Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Where Have All the Poinsettias Gone?

Apologies to Pete Seeger, this seemed an appropriate title for today’s blog. My daily desk calendar, which this year was from the New Yorker, has a fact of some sort on the back. Today’s was that the Poinsettia was introduced into the United States in 1828 by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett. Go figure!

One of my favorite episodes of Friends is where Chandler has tickets to a Yankee game and is trying to get Joey to go with him. Joey, clueless as to baseball is eventually interested because Chandlers brings out the Yankee history including the moment when Lou Gehrig makes his farewell speech. “Why was he leaving?” “He had Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Lou Gehrig had Lou Gehrig’s Disease? What are the odds?”

Poinsett brought us Poinsettias? Actually the flower was a tradition in Mexico related to Christmas since the mid-1600s, and in Spain before that. A few years ago I read a story in the LA Times that talked about what happened to the tradition in the U.S. It was slow to grow until a German immigrant, who settled in LA began selling the plant from stands in the mid-1950s. His son, also interested in the plant, experimented with grafting procedures which resulted in a superior, more attractive plant. Soon the Ecke family had a virtual monopoly on the plant throughout the United States. A third generation son had a flair for marketing and provided free plants to television stations from Thanksgiving to Christmas as backdrops for their news programs. He also finagled his way on to the Carson Show and Bob Hope’s Christmas specials, which were both very hot at the time.

All things must end, they say, and the secret grafting procedure was eventually made public in the 1990s. Now a commodity, they are ubiquitous and cheap. This year as in years past, I bought four for our window ledge, one for our steps and one as a hanging plant on my deck. I used to plant them and surprisingly they would last through the year and even bloom the next year. But now my deck has too many herbs so they get recycled as green waste.

I would be interested if any of you follow this seasonal tradition and what you do with the Poinsettias after the New Year’s parties?

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