When going to a friend's Christmas do, I think it's always nice to take a little gift.
Cut flowers were once popular but I really don't know about these. Your hostess has enough to do with meal preparation. Give her a bunch of flowers and then she has to do something else as well!
You can of course make a little arrangement in a nice pot for the table but then she may already have created a masterpiece.
No, I think the nicest present you can give her is a houseplant, preferably in flower.
This can be put somewhere temporarily until quieter times when it can be enjoyed in its permanent position.
Potted house plants are very popular. There are mass displays in supermarkets, at market stalls and garden centres.
But don't forget the florist shop! These always have such a lovely display of usual and unusual house plants for you to choose from.
Perhaps the most displayed are poinsettias. But I am always very 'iffy' about these. Agreed they look stunning when you first enter a display area and see them massed in their brilliant scarlet, pink, white or lemon bracts, well-branched like a wheel.
But these may be a disappointing gift. They can and do, given the wrong conditions especially in their polythene sleeves at a sale point, drop their leaves like large confetti thrown at a wedding.
They don't like draughts, they hate dry air in a warm room and they don't like a cold room!
A word of warning too. Just like their outside cousins, the euphorbias, where each leaf has dropped or been knocked off, white latex will ooze from the stem.
Always keep these plants away from children and pets – that latex is poisonous.
Common sense too, not to put a poinsettia on the dining table!
Pot cyclamen are very popular. Attractive and eye-catching with their silver splashed leaves and those gorgeous unusual pastel-coloured flowers with just that hint of spicy perfume.
Pot cyclamen are often disappointing though.
If over-watered, under watered, in a drought or in too dry an atmosphere leaves will yellow, flower stems collapse and the plant look sick.
You must keep cyclamen away from radiators and give them plenty of light and water them carefully from the bottom when the top compost feels dry. And put the pot on a saucer of damp pebbles to keep humidity passing through the leaves.
Before I am accused of being a damp squib, the negative side is over!
The other day in a garden centre I was looking at some lovely Christmas cacti for sale and good plants they were too.
These hybrids were producing what I would call electric colours in pink, white blushed with pink, and the traditional fuchsia pink.
And what a gift to give because you are giving a present which will last forever!
Kalanchoes are lovely house plants, usually grown as small plants in four-inch pots.
These have fleshy succulent-like leaves through which arise stems carrying dense clusters of flowers. At one time all kalanchoes were red-pink but now you can find oranges and lemons. So easy to look after.
Give them good light, a normal room temperature and only water them when the top surface of their pot soil is quite dry.
People say they should be thrown out when flowering has finished. Don't you believe it! With care a kalanchoe will last and flower for years to come
There are bulbs in pots too. All kinds and a lovely gift to granny from the children.
When flowering is over she can then plant them outside for the future. But I think the kalanchoes are the ones I will give to people.
Nice chatting to you!