Christmas trees are raised to leave the farm

By Times Staff, Wires
Published December 15, 2007

Ardent conservationist Teddy Roosevelt, the 26th president (1901-09), refused to permit a tree in the White House for environmental reasons. But once he learned that Christmas trees are commercially grown (no virgin forests are destroyed to make your tree possible), he relented. Today 98 percent of Christmas trees are farmed.


From south of the border to all over

In 1828 Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, took cuttings from a brilliant-red roadside flower there back to his greenhouse in South Carolina. The plant was known then as Euphorbia pulcherrima, meaning "very beautiful." As the plant grew in popularity, historian and horticulturist William Prescott was asked to give it a new name. He had just finished writing The Conquest of Mexico, in which he acknowledged Poinsett's contribution to the spread of the plant beyond Mexico, and named it in his honor. The rest of the story is all around you this time of year.


Make poinsettias feel right at home

Now that you know where poinsettias came from, here's how to keep them happy through the holidays: Remove the cellophane and foil wrapping they came in, or at least poke a hole in the bottom so the plant can drain. Keep soil slightly moist but not soggy. Set the plant in a bright window out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat such as a television or fireplace.


A bit of extra care for your camellias

Do you grow camellias? Now's the time to head off petal blight and bud blast. Advice from the Pinellas extension service: Clear off old mulch and any debris under the plants. Spray with a fungicide labeled for use on camellias. Lay down a fresh supply of mulch, being careful to add only about two inches. When flowers start to open, pick off any that look diseased. Don't allow old flowers to fall to the ground. Keep them picked as soon as they fade.


Winter doesn't end gardening chores

As we await chilly winter weather (any day now, really!), gardeners ask whether cold will stop insect pests. Month-by-Month Gardening in Florida has this response: Nope, it just slows them down. So keep an eye out. Also take a good look at your container plants during this time of short days. The sun is lower in the sky, and plants that got full sun in summer may be in shade now, or vice versa. Move them around to give them the sun they need.