Anna Pavord: Weekend work

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The Independent Online

What to do

There are difficult decisions to make about plants that you may have bought or been given at Christmas, most particularly poinsettias and Christmas cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum). Both of them go downhill fairly fast from spring onwards. Are you going to hang on to them and coax them back into stardom next Christmas? Or are you (brace yourself) going to chuck them?

Poinsettias need warmth and good light to keep their brightly coloured bracts. The roots need compost that is dampish but not waterlogged. Placing the pot on a tray of damp pebbles will help keep the air round the foliage at the right degree of humidity. In March, stop watering and prune the plant back to about 10-12cm. In May, when frosts are no longer a threat, put the plant outside and slowly increase the amount of water it gets. Next autumn bring it back inside. Be warned. It is unlikely to look half as good as it did this year.

Christmas cherries do best in cool conditions, but like poinsettias, they need plenty of light. If you overwater them, the berries will drop off. Put them outside for summer, somewhere cool and shady. Reduce watering over the summer, when the Solanums need a rest. Tip the plant out of its pot in the autumn and repot it if the roots seem to be overcrowded. Bring the plant back inside before the first frosts.

What to buy

The Horticultural Trades Association (HTA) reckons that half of Britain's gardeners (and there are said to be 27 million of us) now use the internet to get information about plants and gardens. Not so many actually buy plants this way, but the Centre for Economics and Business Research predicts that by 2020, 40 per cent of all shopping will be done by way of websites. I can't imagine that gardeners will want to give up entirely the predatory pleasure of cruising round a specialist nursery, or the stab of excitement when you suddenly see something beautiful that you've never seen before. Flowers on the web have no scent.

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