Sunday, November 27, 2016

Poinsettia Panic

One hundred and seventy three already. That’s how many poinsettias I’ve encountered so far this Christmas season. I have my rules — these have to be live poinsettias and not in a store or greenhouse, unless the store is displaying the plant as part of a seasonal display.

This all started because of my aversion to poinsettias; it was getting worse each year. Don’t believe me? — read previous columns where I’ve complained about the boring ubiquity of these plants, the sheer numbers, the environmental impact of all that wasted potting soil, the energy required to grow and transport them, and don’t even mention the plastic pots that end up at the dump. Grocery stores charging five cents for a plastic bag? I think they missed a huge opportunity here. I say supply your own pot.

Trouble was, I was beginning to be perceived as a Christmas Scrooge, a real grouch bent on spoiling the pleasure of others. I tried not to, but whereas I used to only frown and grumble, I was beginning to openly sneer at these — ahem — plants. Oops, there I go again. I’m sorry. I am trying. Hey, at least I call it the Christmas season and not “holiday” season.

Anyway, the answer was counselling sessions, where I came to realize that unless I was to become completely ostracized by society I would have to learn to like poinsettias. Clearly they’re not going to go away. It was suggested I turn it into a game or challenge and it’s helped considerably. I can now smile when I see a poinsettia, knowing that I’m further along on my quest to set a personal record.

It’s such fun, and it makes Christmas shopping much more pleasurable. I now enter stores full of hope that there’ll be a poinsettia on display — there always is. Naturally, my face lights up immediately, which has the effect of cheering up the frazzled sales assistant, thereby resulting in especially good service.

When I attend a Christmas function, I no longer get annoyed when a whacking great green and red object has been plonked in the middle of the table, completely obscuring my dinner partner, causing us to bob and weave like a couple of boxers as we try to have a conversation. Now I can hardly contain my enthusiasm. I even leave my table and explore the room, anxious to ensure I count them all.

I appear to be the most gregarious, happy person present as I visit other tables, smiling and chatting, saying things like lovely, great, or terrific, even though under my breath, I’m counting away. My obvious enthusiasm then gets me into numerous conversations about how to care for poinsettias.

Here’s what I say: First remove the foil from around the pot or poke holes in the bottom otherwise excess water will rot the roots. Locate in a sunny window, but not against the glass. Maintain at a daytime temperature of 18 to 21C and if possible, move to a cooler place at night, but no cooler than 15C to avoid root rot. Avoid exposure to hot or cold drafts as these can cause premature leaf drop. Water well when the surface is dry to the touch. Finally, poinsettia is not poisonous, but I wouldn’t eat it. 175, 176,177 . . .