Christmas Season-Holiday Celebrations and Traditions!

Thanksgiving the holiday is over for another year although life is best when we have a heart and attitude of Thanksgiving year round.  Now our attention has shifted to the Christmas Season.  Many have already engaged in Black Friday Christmas shopping, hanging and touring Christmas light displays and the start of holiday celebrations and gathering.  The weather has been so moderate that it works well for hanging wreaths, greens and Christmas lights.  We may have the best Christmas light displays across our neighborhoods in years since the weather has been so cooperative.  This is also a great time to plant the tulip and daffodil bulbs you have already purchased and that are still in your shopping bag.  Better yet, go buy some spring flowering bulbs and get them planted so you can enjoy a great flower show to announce the arrival of spring next March and April.  Buy a few pre-cooled bulbs and force some hyacinths, tulips, daffodils or paperwhites to enjoy indoors before spring arrives. This is also a great time to plant trees and shrubs to landscape your yard.  They will need some watering when we face dry stretches of time, like right now.  Trees planted now will still start to root in at their new home and will be a little better prepared for the heat of summer. 

There are many great gifts for gardeners from plants to tools, books and memberships, gift certificates and even offering to work together to create a new flowerbed or to help with pruning.  Few holidays have their own plant but Easter has the Easter lily and Christmas has the poinsettia.  The poinsettia is a relatively recent tradition as it was only introduced in the United States in the early 1830’s.  Joel Poinsett of Charleston, South Carolina had a colorful career traveling Europe, Russia, Chile and Argentina, was elected to the South Carolina State House of Representatives, then Congress.  He resigned Congress in 1825 to become our first Ambassador to the newly independent country of Mexico.  During his time in Mexico, working to assist them adopt a constitution and dealing with defining the United States – Mexico boundary he discovered the native Flor de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve Flower near Taxco de Alarcon, South of Mexico City.  Poinsett was an accomplished amateur botanist and sent starts back to his plantation in South Carolina and other plant geek friends in our young country.  By 1836 the plant was widely known as the Poinsettia, in his honor, and has grown in popularity over the decades.  It is widely grown as an outdoor bedding plant in Australia and New Zealand but in America we think of it as the Christmas flower and grow them in containers to flower from Thanksgiving past Christmas.  Poinsettias bloom with short days so their flowering can be timed based on day length.  When I was a youngster the varieties all grew several feet tall before flowering and the bracts were often only colored and pretty for a few weeks.  Growers would try to have them ready by mid December and they were showy to New Year’s Day or a little later.  As a result of breeding and selection we now have shorter varieties that work great for table centerpieces and other decorations.  The modern varieties are often colored up by Thanksgiving and with a little attention to light and watering will often stay colorful into March and April of the following year.  Adventurous gardeners can enjoy them outside on the patio or porch next spring and summer and then expose them to short days next fall to rebloom their poinsettia for another year.  The flower is actually a small yellow boat shaped flower that sits above the bracts or colored leaves that most folks think of as the poinsettia flower.  The true flowers are not very spectacular but the colored bracts can be stunning in their traditional red, the many tones of pink, orange, white or marble tones.  Get yourself in the Christmas spirit by selecting several poinsettias to decorate your home along with your Christmas tree, wreaths and greens.  There are a number of other plants that do well inside to decorate for the holidays including amaryllis, cyclamen, cineraria and calceolaria so select the flowers you enjoy to liven up your home and have a happy and blessed Christmas Season.

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