I had no idea that the colorful foliage on the poinsettia plants is not the flowering part of the plant. They are actually leaves that start out green, turn color, then change back to green again.
Did you know this?
My husband, David, surprised me one year by taking me to a poinsettia show sponsored by a nearby greenhouse at the Cantigny Gardens. Though I order poinsettias every year, I was amazed by what I didn’t know about them!
First, there was the fact that what I thought were the flowers were really the leaves, called bracts. Then, there was the bit of information that the true flowers are the little berries in the middle of the bracts, called cyathia. We were taught not to buy poinsettias when the cyathia has begun to bloom (sprouting little yellow flowers). I had never, ever, checked the little yellow buds for over-ripe maturity.
Poinsettias originated in Mexico and were discovered by Joel Poinsett, a Southern plantation owner appointed in the late 1820s as the first United States Ambassador to our border neighbor. But it was a community of Franciscan priests, settled near Taxco in the 17th century, who found the bright red plants blooming naturally on the slopes during the season of Advent in December. They used it to adorn their Nativity celebrations.
What fascinated me most in our informal lecture was the rhythm of growth native to these lovely plants. (These series of blogs are considering the rhythms that occur naturally in our living and in our spiritual experience—and how “out of step” most of us feel, disconnected from any kind of natural rhythms). The colorful bracts resort back to green in late winter, are severely pruned, planted outside when the temperatures are above 65 degrees at night, watered thoroughly (they are thirsty plants), then repotted in early summer, pinched to make them bush-like, cultivated with nutrients, and the bracts begin to turn color again in late October or early November. This growth cycle occurs year after year.
Have you been thinking about natural (and sacred) rhythms?
This rhythm of the life-cycle of the poinsettia is one that I put on my collector’s list. The Cantigny greenhouse was lush with rows of color, deep crimson plants with variegated leaves, salmon poinsettias, whites, new hybrids—it was a glorious display. Yet, more remarkable to me was the fact that they were all living according to some divine dance God had built within their genetic structure.
What a marvelous thing is this gift of life we have been given!
Are you one of the many who feels like you can’t get your life into any kind of lasting rhythm?
Think about a green poinsettia. Have you ever seen one? Step into a greenhouse sometime this season and look at the rows and rows of poinsettia colors.
“God has made everything beautiful for its own time” (Ecclesiastes 4:11a). I believe that the internal structure of creation, the very microcosm of it, is a mirror of the whole of life, of a way of living God intends for His creatures—humans as well as vegetable. What are we missing? How are we misusing this natural order, particularly if we don’t know anymore that it exists? What can be done?
Other projects involving Karen right now are: Working with teams of Christian women to design Retreats of Silence, in both 24-hours and three-days formats, through the aegis of Hungry Souls. Developing hospitality initiatives that train Christian men and women how to use their own homes in caring outreaches through the Open Heart, Open Home ministries. Launching the Global Bag Project, a worldwide effort that markets sustainable cloth shopping bags to provide sustainable incomes for bag-makers in developing nations. Researching the impact of listening groups while overseeing some 240 small groups over the last three years. Experimenting with teleconference mentoring for Wannabe (Better) Writers. Designing the Tales of the Kingdom Web site.