How to use festive potted plants to decorate your home this Christmas

Deck the deck (or steps) with pots that are merry and bright. Our garden expert Rachel Clare shares some fun ways to add a spot of gardening into your festive prep.

Some people think it’s uncool to get into Christmas, but I don’t – I love it, unashamedly! I’m not putting up my tree the day after Halloween or anything but I start playing Christmas carols from December 1, and gradually increase the daily dose until December 25. Inevitably, there’s a point at which my partner can’t tolerate any more of my Christmas spirit and says, “Please… don’t” when I play “Snoopy’s Christmas” yet again.

My garden gets a merry makeover as well. This year I’ve grown 10 pots of Christmas lilies, which I’ll stage throughout my garden, and I’ve invited my friends around for a wreath- making session. It will be BYOG (bring your own greenery) and you can be sure I’ll make them listen to carols.

Red and pink flowers growing in grey pot

Instead of underestimating your time and buying a bootload of plants in order to spruce up your garden for the Big Day and then running out of time to plant them (guilty as charged!), create some eye-catching floral impact by planting up pots instead. It’s much quicker and more satisfying than weeding your garden, and it’s an easy way to create instant floral impact.

Situate your pots in prominent spots, such as your front porch or deck, and set the mood for guests. Sure, you can go for one type of plant (en masse planting is always striking) but it’s fun to work with interesting colour combinations and different textures – think of it like arranging a bunch of flowers but you’re using actual living plants. If you don’t want it to look like a lolly scramble, limit your colour palette to three different colours, but make sure you use a variety of textures, eg. the towering butterfly-shaped flowers of snapdragons with frothy alyssum and spiky rosemary.

Burgundy and white flowers in silver pot

In my silver rubbish bin, which I bought for $1 at the Waitākere recycling centre (and which I reckon is a pretty good stand-in for the vintage dolly tubs people pay hundreds for), I’ve gone for deep burgundy, white and bronze tones, combining deep purple Salvia ‘Love and Wishes’ with a white foxglove, brown carex, white cosmos and a deep burgundy heuchera.

The other pot contains a range of plants in various shades of pink, including cosmos snapdragons, a white and pink viburnum and pink flax, with green muehlenbeckia spilling over the side. (Foliage plants offset the prettiness of flowers, creating visual interest.)

Pots require daily watering. If you’re going away for the holidays, gift your pot to a guest or plant hardy succulents or cacti instead. Curated pots are temporary as the plants will eventually run out of room as they grow. I plant perennials out into the garden later.

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