Vail Landscape Logic column: Plants are zero-calorie holiday delights | VailDaily.com

Vail Landscape Logic column: Plants are zero-calorie holiday delights

Becky Garber
Landscape Logic
Florist’s mum has flowers with brilliant color and blooms six to eight weeks. It is highly rated for removing chemical vapors.
Special to the Daily | Photodisc

It’s time to revisit fruitcakes and fudge. Fruitcakes are not friendly to gluten-intolerant folks. And fudge and other sweet treats aren’t friendly to anyone who wants to avoid adding pounds over the holiday season.

Plants, especially blooming ones that we can enjoy during the winter doldrums, boost our spirits. They have zero calories, most require little maintenance (other than occasional drinks of water), and they are practical. Besides sitting pretty, houseplants are one of the best combatants of indoor pollutants such as ammonia, formaldehyde and benzene. They clean the air in offices as well as in our homes, which makes them a universal gift, fit for any decor. Better still, there’s no assembly required!

Plants can be ordered online and shipped hassle-free to their destination or found in local garden centers, where you can personally match the plant to the person. However they are purchased, plants can also bring joy throughout the year as a Plant of the Month or delivered at less frequent intervals, such as around holidays and birthdays.

You can create themes with plants and containers that resonate with the recipient. Whimsical gardens with miniature furniture and other accessories are a fun project for children to plant and tend. They are also great for seniors in assisted-living buildings, where access to the outdoors may be limited. For once-upon-a-time gardeners, these containers rekindle a forgotten joy.

For foodie friends, consider a basket or pot of mixed herbs. Most garden centers will supply soil and let you pot the herbs when you purchase the container. If you miss having your own hands in the dirt, this gift also gives back to the giver.

As friendly as plants are, do take precautions if you are giving them to people with small children or pets. Poinsettias are a safe choice, and contrary to urban myth, the bracts of poinsettia leaves are not seriously toxic, making them among the safer plant choices to have around pets. If small children are around, verify the safety of each plant with the seller.

In homes where there are pets known to chew on plants, it may be best to avoid these holiday standards:

• Amaryllis plants are very toxic and the bulb more so.

• American holly has potentially toxic compounds that can cause gastrointestinal irritation.

• Mistletoe berries and leaves can cause mild gastritis, but the most serious threat to pets is the plastic berries often included in the package. They are the cause of many holiday vet visits when pets ingest the berries.

• Kalanchoe, a flowering succulent, is popular at the holidays because of its showy blooms. It, too, can cause gastrointestinal problems for pets.

Great choices for air-cleansing plants include:

• Gerbera daisies will bloom all winter when kept on a cool windowsill, and they are one of the best flowering plants to remove toxins from the air.

• Boston ferns are highly rated for removing indoor pollutants. It’s a good choice for someone who likes puttering with plants because it requires frequent misting and watering.

• A florist’s mum has flowers with brilliant color, and it blooms six to eight weeks. It is highly rated for removing chemical vapors.

If you are longing for gardening days gone by, stash the laptop and head over to the garden center to enjoy the fresh aroma — and get your hands into the soil. It’s good holiday therapy.

Becky Garber is a member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970-468-0340.