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Holiday Blog: Alternatives to the Plastic Christmas Tree

Alternatives to the Plastic Christmas Trees

Photo found online (source unkown)

Tired of the old green and shaggy but don’t want to go fake and plastic? Try an Aussie Christmas tree instead!

New South Wales Christmas Bush

From Wikimedia Commons (unattributed)

This comes with its own home-grown red baubles, though the brilliant red 'flowers' are made up not of petals but calyces. These are actually the sepals that initially made the bud that protected the developing flowers. As the tree sets fruit after flowering, the sepals enlarge and start to colour up until they are a bright pink to red. The real flowers will have arrived about eight weeks earlier in spring and are small and white, not red.

The wild bushes look stunning from a distance, but a bit raggedy close up. The newish cultivar called 'Albery's Red', is a much tidier form and there are other cultivars on the market, including one with variegated leaves and another with white calyces instead of red ones, and there are neat little miniatures available too. If you want a floral display that yells out ‘Aussie Christmas’ this is it.

After Christmas grow it in a nice big pot on a sunny, sheltered patio or terrace (they can be nipped by the frost and the soil must be well drained).

Give it a trim in February to keep it looking neat, and scatter on blood and bone too. Water well in late-winter and spring to ensure a good Christmas display next year too.

A Dwarf Lilly Pilly

Photo found online (source unkown)

These have bright pink to red new leaves- perfect in a pot, lovely in the ground — and drought hardy too! Give it an extra good watering in early-December and you should have a stunning display of new leaves. They grow from 1–2 metres; also excellent for pots and patios. But don’t forget that water — lilly pillies like damp gullies rather than hot concrete.

An Outdoor Christmas tree

Photo found online (source unknown)

Choose your favourite garden tree and decorate it for Christmas, either with traditional tinsel or lots of bird balls so the wildlife can join in the fun.

A Driftwood Christmas tree

Photo found online (source unknown)

Photo found online (source unknown)

Old, bleached driftwood or even prunings from your trees painted red, white or silver can be turned into something simple but superb.

PS The craziest Christmas tree I ever saw was a giant cherry tomato bush, with tinsel draped between the bright red fruit!

Christmas Disasters – and how to avoid them

As an antidote to every shopping mall belting out ‘good cheer’, here are some solutions to common Christmas problems…

Problem: The garden looks drab and you don’t have time to grow two-metre-high shrubs and a bed of annuals by the 25th.

Solution: Entertain at night. Everything looks best when softly lit – humans as well as gardens. Ground-level floodlights to shine up into the trees or strings of tiny lights give enough light to eat, drink and make merry – but not enough to see the weeds or bare spots.

Problem: Mozzies who love humans entertaining at night and arrive as soon as dusk falls and bare ankles are exposed.

Solution: A fan or several fans. Fans are stronger than mozzies’ wings. In fact humans are smarter than mozzies. When faced with Christmas fruit fly, pear and cherry slug or mozzies, repeat three times: ‘I am homo sapiens. I can outwit fruit fly, foil possums, and blow mozzies down the Murrumbidgee River’.

But do wear long sleeves and cover legs and ankles, too. It only needs one mozzie carrying Barmah River fever and other nasties…

Problem: The barbecue catches alight on Christmas Day.

Solution: Clean it. Now. If in doubt, call the shop and ask them how to do it.

Problem: Gum tree branches fall on the house/car. (They can also ooze sap).

Solution: Move the car; as you can’t move the house, cut down any branches that will fall… one day.

Problem: Whole tree falls on your house.

Solution: Do not grow specimen trees in the middle of the lawn where they’ll get the same water and tucker as the grass. You’ll end up with shallow roots and a top-heavy tree waiting to choose the most inconvenient time to topple. Call an arborist. Now. They may thin out the tree-top to lessen the weight, or possibly tell you get rid of the tree and check your insurance policy.

Problem: Reindeer nibbling your mossy rocks.

Solution: Scatter wolf droppings (or synthetic coyote urine, bought online), or put out carrots as decoys. Also works for possums. In the absence of wolf droppings or synthetic coyote urine, spritz with dilute fish sauce (test it doesn’t burn foliage first) or place slit plastic soft drink bottles around pergola posts or trees so possums can’t get a foothold.

Problem: Christmas tree needles clog up the vacuum cleaner.

Solution: Think of your Christmas trees as a giant bunch of roses – i.e. it needs water. Refill the bucket every day – the Pinus radiata is thirsty – and keep the tree in a cool corner. Or have a living Christmas tree, like a dwarf lilly pilly or NSW Christmas Bush. See above.

Problem: Aunt Maud gives you a lovely potato vine covered in white blossom for Christmas, and even plants it for you on the back fence.

Solution: (We are still digging out the descendants of a Christmas potato vine.) Thank Aunt Maud kindly then put it in a pot on the patio where it can twine around the railings for a few months, then dispose of, well-wrapped.

And may Christmas Day be happy and disaster free; may the rain fall in 15 mm showers every second night all through 2019, and peace and happiness for humans, wombats and us all be found in every Christmas stocking.

And to cool you during holiday chaos…

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