Jumpstarting Christmas

Oh, the weather outside is ….. gray. Yes, it was another textbook November day here in Illinois. Aside from the brief break in the clouds that played peek-a-boo with a sliver of blue sky and sunshine, today was a carbon copy of yesterday’s unpleasantness, only colder and more windy. The weather muted my ears to the sirens of the garden, so I did the next best thing. I visited a garden center to get a jumpstart on Christmas.

We won’t be putting up our Christmas tree (fresh cut from a local tree farm) until this coming weekend, but I’m craving Christmas. Ever since smelling the scent of the trees while shopping at a home improvement store on Friday, I’ve been dreaming about the annual transformation of our home for the holidays. On today’s shopping trip, I picked up a poinsettia, amaryllis and Christmas cactus to bring some Christmas color into the house.

I’m a strong proponent of buying holiday plants from an independent garden center rather than big box stores, simply because holiday plant sales are often the difference between black and red for many IGCs. Plus the plant quality is almost always better at IGCs than the large discounters. (I was a little surprised today to find the flowers of most of the poinsettias already clipped out, meaning the plants had come into bloom earlier than expected.)

The amaryllis, a red and white flowered variety (Hippeastrum ‘Minerva’), is on the verge of bloom. I found it near the checkout lane in a bin of amaryllis that had sprouted too early and were discounted. Amaryllis is a traditional gift plant that is usually purchased as a dormant bulb, which the recipient then grows to flower later in winter. I figured since I was jumpstarting Christmas, an impatient amaryllis was the perfect purchase.

Since its still early to bring poinsettias into the house, I only bought a single plant today — ‘Sonora White Glitter’, a descendant of the original white sprinkled ‘Jingle Bells’. I absolutely love the variegation in this plant. It still offers the true red of the traditional poinsettia, but with a unique look that makes you stop and stare. Last year, our local IGC offered very large plants of this variety, but today only had a few medium-sized pots. I’m hoping there are more waiting in the greenhouse. In a couple of weeks, I’ll be returning to buy several more poinsettias to complete our home decoration and give as gifts.

The Christmas cactus (Zygocactus) I purchased was a small 4″ pot. I’ve never grown this plant before, despite its ubiquity in the houseplant world. It’s known as a plant that can survive generations, with cuttings being passed down through families. I planted it in an eco-friendly, biodegradable pot — so I’m hoping the plant outlasts the pot. I suppose its possible the plant will outlast me.

The house still has a very late fall feel to it — dried flowers and the green of houseplants providing the botanical color. But a quick trip to the garden center has it starting to feel a … little bit … like Christmas.

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Christopher Tidrick

Be real. Love always. Share beauty. Lead well. Learn more.

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