Step white up: Narcissi are starting to raise their heads above the ground

Now's the time to bag a bargain at your nearest garden centre, says Emma Townshend

There comes a point in early December when we've been discussing Christmas ads and eating turkey-and-cranberry sandwiches at lunchtime for what feels like about two months. And frankly, yuletide fatigue sets in. It's like the famous wall in marathon running: you hit it just at the moment when you've already come so far, yet there's so much further left to go before we're done. (Or I imagine that would be the case, if I'd ever run further than a mile-and-a-half.)

If that time comes, and you feel you might retch if you're forced to converse about another Heston Blumenthal mince pie, turn your mind to matters horticultural. Outdoors, narcissi are already poking their green leaves above the ground, and indoors, amaryllises are heading towards a brilliant display. It's worth having a nose around your local garden centre, which by now will be selling off some bulbs cheaply. Many are really worth avoiding – tulips, for example – but sprouting Paperwhite narcissi are a better bet. If the price is right, get them straight home and into a bowl of water. Use little stones to keep the bulbs just above the water's surface – they shouldn't be getting soaked – and to angle the bulbs so growth isn't too wonky.

Narcissi, daffodils and hyacinths growing in pots outdoors are another real garden-centre bargain. Look out for crowded little parties in black plastic for best value, then either repackage at home into vintage tea cups and glass dishes or plant straight into outdoor containers and windowboxes. Crowd together for best effect: you will not be expecting these bulbs to flower again, so essentially you can take the mickey a bit. A hyacinth is just for Christmas, not for life.

Cheap "bargains" worth avoiding include, I regret, cut-price amaryllises. As a huge fan of these splendid luxurious flowers, I have tried growing them from every source, from Co-op to Jager (the posh Dutch flower company, not the posh ladies' outfitters). My problem with the cheaper amaryllises is not the bulbs themselves (though they will produce far fewer flowers than a big fat £12 bulb from Holland) but the supplied growing medium, which is likely to be a pop-up circle of peat. This doesn't anchor the bulb sufficiently and, heavy with flower, they will topple sideways while you're out, wrecking paintwork and soft furnishings with bright pollen on the way down. Spend more initially, provide adequate support, and don't leave any of them alone with your white sofa.

Finally, if you don't have some already, pick up some horticultural wire. Not the stuff covered in green plastic, but the heavy-duty galvanised kind (£5.99, Twisting this into a neat double or triple circle, you have the perfect base to compile your own Christmas wreath. Use ivy as a base, weaving long fronds around the framework; then add details, focusing them at three main positions on the garland, in a neat triangle.

And now I really do fancy one of those mince pies...

Three do-it-yourself seasonal decorations

1. The basic wreath

Slice oranges into neat roundels, drying on a baking tray in the oven at 100C/225F for an hour or two. Go for a fir-cone hunt in your local park, and on the way back buy cinnamon sticks. Now combine the lot.

2. The bird feeder

Buy Faringdon heart-shaped moulds (£7.34, Mix gelatine and boiling water till dissolved, then add three cups of birdseed. Pour into the mould, adding a ribbon to hang. Leave to set completely.

3. The minimal touch

Add white roses to your wreath for the plainest, simplest sense of seasonal joy: 22 Fairtrade roses from Marks & Spencer go for £25, including delivery.

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A luxury beauty house with a nu...

Recruitment Genius: Housekeepers - Immediate Start

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This company are currently recruiting new exp...

Recruitment Genius: Head Concierge

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Content, SEO and PPC Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral