It seems to have sneaked up on us this year, but there’s no doubt that Christmas is fast approaching. It’s a busy time of year as we all try to tie up loose ends before the festive season begins, and if you’re starting to feel on edge about getting bringing it all together, you’re not alone.
The stress of Christmas is in collecting and doing all the things we do to celebrate the holiday and uphold our traditions—things that are outside of our usual routines and not usually on our shopping lists. But if you haven’t already realised it, everything you need to create the perfect Christmas for your family and friends is actually right outside your door.
With a little bit of innovation, and the green thumbs you’ve been using all year long, you can have Christmas all wrapped up in a jiffy.
Most of us spend a lot of time in the shops at Christmas, often looking for that elusive ‘perfect’ gift for the person who’s impossible to buy for. It’s a lot of time and effort—especially when that person would most likely prefer something you’ve made yourself with real heart.
The best part about gifts from your garden is that they’re also practical. If you garden for the sheer pleasure of surrounding your home with beautiful flowers and plants, you’ll no doubt find what you’re looking for already waiting in your garden bed. Orchids, bamboo and herbs all make fantastic gifts because they’re beautiful, hardy, and usable. For something really Christmassy, consider lavender for its symbolism—and the ability to sculpt it into whatever shape you like. Use any plain pot from a nursery or rural store and dress it up with a festive bow or a lick of paint, and your work is done. And if you only have seeds? Some people love a symbolic gift that they can use or make, and will appreciate a thoughtfully decorated packet of seeds that are full of potential and goodwill for the new year.
If you’re feeling just a little bit crafty, there’s virtually no limit to gifts you can make from your backyard. Consider making a terrarium: all you need is a large glass jar or fish bowl and some succulents, and you can surprise your loved ones with a charming little ecosystem you’ve designed especially for them. If you’ve got time, you could dry your own herbs and flowers for potpourri; and if you don’t, you might still find enough in your garden harvest to create fruit and vegetable hamper baskets for them to enjoy over the holidays.
If you like to spend most of your time living and working in the great outdoors, it doesn’t really make sense to decorate your home at Christmastime with plastic trees and decorations.
It’s easy to spread the cheer by using what nature gave you, and bringing a little of the outside in to create some seasonal ambience.
You won’t have to look far to find some poinsettias in your local nurseries: they’re one of the most famous and symbolic Christmas plants, with their vibrant star-shaped leaves. They’re not native to Australia, but they do enjoy the climate, and they’ll do equally well in the garden or a pot to bring your home a pop of Christmas colour. Many of our very own native plants make appealing decorations too: Christmas Bush with its vibrant white star-shaped blossoms in spring (and bright red calyxes in summer); Christmas Bells with their festive red and yellow bell-shaped blooms; and Christmas Orchids with their symbolic white flowers will all look the part in your family’s celebrations.
You can even find baubles in your backyard. Apples are the perfect choice: they’re a traditional symbol of Christmas with their bright red skin, and they’re equally lovely as centrepieces or hung on a branch. But if going ‘all natural’ isn’t really for you and you’d still prefer to hang some tinsel and baubles, consider using some fallen branches instead of a plastic tree (or a traditional, but introduced tree species like fir or pine). Eucalyptus will bring a fresh, earthy fragrance to your home, and look pleasing against virtually any décor.
If you’re a gardening enthusiast, chances are you’ve already been enjoying the fruits of your labour throughout the year. But Christmas is the perfect opportunity to take it a step further, and use the bounty in your garden to make luscious homemade gifts and an enviable spread.
Brisbane gardeners are a lucky bunch, enjoying many colourful, flavourful fruits and veges in season over the Christmas period. If you’re lucky enough to have citrus trees, they’ll serve you well for Christmas lunch: they’re the perfect accompaniment for glazed ham, barbecue meats, and vinaigrettes. And don’t forget the desserts: besides citrus, pears, passionfruit and other fruits will be perfect in fruit punch, cheesecakes and sauces; and strawberries are usually fat and ripe at this time—the perfect topper for the pavlova you’re making from your own hens’ eggs. If you haven’t already, you might also think about making your own preserves for your family meals and as gifts, including lemon butter and jellies and jams, and other infused vinegars, alcohols, oils, and essences.
If you’re been keeping an herb garden, there are many ways they can be used throughout the Christmas period. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger will all be handy when you’re making your Christmas pudding, gingerbread men, recipe-in-a-jar gifts, and clove-studded oranges for your ham. Rosemary pairs well with both ham and chicken—and doubles as a centrepiece or ornamental miniature Christmas tree!
If your family is like many others in Brisbane, you’re probably planning on spending a good deal of your Christmas holidays outside in the fresh air—but your yard is in need of a bit of maintenance. Now is the perfect time to get all your cleaning and clearing done, and have your gardens fresh and ready for Christmas days lazing about late into the afternoon.
Weeds and bindiis tend to pop up in this warm weather, so it’s a good time to get serious about lawn maintenance. Prune back your spring-flowering plants, lay fresh mulch, plan your pest protection, and start sowing your summer fruits and veges (pumpkins, melons, and capsicums) and you’ll be well ready for the festive season when it arrives.