Irene Virag's Garden Party

I'm Irene Virag -- a writer, a gardener, a cancer survivor. I think ideas are like plants. They need nurturing to grow. And gardeners share both. So welcome to my blog. It’s all about what’s happening in my garden and beyond.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Paris Hilton Poinsettias?

Today is National Poinsettia Day. I wonder what Joel Roberts Poinsett would make of what’s happened to the tall, weedy red shrub he spotted growing wild in Taxco, Mexico in December of 1828. I remember being in Taxco more than a few years ago and all I saw were jewelry shops.

Never mind that Poinsett was a skilled politician and the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. Never mind that he would go on to be a secretary of war and a founder of a museum that would become the Smithsonian Institution. Poinsett was an amateur horticulturist, so he did what any gardener would do – he stopped to snip a cutting. He sent it to his plantation in South Carolina and a year later the fiery plant was a blazing success at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s exposition. The rest, as they say, is history.

Poinsett died on Dec. 12, 1951 and Congress later decided to honor him and the plant he discovered with their very own day.

A lot has happened to poinsettias since then. But I’m not talking about all the work hybridizers have been doing – concocting dozens of shades of red or introducing pink and white and lemon and apricot and marbled cultivars. Or creating variegated foliage and tweaking the shape of the leaves and making bigger bracts – that’s what the colorful “petals” are called – and ruffled bracts and crinkled bracts. Forget all that.

Today, I’m talking about the gussied-up poinsettia impersonators I saw at Hicks Nurseries here on Long Island. Poinsettias with bracts of blue and purple and orange and yellow – and even weirdly mottled ones. Poinsettias that shine and shimmer with silver and gold and pink glitter. Poinsettias that have been dyed and sprayed and shined like a Las Vegas showgirl. There’s even one that’s been dolled up with iridescent pink glitter. Walt Dworkin in the Hicks greenhouse department nicknamed it the Paris Hilton Poinsettia. Guess what? Customers snapped it up like paparazzi going after the real Paris Hilton, who – come to think of it – is no slouch herself when it comes to glam and glitter.

I should mention that the spray-on dyes and glue are specially formulated by Fred C. Gloeckner, a commercial horticultural supplier in upstate New York, so the plants can still breathe. How thoughtful.

So give yourself – or someone you love – a poinsettia today. As for me, I’m sticking with red. Hey, I don’t wear makeup – why should my poinsettias?

Let me know what you think of the floral floozies that seem to be this season’s rage.


Anonymous beth said...

I'm with you about sticking with red pointsettias!

12/17/2006 5:51 AM  

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