A GARDENER’ DIARY: A symbol of the season

Poinsettia is the popular Christmas plant that originated in Mexico and is actually considered a woody shrub and not a flower

I had a phone call recently inquiring about hay bale gardening. I am not familiar with it. My only experience was growing potatoes in leaves and it was not very successful as my first experiment. But if you search “hay bale gardening” online, there is lots of information.

This is the end of the season for me. It happens at the right time as I am having problems with my computer, so a little break will be just fine. With Christmas just around the corner, everyone is busy and gardening is not a priority during the shortest days of the year.

Take care of your poinsettias and you can get them to bloom year after year. I have three at this time, which I got two years ago. I didn’t give them any special treatment and at the moment they are just fine. They are not as red as the ones from the stores but I have white bracts and red ones enough to make a splash of colour.

The following is taken from a small booklet, JH Floraprint and The John Henry Co.: Poinsettias have a fascinating history and tradition. They are actually woody shrubs native to Taxco, Mexico, where they grow wild outdoors to a height of 10 feet. The Aztec Indians of Mexico cultivated them and regarded them as a symbol of purity before Christianity came to the western hemisphere.

Franciscan priests settled near Taxco during the 17th century and began to use the flower in their nativity processions because of its appropriate holiday colour and blooming time.

Poinsettias were introduced into the United States in 1825 by the first United States ambassador to Mexico, Jel Robert Poinsett. He sent plants to his home greenhouses in Greenville, South Carolina. A nurseryman friend in Philadelphia began the first commercial propagation and sales from some of Poinsett’s plants.

The poinsettia industry was pioneered and developed by the Ecke family of California in the early part of the 1900s. During the mid-’50s, plant breeding research was started, which led to many of our current improved varieties. Today’s poinsettia is a free-branching hybrid plant with larger, longer-lasting bracts.

On a cold day, purchase the poinsettia at the end of the shopping trip and wrap the plant and pot in paper for the trip home. Even a slight chill can cause leaves to drop later on. Unwrap the plant as soon as you get home and place it in bright light away from cold and hot air drafts. Pierce the foil at the bottom of the pot for drainage. Water with lukewarm water if the soil is dry. Place your poinsettia in a sunny window or the brightest area of the room, but don’t let it touch cold windowpanes. The day temperature should be 18 to 24 C and night 16 to 18 C. Higher temperatures shorten bloom life and colder may cause root rot. Never let the plant wilt, but discard the drainage water. Poinsettias do not like “wet feet.”

I want to wish all of you a peaceful and merry Christmas and the best for the coming year. I will be back at the end of January.

For more information: 250-558-4556 or plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.

 

 

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