“The word ha-ha comes from an Anglo-Saxon word which I believe is spelt haugh, but anyway is pronounced how and means a ditch…. I thought it was a silly Victorian word and was given this explanation by an amateur archaeologist who was also my mother-in-law. She was extremely knowledgeable about ditches, embankments and fortifications which she kept an eye on for the Department of Ancient Monuments, so I guess she was right.”
Personal letter from a Waikato Times reader in response to my recent post about a ha-ha.
Garden Lore: The Christmas Poinsettia
Is there a container plant both more seasonal and disposable than the Christmas poinsettia? It is a Mexican euphorbia, Euphorbia pulcherrima, believe it or not, and the presentation of it as a colourful houseplant is through clever growing techniques. If you have ever tried planting one out in the garden after Christmas, you may have found that it soon became a somewhat leggy, scrubby plant without the brilliant colour and compact growth. It can reach maybe 4 metres in height and is a shrub.
The brilliant red appears in leaf bracts. The flower itself is an insignificant structure. It comes in other colours from white through green, orange and pink but the association with Christmas means that the reds are the most favoured. The growing requirements to get the leaf bracts to colour well are very specific and require a period of nights which are pitch black and days filled with bright light – about 12 hours of each, in fact. Given that this plant became associated with Christmas in the northern hemisphere a long time ago, the fact that we see so many plants offered for sale remarkably cheaply here in the southern hemisphere is because the crop is grown en masse in controlled conditions under cover. It is a uniformly high quality product, but it is also the most disposable of house plants. If you feel inclined to indulge in a spot of plant torture, they can apparently be turned into effective bonsais and if you are of a mind to do this, you will probably be inclined to attend to the darkness and light requirements as well.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted with their permission.