Christmas flower gets a makeover



Tradition takes a holiday this season when it comes to the look of plain poinsettias.

Garden centers and florists wanting to separate themselves from the red, white and pink poinsettias discounted at stores such as Wal-Mart and Lowe's are featuring the plants in decorator colors -- everything from lavender and blue to orange and pink.

"People either hate or love them, there's no middle ground," says Devin Trippe, head grower at Anderson's Home & Garden Showplace in Newport News, Va. He's created a few of the novelty plants, using floral spray paint and silver or gold glitter to give them added sparkle. "We're going to do them as needed."

In Hampton, Va., McDonald Garden Center experimented with colorful poinsettias last year, selling about 1,000 of what they call the Fantasy Poinsettia. This year, greenhouse plant production supervisor Jill Roblee and her crew are transforming even more into a rainbow of colors.

"I like to say that Jill waves her magic wand and splashes the poinsettias with a kaleidoscope of colors and sprinkles of stardust," says Pat Overton, marketing director at the garden center.

Where the idea of designer poinsettias originated remains to be seen. Everyone takes credit.

Tal White, general manager at White's Nursery and Greenhouses, a wholesale grower in Chesapeake, Va., says his crews began playing around with the concept about four years ago. White's grows about 250,000 poinsettias a year, shipping them to places such as specialty food stores in Buffalo, N.Y.

At White's, it all started with a poinsettia called Plum Pudding. The plant's flower parts just weren't burgundy enough, so White sprayed them with a cranberry floral paint and added a little glitter. Customers loved them.

"We thought, 'Wow, this is something to work with,'" he says.

Today, White's designer poinsettias are marketed with names that describe their effects -- Ice Crystals, Jewel Tones and European Stained Glass, all done with floral sprays or sprayed-on stains and glitter. There's also one called Let It Snow, which looks like it's been dusted with the wonderful white stuff.

In the greenhouse, designer poinsettias require more attention and time than their plain-Jane counterparts. Armed with cans of spray adhesive and shaker cans of flake-style glitter, workers move among the rows, transforming 90 percent of the quarter million poinsettias into exotic examples of our cravings for things new and different.

You can also expect to pay a bit more for these fancy poinsettias -- like $20 or more.

And don't think Christmas is the last time you'll see decorator poinsettias. White's copper-colored poinsettia was popular at Thanksgiving, making him think about Easter egg colors for spring -- light yellow and pink poinsettias. In fact, he has 126 formulations to work with and is looking for more.

"It's the wildest thing," he says. "We've created a new product from an old product."

Protecting poinsettias

When transporting your poinsettia home, protect it from chilly winds and temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Give your plant indirect sunlight for about six hours daily and room temperatures between 68 and 70 degrees. Fahrenheit. Water your plant when the soil feels dry to the touch, but avoid letting it sit in water.

Kathy Van Mullekom writes for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.