Hippeastrum or amaryllis, as it is known – is a remarkable bulb, with 60cm tall, fleshy drainpipe stems and flamboyant trumpet flowers up to 20cm across. Bulbs of ‘Red Lion’ (deep scarlet flowers), ‘Apple Blossom’ (white flowers with pink edges to the petals) and ‘Christmas Gift’ (plain white) are available from supermarkets or garden centres. They make a brilliant DIY present: you give the bulb (and preferably a large pot and some compost in which to plant it) and leave the recipient to watch it grow and flower.
Citrus bushes make tremendous Christmas gifts. They are often sold with both flower and developing fruit and are deliciously scented. You often see the lemon varieties ‘Meyer’ and ‘Four Seasons’, but calamondin oranges are also ideal. Make sure your plant is kept in a light, frost-free place over the winter (minimum night temperature 5C), then put the pot outside for the summer.
Cyclamen persicum is a highly decorative plant, with flowers in colours ranging from white to pink to red. Getting it to flower again is difficult, but it can be done. Keep it in full light in winter, at a steady 13C-16C. Give it a liquid feed fortnightly while it is in flower. Water less as the stems start to bend and collapse, then keep it completely dry for three months when it is dormant. Gently introduce water again as the new leaves appear.