My Christmas Bush insists that the biblical scholars have got it all wrong. It says Jesus was born sometime in mid-November, not in late December. But my Christmas Bush is a strange little thing. Most of the other native Christmas Bushes here in my home state of New South Wales do their 'blooming' in December, when most other people agree Jesus was born. But not my ornery little bush. It's a non-conformist. It's a November flowerer.
Here it is this morning, just starting to colour up. Its formal name is Ceratopetalum gummiferum, which is why everyone calls it Christmas Bush, because it's easier and it is when this thing usually flowers. That blush of pinky colour belongs to the bracts around the flowers, which are white and tiny. In that sense it's like bougainvilleas, in that it's not the flowers which put on the colour show, it's the bracts around the flowers.
Maybe the reason my Christmas Bush's timing is all out of whack is that it's growing in a pot, not in the ground. Could be. But it has long been one of my 'hospital patient' plants, a struggler for its first few years and misshapen now in its adulthood. Pam has been nagging me to get rid of it and buy a nicer shaped plant for years, and I always agree and then do nothing about it. So it's hardly a handsome plant but it's my patient and I love it when it flowers. And this year's dense covering of tiny white blooms promises that in about a month from now it will be a glorious red-coloured thing. (Perhaps mine celebrates the Russian Revolution of November 1917 and is actually a Communist Athiest plant? That could explain a lot...)
The pinky tinge that is dotting itself here and there all over the plant gets redder and redder as the weeks go by.
As well as being a native Australian plant, it's also a local from here on the New South Wales coast, where I live, so it's no wonder it likes it here. I love this transitional, colouring-up phase the most, to tell the truth. When it's in its colourful Christmas/Communist red glory it has lost the delicacy it possesses right now.
Speaking of colourful glory, this is a shot from last year, to give you an idea of the colour that the bracts develop into. This isn't 'full bloom' either – with all those white flowers still waiting to redden up, it's only half-done at this stage.
In December the florist's shops are full of Christmas bush sold in billowy bunches to be popped into vases for a brief few weeks around Christmas. And then the show is over until same time next year. Pam is one of our local florist shop's best customers, and she always comes home with armfuls of Christmas bush. While it looks wonderful it's not the greatest cut flower, as it doesn't last all that long, so I'm content with my revolutionary dissenter's season of glory, which lasts about five or six weeks, from these pink-blush beginnings in late October until its decline at the start of December, the time when all the true-believer capitalist market Christmas bushes are just getting into their stride.