Love 'em, of course
Christmas music has been playing in stores — since Halloween — lights are flashing, and the usual onslaught of ads for gifts are everywhere. Despite being a Scrooge, I feel I should get into the spirit of Christmas and offer advice on keeping that ubiquitous red and green plant alive, but you’ve probably read it countless times. I know, because I’ve covered it lots myself over the years.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy everything else about Christmas. The joy, the goodwill to all, and especially my mother-in-law’s mince pies, but I just can’t bring myself to embrace the poinsettia.
They’re on display in every home, office, and store in the city. They’re on the counter at the bank. Eat at a restaurant and there’ll be one as a centrepiece, complete with fungus gnats. They flourish in waiting rooms everywhere, including muffler repair shops, a place that can wipe out any hope of a joyful Christmas as fast as it takes to say I’ve lost my warranty.
A most annoying location is at an office party where there’s always one plunked in the middle of the table blocking the view of the opposite person. Everyone then has to keep bobbing from side as they try to make small talk about poinsettias or what happened in accounting.
My aversion to poinsettias started years ago and it was getting worse each year. Don’t believe me? — read earlier columns where I’ve complained about the boring ubiquity of these plants. One of my proudest moments was when I was quoted in the Wall Street Journal (true) as someone with an opposing opinion in an article glorifying the plant’s qualities.
That bit of negative exposure sure ruled out any thought of Christmas shopping trips to Buffalo. I had visions of wanted posters at the border with me holding a poinsettia in one hand and a can of Roundup in the other.
It’s been the same every year, except for a couple of Christmases when it eased off. I think it was when I succumbed and bought a couple to help a local charity, something to do with Christmas spirit, I was told.
I wasn’t feeling too bad this year and just for fun, I began counting how many I’ve seen already. 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.
After a hundred and forty-seven, I gave up. It wasn’t much fun after all. And then my dismay at the sight of so many poinsettias got to me. I could feel any spark of Christmas spirit leaving my body. I’m not sure if it was the spirit of Christmas past, present. or future but it left.
I had to get it back, so I decided to try to recover it by way of aversion therapy. I visited a local greenhouse that grows poinsettias by the thousands and I forced myself to walk up and down the aisles among them, and strangely, I began to feel better.
Was the Christmas spirit seeping out of all plants and into me? Then I got a boost from all the other plants available at this time of year: wreaths and garlands of course, colourful kalanchoes, beautiful cyclamen with their satinlike flowers, and more displays of cacti and cute succulents. I bought a few for gifts and felt so much better.
Really, gardener or not, December is a wonderful time to visit a warm greenhouse. It will restore any missing Christmas spirit, and you can always take home a beautiful poinsettia — if you must (I guess I’m not totally cured).
David Hobson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. View his images @root46 on Instagram. To chat with local gardeners, and share tips and photos, see Grand Gardeners on Facebook at facebook.com/groups/Grandgardeners/.
ARTS & LIFE
Toronto Star Newspapers Limited