Friday, 23 December 2011

Drunken paperwhites & repeat poinsettias

In the past, when I've grown paperwhites, I've had two main problems.  I can't predict how long they are going to take to bloom, so I either have them a week before I need them, or a fortnight after.  The other problem I always used to face is that they grow very quickly, and reach dizzying heights, only to crash and flop mid-bloom.
I've solved both problems this year, and have nice short, strong stems which are poised to bloom, right on cue on Christmas weekend.   To manage time to bloom, I was able to take advantage of the fact that my uninsulated mudroom is just above freezing this year due to our warmer than normal December, so I popped them out there for a few days to slow down their growth, which has meant they are bursting forth on the eve of Christmas eve.  I couldn't have planned it better if I had tried!  The problem of over extended floppy growth was easily resolved by giving them a nice hearty cocktail at regular intervals!  It turns out that watering them with a dilute alcoholic solution stunts their growth just enough to stop them flopping, but without putting too much stress on them to impede blooming.  See here for further details, and raise a glass of good cheer!

My other horticultural experiment for Christmas involved trying to get last year's poinsettias to rebloom.  I have to say, this was a case where neglect was actually a benefit.  One is supposed to rigidly apply a shortened cycle of light-dark, to stimulate winter light conditions, ahead of when that cycle might actually be in play.  This tricks the plant into thinking it has passed the dead of winter and it starts it's spring blooming cycle just in time for Christmas (and yes, I know they are coloured bracts).  I accomplished the task easily enough by locking the plants away in an armoire for about 6 weeks, without any light at all, or any water, during all of October and half of November, whilst I was out of the house due to the renovations.  When I finally remembered about them, they were a little sorry, but still alive, and some judicious watering, feeding and a return to natural daylight served them well.  I now have 2 reasonably well blooming plants in time for Christmas.  I have to say, whilst I'm excited to have made the plants rebloom, I think for the sake of $5, I'll buy nice, new, bushy and highly coloured plants next year, from the garden centre!!
PS - anyone who thinks poinsettias are passé and that I have bad taste needs to lighten up.  It's the time of year for excesses, and we should revel in them.

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