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Our Kiwi Christmas tree

Courtesy of Yates.

The festive season heralds the vibrant colour of pohutukawa, the ‘New Zealand Christmas tree’. Its stunning red flowers are a feature of our coastline in mid-summer and are a rich source of nectar for bees and native birds.

Pohutukawa (Metrosideros excelsea) can be started from seed and will eventually grow to around 5–8 metres tall when mature. There are also new dwarf varieties that grow to a much more compact 1–3 metres and can be planted into containers or grown as a dense hedge. They're hardy plants, tolerating dry, coastal and full-sun conditions.

Native plants like pohutukawa will benefit from being fed each spring and autumn with Yates Dynamic Lifter Organic Plant Food. It's a pelletised blend of composted chicken manure, blood and bone, fishmeal and seaweed, and releases organic nutrients slowly to gently feed plants.

Regular applications of this plant food will help to improve the levels of organic matter in the soil, which encourages earthworms and beneficial soil microorganisms as well as promoting improved soil moisture and nutrient storage.

After the floral frenzy of spring, it's fantastic to be able to include summer flowering plants like pohutukawa in your garden, to help ensure an ongoing supply of food for birds, bees and other beneficial insects.

Christmas palettes

Whether your Christmas colour theme is purest snowy white, sparkly silver and purple or traditional green, gold and red, you can co-ordinate your decorations with some gorgeous pots of flowers to brighten up your Christmas dinner table or outdoor entertainment area. A bonus is that your floral creation can last for months.

Here's some inspiration:

• Crisp white lobelias, alyssum and geraniums combined with trailing Dichondra ‘Silver Falls'.

• Hanging baskets filled with vibrant red calibrachoas and cascading white lobelia.

• A planter bowl with a showy red geranium in the centre surrounded by a halo of white alyssum.

• Purple and white petunias and grey- leafed cineraria ‘Silver Dust' planted together in a decorative trough.

• A bright red, soft pink or snowy white poinsettia in a matching pretty pot.

• For sheltered and shady spots, a combination of eye-catching red and white impatiens.

• Festive touches — before guests arrive you can add some final pizzazz to the pots such as ribbons, baubles, sprigs of holly and tinsel or even magical fairy lights.

— Courtesy of Yates

Pohutukawa are hardy plants, tolerating dry, coastal and full-sun conditions.
Pohutukawa are a magnificent sight on the East Coast and throughout New Zealand in summer. File picture