The Annual Poinsettia Debate


It’s January and there is snow on the ground (at long last!) here in wintry Wisconsin.

Which makes it plant season . . . for me, at least.

One, there is the debate to which I have alluded in this post’s title. Do I keep my poinsettia plants, trim off the red, stick ’em in a dark closet, and hope for a reprise come next year? Usually the answer is ‘yes’ followed by about 6-8 weeks of moving them around the kitchen to get them out of my way and then, eventually, giving up on them as leaves drop off and they start to look scraggly. (Perspective: My two plants this year together cost less than $5 – a.k.a. they’re little and not meant to really last. Case in point, I had purchased a trio in late November and that third one didn’t even last the week.)
I have settled for watering them and now have run away from this question to write this blog post.

Two, one of my favorite smells in all the world is that moist green-growing odor of soil and flora. And in the frozen world of a Wisconsin winter, during my undergraduate years I used to seek haven within the University Greenhouses at UW-Madison.

I’ve a number of sketch books that were moisture ruined in the D. C. Smith Greenhouse due to carelessness upon my part (read: not readying myself to leave quickly in the event that the watering system came on). But that, too, was part of the charm. My favorite time to go was when it reached -5°F or below outside. Then the glass of windows and ceiling would frost over, rendering the tropical haven into something of a private wonderland. I often was not the only student to come and spend upwards of half an hour just breathing in the vitality of the place.

(Pictured above- two pencil sketches, circa 2004, from the D. C. Smith Greenhouse.)

My other campus haven was the Botany Greenhouse which, while infinitely closer to my dorm and classes (we’re talking a 1-2 minute walk which, on that campus is quite a thing), had significantly more limited hours of accessibility.

Nowadays I am greenhouse-less. My world is one of coffee shops and biking paths, frozen-over creeks and libraries. A great world, yes. But lacking in that deeply concentrated misty wetness which seems to lend Life to they who breathe it in. I find that I miss it.

And so I guess I’ll keep my little struggling poinsettia plants a little longer this year. Again.

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