The greenhouse / garden center where I work got its poinsettia orders in on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Everybody had been talking about this for so long – all scary stuff, too, like you think this is bad, wait 'til the points1 get here, it'll take four or five of us an hour or two just to unload the truck – but the event itself, at least the first time, wasn't that terrible. On Tuesday, it did in fact take six people about an hour to unload roughly 600 plants, but so what, I thought. Usually when something takes me an hour, it's because it's a simple thing and nobody's helping; at least for this I have assistance. And setting them out on the tables wasn't bad either, because there were two other people helping me do that. So no big deal.
Wednesday, though, was different. On Wednesday, another 200 or so poinsettias came in, and I had next to no help at all. On the surface, this seems fair, since on Tuesday, there were three people distributing 600 plants on tables, and on Wednesday, it was one person doing 200 plants. 200 plants per person, either way. The difference is that on Wednesday, most of the table space was already spoken for, so in order to place the new 200, I had to first rearrange the 600, and so it took a hell of a long time and I didn't feel so hot in the first place.
But so anyway. I don't necessarily dislike poinsettias. I'd like them a lot better if they didn't bloom; the whole red-and-green thing strikes me as kind of gaudy, and it keeps you from noticing that the foliage is actually quite nice in its own right. Plus, in a few months, they're going to be everywhere, and I get tired of them. But it's not necessarily the fault of the plants that they've gotten associated with our biggest, most extravagant consumer holiday.
What I'm less thrilled about – and keep in mind that I've never tried to grow one personally, so I'm going according to what people tell me at work – is that they're kind of difficult plants. It's hard for me to separate what people are telling me we need to do in order to get them to bloom from what a person needs to do just to keep them alive, but so far, I've been told that: 1) they're whitefly magnets, 2) they're pissy about getting too hot or too cold, 3) they're sensitive to chemicals in the environment, 4) they can't stand being overwatered, 5) the leaves break off easily so you have to be careful about bumping into them, 6) they need enormous amounts of light, and 7) they need enormous amounts of fertilizer. Add in there the need for long nights in order to set buds, and we've got what looks like a greenhouse full of really demanding, touchy plants that have to be cared for really well, or else I'm the guy who ruined Christmas.
What's wrong with Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla), anyway?
Something to be grateful for: I haven't seen any indication yet that I'm going to be asked to spray-paint them, or coat them in glitter. It's not a moral issue; it doesn't make you a bad person if you sell them that way, or if you like them that way, but the idea makes me want to vomit all the same, so it's good if I don't have to.
Photo credit: Ewen and Donabel @ flickr.com
1(Garden center slang for "poinsettias," apparently.)