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Ask SAM: The choosing and care of poinsettias

Ask SAM: The choosing and care of poinsettias

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Q: How do you choose and care for a poinsettia?

B.G.

Answer: From N.C. State University Cooperative Extension:

When choosing poinsettias, look for plants with dark green leaves from top to bottom. Plants with yellowing lower leaves will not last as long as plants with green lower leaves.

Poinsettia bracts, the large, colorful, showy leaves which resemble flower petals, should be brightly colored and not torn or ratty.

Poinsettias will be damaged if exposed to temperatures below 50 degrees. To keep poinsettias looking good throughout the holiday season, keep them between 55 and 75 degrees. Plants should be placed away from drafts, in an area with bright sunlight.

Allow the potting mix in which poinsettias are grown to dry out before watering. Remember, they’re native to Central America, where rainfall is low. Water plants when the potting mix is dry to the touch or when the pot feels lightweight. Often, poinsettia pots come wrapped in a decorative foil, which should be removed or have holes poked in it so that excess water can drain from the pot. If you choose to poke holes in the foil, a saucer can be used to collect drainage water.

Poinsettias that are sold have enough nutrients to last them through the holidays, so they don’t need to be fertilized if you’re only using it for the season. The plants can be composted when they start losing their luster or they can be treated as perennials and encouraged to re-bloom for the following holiday season.

Like other plants in the Spurge family, poinsettias produce a milky sap, which discourages plant-eating animals. This sap is produced in all areas of the plant and can irritate sensitive skin.

Q: In what Christmas story did Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appear?

R.R.

Answer: Rudolph's first appearance was in a children's booklet in 1939. He then went on to appear in a cartoon short in 1947 and was adapted into a song in 1949. The song has been performed by Gene Autry, Dean Martin, Spike Jones and Alvin and the Chipmunks. The animated TV special, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," was first shown in 1964 and is repeated annually.

Rudolph was a department store creation. Executives at Montgomery Ward wanted their own Christmas storybook for children who visited Santa Claus in stores. Robert L. May, a 34-year-old copywriter at Montgomery Ward, wrote a poem about a reindeer who led the pack. May tested versions of the poem on his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara. She helped him come up with the name Rudolph after he had first considered such names as "Rollo" and "Reginald."

Company executives at first weren't completely happy with the Rudolph story. The executives were worried that a red-nosed reindeer might make people think he was drunk. However, a company artist created adorable illustrations of a sober and cute reindeer, and everyone approved.

From 1939 to 1946, more than 6 million of the booklets were printed. Montgomery Ward gave May the Rudolph copyright in 1947. He worked for the company until 1971 and died in 1976. His brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, was the producer who decided to adapt the story to the song, and it became even more popular. 

Neighborhood luminaries

The WillowRun Neighborhood Association which represents the Runnymede and Willowmede neighborhoods in Lewisville will host their annual luminary beginning at 6:30p.m. Tuesday. The drive through event offers a beautiful candle lit drive. Take U.S. 421 North to exit 244 and go south on Concord Church Road. Make a left on Desmond, Falmouth or Chesterfield roads to enter the neighborhood For more information, email infowillowmede@gmail.com.

SAM’s 5 favorite questions of 2020

Email: AskSAM@wsjournal.com

Online: journalnow.com/asksam

Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101

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