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Week of December 12, 2016 By Ron Kujawski

Aha!  So you procrastinated and now with less than two weeks to go before Christmas, your blood pressure is rising and panic is beginning to set in. You clearly need some last minute gift ideas to relieve the anxiety.  Fear not!  Give plants.

For non-gardening folk, pots of forced bulbs, e.g. ‘Tête–à–Tête’ daffodil, paperwhite narcissus and crocus, make nice gifts.  There are also bulbs of amaryllis which you can pot up and force into bloom yourself. Their blooms will provide pleasure for several weeks before fading.  Even longer lasting are the flowers of gloxinia, cyclamen, poinsettia and kalanchoe.  When done blooming, the plants can simply be tossed – no fuss, no muss!  However, if you want a challenge, it is possible to keep these plants going and growing for many more Christmases.

Children especially would enjoy a dish garden or a terrarium.  These require little care and make an interesting subject for inquiring young minds.  In addition, they could add a salamander or boa constrictor for a more complete ecosystem…..hmmm, maybe not.

House plants are always appreciated – for home or workplace.  Try to match the plant with the recipient’s skill and interest.  For the expert, give them something challenging such as an orchid.  For the person with a heavy hand with the watering can, give palms, or ferns.  For the fan of fine fragrances, nothing beats a pot of jasmine or a non-hardy lavender such as ‘Goodwin Creek Grey’. For the deeply religious, there’s prayer plant.  For the neglectful ones on your list, give easy care plants such as aloe, dumb cane, snake plant or aspidistra.  And finally, for the total klutz gardener, there are always silk plants – they might not even know!

On a side note regarding poinsettia being a poisonous plant, its reputation as a killer is greatly exaggerated.  Poinsettia is a member of the milkweed family and, as with other plants in this group, it has a milky sap.  This acrid sap may cause some injury to tissues in the digestive tract, but there has never been a verified report of death due to ingestion of poinsettia.

I’m not suggesting that you serve poinsettia leaves in your holiday salads but you need not avoid buying and displaying these traditional Christmas plants for fear of poisoning.  Its taste is most unpalatable and forcing down enough to cause more than a mild case of indigestion would be difficult.  Nevertheless, if a child has eaten any substance, including houseplants, whose toxic qualities you’re uncertain of, don’t hesitate to contact the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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