Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

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Princeton, MAINE USA

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yin Yang Yule

Does your Christmas spirit tend toward fiber optics or candlelight? Get ready for a lot of both.


It all started with poinsettia shock. Back in February, Renee Carpenter of Allied Florists of Texas, getting a 10-month leap on the holiday season, sent us an astonishing photo—here were Santa Claus with a pretty lady on his lap and a nice looking gent beside them. Dwarfing even the big polar elf was a huge Christmas-tree-shaped arrangement of poinsettias, all of them in gumball colors—lime green, aqua, tangerine, grapey blue. What a knockout!

imageTree of dyed poinsettias

Poinsettia Celebration 2006

Ellison Greenhouses

Photo: Courtesy of Renee Carpenter

The picture came from last year’s Poinsettia Celebration at Ellison Greenhouses in Brenham, Texas. The Ellisons, who do a radiant business in poinsettias, hold a huge open house the weekend before Thanksgiving so that folks can buy a plant to do double duty (triple and quadruple, for observers of the Solstice and Hanukah) through end-of-the-year holidays. The 2007 event, held Nov. 17-18, was the Ellisons’ 17th celebration—though it’s hard to imagine how they topped this 2006 spectacle.

Apparently, the craze for candy-colored poinsettias began in Europe about six years before the U.S. retailers caught on, around 2004. One reason for the burst in popularity has been the introduction of improved dyes that don’t shorten the lives of the plants.  “White or cream colored poinsettias can be turned blue, orange, purple, or almost any other color desired,” write the ag extension folks at University of Minnesota; though they caution, “Avoid wetting dyed tissue because the color may run.”

Running, for certain, will be traditionalists, for whom poinsettias with bracts merely mottled pink were enough of an abomination. Bring out the smelling salts, because those purists likely have swooned at the sight of the Ellisons’ tree. When they begin to come around, you can show them this:


Poinsettias in the wild, growing in Coorg, India

Photo: Lubna Kably

Here are poinsettias growing out of doors (It’s true— they don’t all come in pots covered with shiny paper!), a lovely Christmas gift from our friend Lubna Kably of Delhi. She took this picture at Coorg, “a hill station near Bangalore.” Lubna tells us, “Coorg has these huge coffee plantations. Poinsettias grow wild in the Coorg region, in two colours red and also white.” We recall seeing poinsettias growing with coffee in Guatemala, too, shading the trees as the beans matured.

imageWithered stick fiber optic Christmas tree

(or whatever)

Photo: Artificial Christmas Tree

To our versatile readers, we offer both poinsettia displays, yang and yin of the season. And we wonder—which approach to celebration appeals to you? Are you planning to buy a fiber optic tree this year, like our friend Jorge Perez (yang)? Or do you prefer taking a horse drawn sleigh—and ax—into the Vermont woods to fell a native pine (yin)? Will you be roasting chestnuts (yin) or playing Neopets (yang)? Is your holiday music Mariah Carey or Adeste Fideles ? Will there be candlelight or lava lamps? Are you now busy knitting scarves or buying iPods? Stringing popcorn or flying to Vegas?

The old philosophers advised a combination (thus the droplets of contrasting color in the two halves of the Yin/Yang symbol). But retailers are having a hard time managing both. Consider this—a “withered branch fiber optic Christmas tree” that appears to be standing in a toilet plunger, an especially weak attempt at balance.

Or so we thought…our partner just spotted it and wants one!



Posted by Julie on 12/18 at 05:21 PM
Culture & SocietyCut-Flower TradeFloristsSecular CustomsPermalink