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The Tribune | Weekend | 19

Friday, May 10, 2019


Mum's the word

Jack Hardy helps to pick out the perfect Mother’s Day flowers


other’s Day is just three weeks after Easter Sunday this year and that makes your local nursery an interesting place to visit. A mélange of plants suitable for both occasions should be on display and there may very well be certain varieties that you will only see once in a blue moon. This being the case, I have decided to address the recipients of these gifts – the mothers – rather than the purchasers. Christmas is poinsettias, Valentines is roses, Easter is lilies, and by and large Mother’s Day presentations are potted plants rather than cut flowers. The selection of plants available in May is far greater than during the other special days. The official flower for Mother’s Day in Australia is the chrysanthemum. Australians do not say Mom or Ma, they say Mum. Chrysanth what? The chrysanthemums we usually get shipped in are in gallon or bigger containers and contain more than one plant. By selective removal of most buds the final product is a mass of flowers looking as though they grow from a single source. The mother that receives such a gift will wonder what to do when the flowers die. It is best to remove the flowers and soil from the pot and divide the arrangement into individual plants. These can be planted in new pots with new soil and become patio favourites. An individual chrysanthemum plant is a different experience to the nursery mass and one that I prefer.

A yellow chrysanthemum flower

White begonias

A fuchsia in bloom

Chrysanthemums come in just about any colour and the flowers can be quite small – an inch across – or three to four inches. For re-planting purposes the plants with large flowers tend to do better. The plants originated in the warmer parts of China and are sub-tropical so our climate suits them, though that does not mean leaving them in full sun during the summer months. Survival depends on being placed where they receive good light but no direct sun. There are some people who believe that fuchsias are the perfect hanging basket plant. The drooping habit of the branches shows off the little dancing girls to good effect and, of course, the magenta and red of the usual fuchsia flowers is a lovely combination. Other people consider the plant tacky and gaudy, too showy. One thing is sure – you cannot ignore it. Fuchsias come from Central and South America rain forests where they live in quite deep shade and receive plenty of water. Those are the conditions we must try to replicate for our potted fuchsias, whether in a hanging baskets or free-standing pots. Once July comes the plants would be better off lodged in a fairly densely canopied tree and checked for water regularly. If you are one of those fortunate people who can afford 24/7 air conditioning you may consider bringing your fuchsia inside by a window. Begonias are plants that have leaves almost as pretty as the flowers. There are thousands of varieties but one of the favourites for nursery purposes is the Angel Wing leaf variety. Some of the leaves

are bronzed or colour patterned while the flower sprays can bear petals of pink, white, orange, yellow, or red. Begonias love slightly acid soil so it is worth investing in a box of Miracle-Gro Miracid to help feed your plant. Begonias also like shade but hate having their leaves wetted or subjected to wind. A Florida room would be perfect but also a shaded patio with a sheltered location. A begonia is made to be looked at so put it where plenty of people can see it. The bell-shaped flowers of gloxinia, a native of Brazil, are magnificent and often look oversized in relation to the plant, but one look at a gloxinia and you realise the leaves are very tender. They are so tender you must avoid getting any water onto them while nurturing the plant. They are also very sensitive to sunlight and must be grown in a situation of good light but little or no direct sun. Early morning and late evening sun without heat is permissible. Gloxinias put a lot of effort into flowering and sometimes flower themselves to death. Be careful here because gloxinias are perennials but have been weakened by generations of hybridisation. If your gloxinia dies back a month or so after you get it, and you know you have been watering it sufficiently, do not be in a hurry to dispose of it. There is a good chance it will come back from its tuber after a period of rest. I bought one earlier this year and the first thing it decided to do was die. Left for a while it came back beautifully. As a mother you are used to beautiful things – such as your children – also being a lot of hard work. You are well-equipped to nurture any oddball potted plants that come your way. Enjoy Mother’s Day. You deserve it! • For queries and comments e-mail jacktribune242@

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05102019 WEEKEND  

05102019 WEEKEND