Every year, the University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners grow pointsettias. They sell them in December, and the proceeds help fund their programs. The growers ship them free plugs, in return for which they carefully monitor each cultivar and supply the growers with detailed reports once the sale is over. It’s a plant trial, and an educational experience that most Master Gardeners enjoy. Many of the 65 varieties they grow are quite unusual and exotic.
Crews have been tending the “points” for several weeks already, and it is a bit strange to be growing something so Christmasy in the summer. Even the names of the cultivars are wintry: “Polar Bear” and “Jingle.” Armed with light clothing and lots of drinking water, groups of Master Gardeners go to the greenhouse seven days a week. They water, they fluff the soil, they fertilize, they give calcium, they check for pests, they measure and document how each cultivar is growing – in other words they coddle the heck out of them until early December, when the crowds finally come to take them away.
The plants were pinched a few weeks ago – a necessary step unless you want just one scrawny colored bract per plant. They are nice and bushy now, and the parasitic wasps are working tirelessly (and selflessly) to control the fungus gnats. I’ll file another dispatch from the greenhouse when they’re a little farther along. In the meantime, the photo below shows how they looked last year, just before the big sale.