Gardening: Feast for the eyes

By Justin Newcombe

A Christmas table is made all the more lovely with a beautiful bunch of blooms, writes Justin Newcombe.

Sprucing up the dinner table with flower arrangements will put all in a cheerful, festive mood. Photo / New Zealand Herald
Sprucing up the dinner table with flower arrangements will put all in a cheerful, festive mood. Photo / New Zealand Herald

Christmas Day can be a real rush with a lot to organise but you still want to be able to enjoy your own day.

One of the smaller traditions - which is probably one of the first things to fall off the bottom of your extensive Christmas day list - is the table flowers. Considering the number of plates and people your ordinary dining room table is expected to absorb, there's hardly enough room for a tiny bunch of seasonal flowers let alone a big display. However I still think flowers - especially flowers from your own garden - are worth the effort.

It doesn't need to be a big deal. When you venture outside it's surprising what you'll find, even in the most inhospitable garden. Even if you really haven't got a lot on show at the moment take your scissors for a quick walk around the block. Here's just a sample of what you might find.

Hydrangeas come in many spectacular colours and put on a real show. These vivid blooms can look good as part of an ornate arrangement or on their own with a few added highlights.

Try including some silver foliage highlights to varieties with cooler coloured flowers such as green or white. Hydrangeas are very versatile and will work well with a range of flowers and ideas.

Flax flowers give a distinctly New Zealand feel and last a lot longer than the fabled pohutukawa. The smaller ones have strong flower stems with collections of upright flutes. These can be placed on their own but give some structural bite to many presentations.

Roses are an absolute Christmas classic and the right varieties can also add scent as well as sparkle to your table. I find roses always steal the show so I tend to think of them in relation to other foliages rather than other flowers. I like the idea of using the silver underside of ponga fronds with roses. The foliage is delicate enough to complement the roses nicely as well as give a distinctive New Zealand feel to the whole affair.

Sweet peas, if you have them (and if you don't I recommend them for next year) are powerful en masse. The velvet butterfly petals are always distinctive in the garden but take on a notable energy when collected together. I like these with other flowers such as hydrangeas, roses and oddly enough leucadendrons. A little posy of sweet peas in the loo will also help to keep the air fresh, within reason.

Clematis are a beautiful flower on a vine so can be worked around strong stems such as the flax flower or bird of paradise, or even draped over the edge of a vase as a spot of casual "look at me, I'm so beautiful and I'm not even trying" charm.

Manuka flowers are another Kiwi favourite and look pretty in big bunches. I like these with parsley flowers or queen anne's lace. Try small green bamboo shoots as a bit of a contrast to the intricate flower and leaf arrangement of the manuka. And, like roses, I think they look dandy with ponga fronds.

No New Zealand Christmas list would be complete without the pohutukawa. Even though the needles fall out and go all over the table and the flowers will be lucky to last through the day, the pohutukawa still ranks as our number one Christmas bloom. When push comes to shove you can't go wrong (unless you fall out of the tree while you're picking them) with a big bowl of these jolly Kiwi summer blooms.

- NZ Herald

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