Ardisias are going to be a winter classic for years to come – so watch out poinsettias.

The 12 plants of Christmas

Brian Minter identifies his 12 favourite plants of Chirstmas

Hardy winter colour is a garden ‘must have’, and the new hardy, early blooming varieties of Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger) ‘Jacob” and ‘Josef Lemper’ top the list.  Their vibrant white blooms brighten any dark winter landscape, and they can even be used inside as cut flowers for a focal point on your Christmas table.  Widely available, they’re in bloom now and make a wonderful living gift.

Winter berries add so much interest to a winter landscape.  The most valuable is the deciduous winter holly called Ilex verticillata.  Its stunning winter red berries are in high demand for wreaths, outdoor baskets and containers and for indoor centrepieces.  I love the stems just as they are in a glass vase indoors or out on the patio.  You need both male and female plants to get these beautiful bird friendly berries, and today, good growers have planted both in one pot for immediate planting.

Wintergreen (Gautheria procumbens) is a beautiful low evergreen ground cover with rich deep green leaves, is almost continuous flowering and has edible red berries.  Available in smaller pots, they make wonderful winter focal points in containers or as companions for white winter heather or Christmas Roses.

Growing a little taller, a wonderful crab apple, called Malus ‘Red Sentinel’, makes a great clean spring flowering screen or small shade tree.  Its vibrant shiny large red fruits sparkle in winter.  It’s like no other smaller tree as it’s loaded with hard fruits that are nice to enjoy on the tree, as cut branches in your outdoor décor or as a garnish on Christmas dinner plates.  A frost or two will make them edible.

A prickly little plant that survives nicely outside in our toughest winters is a dwarf slow growing Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus ‘Christmas Berry’).  It berries up nicely by itself, spreads slowly and  beautifully compliments any of its outdoor companions, like dwarf colourful conifers and low golden heathers.  They look spectacular by themselves in clay pots with a few blueberry twigs tucked in.

Traditional holly trees have all but disappeared in our smaller space gardens and what a shame! To the rescue comes a new self-fertile, compact, hardy (zone 6) holly called ‘Red Beauty’.  It grows only 5-7 feet tall and 4 feet wide, making it a great focal point, container plant or a fabulous hedge.   ‘Red Beauty‘ presents a new opportunity for holly in the landscape.  It’s a keeper!

Most camellias are rated as zone 7 plants and need a little protection in the coldest winter conditions, however, one stands out from all the rest.  Camellia ‘Yuletide’ is a beauty.  It’s a sasanqua camellia which means it blooms from late November through April with pure red blooms that have vibrant yellow anthers.  Talk about ‘the’ Christmas outdoor plant.  It celebrates Christmas all by itself.

Amaryllis has become the ‘hot’ plant that can be started as a bulb now to bloom for Christmas or can be purchased as a grown plant ready to bloom.  It is now popular as cut flowers used to celebrate the season, I love putting the stems inside a tall glass vase where they look so elegant and last a long while if kept cool.

The newest plant to adorn our indoors is the beautiful ardisia.    We’ve grown these plants for a month now.  The new growth has burst into soft green leaves that make a nice contrast to the rich dark ones and to the delightful red berries that adorn the lower portion of the plant. Ardisias are going to be a winter classic for years to come – so watch out poinsettias!

Finding a true Christmas cactus that most of our grandmothers had in their homes 50 years ago is hard, but not impossible.  Schlumbergera bridgesii is a smooth leafed cactus with hot pink flowers that actually bloom only at Christmas.  It’s an heirloom plant that is so easy to grow and is handed down from generation to generation.  Start a new tradition in your family this year.

Another wonderful old tradition is to have ‘Paperwhite’ narcissus in our homes for the holiday season.  For some people, they have a love-hate relationship with the spectacular perfume of ‘Paperwhites’.  Like amaryllis, their long flower stems look stunning in a tall clear glass vase.  You can still pick up bulbs that will bloom for Christmas if you keep them cool in a fancy glass dish with water and some colourful stones on the bottom, and started plants are always available at this time of year.

If you do any Christmas cooking, bay leaves are a must have to flavour meats.  We have a ten footer outside our door that we enjoy both as a landscape plant and as a source of fresh leaves all year round.  Cut stems add interest and fragrance to Christmas wreaths.  They’re a little hard to find at this time of year, but herb growers have them.  Treat it as a cool winter loving plant that needs to be outdoors all year round with a little winter protection in severe cold.  It could become one of your most loved garden plants.

Just Posted

RCMP ask for help to locate missing Chilliwack man

Kyle Travis Neil travelling in a red, Ford F250 and he maybe be in need of medical attention

UPDATED: Chilliwack councillor’s expenses being sent to the RCMP

Decision to have expenses audited and shared with RCMP taken at special meeting of council

Risk of thunderstorm this afternoon for Vancouver Island and Lower Mainland

A special weather statement calls for heavy rain and wind over the next 48 hours

Update: Search called off for missing plane between Edmonton and Chilliwack

Search efforts were concentrated along the Highway 5 corridor between Valemount and Kamloops

Two Chilliwack incumbents seek re-election to Cultus Lake Park Board

David Renwick and Darcy Bauer form a mini-slate

Fashion Fridays: Rock some animal print

Kim XO, lets you in on the latest fall fashion trends on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

New evacuations ordered because of Florence flooding

Emergency managers on Friday ordered about 500 people to flee homes along the Lynches River

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

B.C. doctor weighs in on the kid ‘screen time’ debate

A Maple Ridge mother opens up about her children’s use of tablets, smartphones and television

Volunteer-based safety team gets city funding to continue work in Vancouver

Good Night Out is a non-profit society that works to keep people safe at night on Granville Strip

More than 35 B.C. mayors elected without contest

No other candidates for mayor in the upcoming local election in 22 per cent of B.C. cities

5 to start your day

National forecaster issues rainfall warning, three crashes in Metro Vancouver overnight and more

Burnaby RCMP investigating ‘serious’ rollover crash

Shortly after 1 a.m. Friday, police said a truck crashed closing Lougheed Highway

Most Read