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Colorful companions rev up holiday decor

Many gardeners have no doubt heard of "pansy pals," but this holiday season, you may want to consider "poinsettia partners." Poinsettias are already sold with decorative ribbons, foil liners and greenery for an extra special touch, so why not consider floral partners?

Diamond Frost euphorbia, a poinsettia relative, got all of this started a few years ago. Diamond Frost is a tough and persevering garden plant, and it has turned out to be the perfect complement to poinsettias of any color. When you think about the cheerful red bracts of the poinsettia sitting on top of hundreds of tiny white flowers resembling snow, then you'll understand why the Diamond Frost partnership makes a lot of sense.

Here is where the real fun starts - Diamond Frost isn't the only euphorbia on the market anymore. A new series called Breathless is making its debut, and it, too, will be fiercely tough in summer's heat. People are talking about Breathless Blush, which shows off strong hints of burgundy in both leaf and flower. This makes it an ideal partner for maroon poinsettias like Cortez Burgundy and Prestige Maroon, and even the coral pink Maren.

But florists, floral designers and do-it-yourselfers have a lot more choices than just euphorbia, and many have started thinking outside the box. If you like white as a partner, then consider potted chrysanthemums. The mums create a sizzling combination that will look good for the entire season. As you consider your options, remember you are simply creating indoor dazzle for a few weeks. These aren't perennial companions for the garden.

Give ample consideration to using other Christmas plants as partners. White kalanchoes, with their distinctive, succulent-looking leaves, can provide all the contrast you need. But one of the showiest partnerships comes from combining the poinsettia with cyclamen. Cyclamen comes in several shades of red, pink, white, purple and extraordinarily beautiful variegated foliage.

Here is an example of thinking outside the box. Cyclamen like it cool, and poinsettias like it warm. Go ahead and combine them, remembering that you aren't going to be a greenhouse grower but a floral interior designer. You only want to create a show until a day or so after Christmas. This partnership will work for the period of time you need.

Follow the recipe of thriller, spiller and filler for your Christmas containers. Use ivy for a spiller, asparagus fern for filler and add a white orchid to arch outward from your poinsettia. You will surprise your guests with what you have created.

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