Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
December, 2004
Regional Report

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A rosemary topiary resembles a mini pine tree -- perfect for the holidays.

Holiday Plant Ideas

Poinsettias and Christmas cacti are traditional holiday plants that make welcome last-minute gifts, but there are other plants worth considering if you'd like to try something a little bit different.

Rosemary Tree
Clipped to resemble mini pine trees, these topiaries are charming and release rosemary's invigorating scent. They might show a few splashes of blue flowers, although the constant trimming to create the shape usually eliminates blooms.

Put the plant in a red pot to create strong color contrast for the season. You can snip a few sprigs to add flavor to your culinary creations or rub between your fingers to release the scent. After the holidays, move the plant outdoors into full sun and continue snipping it back to maintain the shape.

Native to tropical rain forests, these exotic-looking houseplants are a bit fussy to grow in the desert's low humidity levels. Even so, their deep green leaves and glossy, red flower bracts add up to intense holiday color, and they are no more difficult than the more common poinsettia.

The bracts are heart shaped, with a long, yellow "tail" that actually contains the true flowers. Plants need bright, indirect light but no full sun. They need lots of humidity, so set the pot in a shallow saucer of water on top of pebbles. Keep away from drafts and cold.

These shrubs provide color through much of the year. They bloom in spring in the low desert with vibrant, orange-red, trumpet-shaped flowers that hummingbirds are keen to visit. Deciduous leaves provide color late in the year, and round, red fruits resemble hard-skinned apples. Harvest the fruits in fall and save to tie into holiday wreaths or pile them in a basket. 'Wonderful' is a standard-sized tree (12 to 20 feet tall) with edible fruit. 'Nana' is a dwarf (3 feet) that will grow in a container, although its fruit is not edible.

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