On the first week of Advent my Christmas cactus has already in full blossom. That reminded me of that it’s time to make plans for the festive season: what to eat, how to decorate the house the table etc. Today I went to shop around in the flower market and these were the top 10 Xmas flower offers:
Christmas cactus flower
Christmas cactus, also known as orchid cactus, often blooms around Christmas time. Pendulous stems of Christmas cactus make it a great choice for hanging baskets. There are a number of different cactus species sold as “Christmas cactus.”
One plant called Christmas rose is regarded as a true Christmas flower in certain parts of the world. Christmas rose (Serissa) is also known as the “snow rose” or “winter rose.” Originally from tropical regions of Asia, cultivated Serissa often blooms during the winter. On the occasion of Christmas Eve, it is traditional for young women in North America to exchange specially designed Christmas roses with each other resembling their spirit of fraternity.
Another plant known as Christmas rose is Helleborus niger.
Holly is the plant most associated with Christmas in many European countries. Holly wreaths are hung on doors, and sprigs of holly used to trim Christmas puddings.
Like most of the other Christmas flowers, ivy leaves symbolize eternity and resurrection. The ivy leaf has been associated with the Egyptian God, Osiris, and the Greco-Roman god, Attis; both of whom were resurrected from the dead.
Mistletoe is a Christmas plant whose origin is said to date back to the Pagans. Druid priests used this Christmas plant two hundred years before the birth of Christ in their winter celebrations. A more modern tradition is to exchange kisses under a sprig of mistletoe
trained on a sheltered south or west-facing wall will reliably produce shiny olive-green shoots studded in pallid yellow flowers from November on. The spiky twigs can be picked, although they don’t have the heady scent associated with jasmine. Cut the shoots back hard after flowering to encourage new growth
You can grow your own, but I’m in favour of buying a plant that’s about to explode with bright trumpets. Opt for glowing scarlet or a pure white. ‘Red Velvet’ is a classy single, ‘Red Dragon’ a fiery double. ‘Papilio’, an elegant red-striped white and ‘Benfica’, dark red, are both excellent
Paper white narcissi
Paper whites can be planted in mid-October for Christmas flowers. Half-fill glass jars with stones, glass beads or gravel. Cluster five or 10 bulbs together, not touching, pointed end up, then add gravel until only a third of each bulb shows. Water to just below the base of the bulbs. Place in a cool, dark spot and bring into a warm room a few days before you need flowers
Clematis cirrhosa ‘Freckles’
The festive creamy flowers of this winter-flowering clematis are heavily splashed and freckled in bright red – hence the name. Clematis cirrhosa is a Mediterranean species, so good drainage and the protection of a south-facing wall are vital. It reaches up to 10ft and has pendent bells. ‘Freckles’ is the earliest cirrhosa to flower
The simple Christmas rose, such a failure in most gardens, is now grown under glass. Small plants make excellent displays in a cool porch or windowsill when mixed with ivies. Place several in a basket and top-dress with moss
Almost always out by Christmas Eve, this bright yellow miniature daffodil was named after the artist (1889-1982), who founded the East Anglian School, by his friend Beth Chatto. It has a shallow trumpet and the outer petals are shaded in emerald green where they meet the stem. Sir Cedric found it over 50 years ago on a rocky ledge in Spain
This Algerian iris is perfect to plant at the feet of your winter-flowering clematis. Soft blue flowers unfurl from pointed buds from November onwards. Pick single flowers and let them unfurl indoors. ‘Mary Barnard’ was collected by the lady herself near Algiers in 1937. Snip out any untidy leaves twice a year. Other than that, neglect is the best option
Skimmia confusa ‘Kew Green’
The head of pale green buds on this choice and compact evergreen are arranged in a tight, lilac-like raceme. Place ‘Kew Green’ in a container by the front door, add some variegated trailing ivies and forced crocus, tiny narcissi or white muscari. Replace the bulbs as they fade with other early flowers.
In many nations, seasonal flowers and plants such as Poinsettia, Christmas cactus, holly, Christmas rose, ivy, mistletoe, form a major part of traditional Christmas decoration.
After buying some pine tree twigs and one advent wreath with four candles I decided to surprise my family with a divine dessert:
Pears poached in Porto wine
Serving for 8, prep time max. 35 minutes
Ingredients: 600ml port, 140g caster sugar, 2 cinnamon sticks, halved, 8 ripe but firm pears, peeled with the stalk intact
For the meringue cream: 425 ml double cream, 1 tbsp icing sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 meringue shells, broken into pieces (bought ones are fine), good pinch of cinnamon
1.Pour the port into a large pan with 600ml water, add the sugar and cinnamon, then heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the pears, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes until tender all the way through. They are ready when a cocktail stick can be easily pushed through each one. Depending on the size of your pan, you may need to cook the pears in 2 batches using the same port syrup, or turn the pears several times as they cook so they become an even color. Let the pears cool in their syrup, preferably overnight to allow the syrup to really stain them. Will keep for 3 days in the fridge.
2.Check the consistency of the syrup. If it is very thin, boil it in a pan to reduce the amount and concentrate the flavor.
3.To serve, whip the cream with the sugar and vanilla until it holds its shape then fold in the meringue. Sprinkle with the cinnamon. Arrange the pears in a shallow dish and spoon over the syrup. Allow guests to help themselves to both pears and cream.