as succulents love good drainage. Alternative containers work really well, and I have had success with everything from old cake tins, large used cans of olive oil, and even deep picture frames lined with plastic. You won't need drainage holes as these plants don't require much water at all once established.

Take your garden snips or a sharp knife and sever a small succulent pup from the mother plant, complete with roots and pot in to the container, ensuring all the roots are under the soil. It helps to really cram them in if you are doing this in December as they won't have the time, sun or warmth to grow in to the space. Water them well and fill any gaps with horticultural grit.

If you are preparing your gifts with time to spare, say in September, then you can leave a little space between pups as they will have time to grow in to the container. It is still wise to fill the gaps with grit however to finish the gift well and prevent flies moving in to the compost.

Even if you don't have your own stock of succulents to use in gifting, garden centres have many varied and beautiful types to choose from at lots of different price points. It is a really simple and enjoyable task to select some specimens and plant them up in a pretty container, water and cover with horticultural grit. I'd certainly recommend gifting this to yourself as well, and starting your own invaluable collection of Houseleeks.

Happy gifting!

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