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Christmas in summertime: Poinsettias arrive at Bellingrath

Poinsettias1By Dr. Bill Barrick, Executive Director

It’s hard to believe, but Christmas at Bellingrath Gardens and Home begins in July and August, when we receive our rooted poinsettia cuttings from our supplier to be grown in our greenhouses.  Each year, our gardeners grow more than 3,000 pots of poinsettias in the traditional colors of red, white and pink, along with variegated versions and several of the newest varieties for use in trials.

Newly-arrived poinsettia cuttings.

The process begins with 3-inch rooted cuttings, and they are grown in a variety of ways.  Perhaps the most exciting way of growing this holiday crop is as “standards,” which are much taller than the traditional plants.

Standards: Poinsettias cultivated to grow several feet tall.

Most poinsettias are grown as pinched plants to encourage branching, but a standard is grown without pinching to produce a larger plant with colorful bracts that are huge by comparison.

The flowers on poinsettias are quite small, and actually what most people regard as flowers are leaves, or bracts, that color up in response to the length of the day. As our days become shorter in November, these leaves change color from green to a myriad of colors based on their variety.

To have colorful poinsettias, “it’s all about scheduling and timing,” said Chuck Owens, Bellingrath’ s Director of Horticulture. It is important to follow a good growing schedule in addition to meticulous growing techniques, he said.

Poinsettias - Conservatory
It takes about 250 plants to create our poinsettia tree in the Conservatory.

During the holidays, our guests will see gorgeous blooms at every turn – in the Bellingrath Home; in two towering poinsettias trees featured in the Conservatory and Magnolia Café; and in outdoor beds, depending on the weather.

These brilliantly colored holiday plants we enjoy in December represent a dramatic transformation from the tiny green cuttings of summer.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. As an enthusiast gardener at Bellingrath, I am so proud to be a tiny part of this place. Even in the oppressive heat of summer it is still fabulous! Many times visitors have commented to me on the work and sweat it must require to be a full-time gardener, and I always reply, “Yeah, but just LOOK at where I get to do it!”
    “Miss Ann”

  2. I’m proud to be associated with all of you. Thank you for your expertise and dedication in designing and maintaining one of the most beautiful gardens in America.

  3. Miss Ann, I just saw you on Absolutely Alabama and think you are a hoot! What a joy it would be to work with someone with such a love for her work and a delightful sense of humor. God bless you in your endeavors.

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