– Yoko Ono
The blooms really began to show last week.
I guess it’s always like that. You watch a plant or shrub over gloomy winter months and begin to think it might be dead, and then, there they are. Little by little, until suddenly ... BOOM!
But I’m not talking azaleas, or daffodils or any other spring sprouts. I am talking poinsettias. And this is the story of that.
Sometime after Thanksgiving 2011, The Chronicle newsroom was tastefully decorated with the deep red and green poinsettias, a plant that gets its name from a long-dead South Carolinian who found them in Mexico.
We get some every year, but they don’t last.
Usually after New Year’s first week, they begin to dry up and fade and someone respectfully assigns these ghosts of Christmas Just Past to the dust-bin of holiday history.
But I liked them. I thought they were pretty and in a season when nothing else was blooming they were certainly carrying their share of the load.
I decided to save them. How hard could it be? You water them, you give them sunlight. You remove any dead leaves. You rotate them occasionally.
I found a spot in a back second floor hallway near a big window, put a sign up requesting understanding, then began my role as poinsettia farmer.
I watered them, I trimmed them. I rotated them. I did not talk to them, although some recommended it.
“Poinsettias come from Mexico,” I pointed out. “My Spanish is not that good.”
Despite this silent treatment, they thrived. Eventually they grew green and bushy during a summer of newsroom nurturing.
Then somewhere in September or October someone revealed something I didn’t know about poinsettias.
“You know,” she said, “you’ve got to cover them several hours a day if you want those red leaves by Christmas.”
This was a surprise.
It never occurred to me that they just didn’t turn like maples in October.
I called a couple of plant guys and read some stuff on the Internet, and found both amazingly short of specifics of making poinsettia leaves turn red. The 12 hours of darkness seemed to be some sort of trick, I reasoned, where you deceived the plant into thinking it has somehow rushed though winter and now it was spring and time to bloom.
So I cut the top off a very large cardboard box and every night before I went home, I would drop by my poinsettia farm and cover them.
November, however, turned to December, and my plants did not have a hint of scarlet. Just green.
Well, green’s a good color, too. So I took them home and put them in a back room near a window and watered them and rotated them and watched them, because now they had become a habit.
What do you know? As 2013’s third month marched in, the red leaves began to bloom. Not big and broad like those you might see in a florist shop, but a brilliant, rich scarlet, nonetheless.
It’s a beautiful color. They are beautiful plants.
Better late than never.
“Bienvenido de nuevo a mis amigos”