Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Native Twist to Traditional Christmas

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Native Twist to Traditional Christmas

Article excerpt

With tinsel and light bulb kitsch decking the halls, it's easy to forget the colours of an Australian Christmas are in our own backyards.

A potted wollemi pine (Wollemi nobilis) makes a great and long-lasting Christmas tree, says Dr Tim Entwhisle, executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust in Sydney

"Trim it back a bit and increase the pot size occasionally. As they grow so slowly it should be right for 10 to 15 years," he says.

The pine needs to go straight back outdoors after tinsel time, into a semi-shaded spot.

Two decades ago native plants were a rarity in suburban gardens but they're common now.

"More Australian natives are being planted these days, they use less water and people know more about how to care for them," says Dr Entwhisle.

Few cut natives look as spectacular indoors as the much-loved NSW waratah (Telopea speciosissima).

It flowers in Sydney in spring but later in cooler areas.

A lot of native plants don't last long as cut pieces, says Barry Jahnke of the Queensland branch of the Society for Growing Australian Plants.

But the Australian native holly (Alchornea ilicifolia) is a tough, drought-resistant little shrub good for table centres.

Small cream flowers bloom in November and by Christmas the small, hard, dark-coloured fruit will have appeared.

"People often daub it with red paint and use Alchornea decoratively," Jahnke says.

It will look fresh for up to a week.

Native holly is found on Australia's east coast and particularly in south-east Queensland.

Holly grevillea (Grevillea ilicifolia) is also a good alternative for indoor decoration, says Dr Entwhisle.

Most commonly found in western Victoria and south-east South Australia where the humidity is low, the grevillea is part of the proteaceae family, with prominent reddish flowers which may also be green-yellow. …

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