December 2014/ January 2015

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December 2014/ January 2015

For centuries, the peoples of Northern Europe have brought evergreen foliage and berries into their homes during the depths of winter – mistletoe (Viscum album), holly (Ilex aquifolium), and Norway Spruce (Picea abies). More recently we have tricked exotic species into flowering out of season, providing blossoms in December e.g. poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima, native of Mexico and Central America), and hyacinths (Hyacinthus orientalis, originating in the Middle East). Both can be manipulated by careful control of light – poinsettia must be kept in total darkness for 14 hours every day for 8 weeks (starting from the end of September) to ensure a Christmas bloom; in the case of hyacinths, it is recommended that bulbs be potted up mid-September and kept in continuous darkness for up to 11 weeks for a floral display in time for the festive season. I missed the boat with these ‘Jan Bos’ bulbs, but will be able to enjoy their beautiful colour and fragrance during the drab months of January and February.