We visited Homestead Garden Center today to pick out one of their beautiful Christmas trees for our own. We love the freshness of these trees. They are picked on a farm in the mountains and brought here early in the season, and then kept in water until sold. Each tree has its own little dish of water.
Although there are only a few trees left, they are all beautifully grown. The small table top trees are especially nice.
Wreath making is underway in the workshop and greenhouse, each a beautiful combination of evergreens and decorated with cones, fruit, and berries.
Poinsettias fill the shop. There are so many hybrids now it is hard to choose which one to bring home. Whether you love the creamy white ones, or prefer red, pink, spotted, or marbled; they are all healthy and ready to go home and bloom for the next month or so.
Poinsettias are members of the Euphorbia family, native to Mexico and Central America. Poinsettias were introduced to the United States in 1825 by our first Minster to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. In their native Mexico these plants grow as shrubs or small trees. Some of the leaves, known as “bracts”, begin to turn red, orange, white, pale green, or pink when the days grow shorter. They need several weeks of nights 12 hours or longer to change colors. The actual flowers are actually tiny and yellow, located in the center of each bunch of colored bracts.
Poinsettias enjoy bright sunshine during the day, warm temperatures, and a steady supply of moisture. They can live outside during most of the year, but are brought in to protect them from frost, which will kill them.
The poinsettia industry in the United States dates to 1900 when the Ecke family began raising poinsettias on their dairy farm near Los Angeles. The family began selling them from street stands around LA, later developing a special growing technique to produce color on every single branch of their bushy, compact plants. They were the only growers in the nation with the secret for growing florist quality poinsettias, until the 1990s when a university researcher discovered their technique and published it. Poinsettias are now grown all over the United States. They are also popular in Turkey, Egypt, Central and South America, Australia, and Malta.
If you want to keep your poinsettia after the holidays, make sure to keep it watered and in bright light until the weather settles in spring. Poinsettias prefer morning light. Prune the plant after the holidays to remove all of the colored leaves and tiny yellow flowers. Keep the plant fed and watered all summer, protected from afternoon sun, and watch it grow into a small shrub. It will probably need a new, larger pot in early summer. Poinsettias enjoy moisture, but must never sit in water. They require good drainage.
Bring the plant indoors before first frost to an area where it will remain in darkness for at least 12 hours each night. Soon, the leaf bracts will begin to turn bright colors again and you can enjoy it for another holiday season.
A whole new palette of plants comes available in December for those of us who love to keep flowering plants indoor during the winter. Cyclamen are in their prime now, as they enjoy cool indoor temperatures. They grow best near windows where they enjoy the bright winter sunshine and cooler air. Christmas cactus are in bloom now as well. And the first perennials of spring, little Primulas, have shown up for sale at Homestead. The gardening year rolls on and on, with something beautiful close at hand to greet each new day.
All Photos by Woodland Gnome 2013