Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Came from Far, Far Away

Poinsettia in Vanuatu

On Tuesday I went to Costco and walked out of there with a huge poinsettia. It was kind of an impulse purchase. They have big 10-inch plants for about 16 bucks, so not bad. I have it sitting by fireplace as part of the first wave of Christmas decorations. Seeing it in that familiar Christmas context reminded me of last summer, when Matt and I went to Vanuatu. Poinsettias grow huge all over the place down there.

Huge Poinsettia

That's a place we stayed for a few nights on Tanna, one of the outer islands of Vanuatu. There were big poinsettias all along the road, in both red and white. I didn't notice them so much at the time, because there are luxuriant flowering things all over the place. At night the air was fragrant. I've always read that in books: "The night air was fragrant," but I've never really experienced it until being down there. Seeing the poinsettia pots all arrayed at Costco made me think of them growing huge and tall in Tanna, truly a world away.

According to the interwebs, the poinsettia is native to Mexico and Central America, but they must have been brought to the South Pacific and cultivated a long time ago. You know how when you bring home a poinsettia, it lives long after Christmas, and you get a little tired of the red and green come late January? I'm describing myself here. Last year, with that in mind, I bought white poinsettias, thinking they would look fresh longer, which they did. The one I got at Costco is a big ol' red one though. How do you deal with poinsettias after Christmas?

Another plant I see associated with Christmas here, the Norfolk Island Pine, is also from the South Pacific. From Norfolk Island in fact. We saw them growing tall everywhere, even in Sydney.

Here you can only really find them in nurseries around this time of year, in my experience. They are sold labeled as "living Christmas trees" because people like to put lights on their sturdy branches. I had one a couple of years ago in my sunroom. When I bought it in the winter, it still had an undignified sprinkling of glitter from the nursery's Christmas display. I loved it but it died anyway. They need a lot of light, and are a little fussy. I'm not so good with the plants, and am in the process of killing an Ikea yucca. So I've got that going on.

Looking through my Vanuatu pictures got me seriously wishing I were back there. And it made me realize there are tons of cool things I haven't shown you guys from that trip. In the dead of winter, I may have a return-to-summer series and show the last of my vacation pics. Like, return-to-summer as in, last summer we went to the southern hemisphere where it was winter. Mindbender.


Amy said...

I never really think about the fact that poinsettias are more tropical plants cause I always associate them with cold weather and Christmas.

And speaking of Costco (which I just posted about), I saw poinsettias the other day at a flower shop--just a small one in a pot for $15! So Costco must get theirs from poinsettia sweatshops or something.

Michele Renee said...

When I was in FL last week my MIL showed me hers that she planted last January after C-mas. It was huge. I always buy some and then all the leaves drop off one by one (while still in their pots in the house!) So I think the balmy parts of FL is where you can plant them on this side of the U.S. Same with Norfolk pines....

Beth said...

I never buy poinsettias because they are poisonous to animals, and I never know when one of the cats will decided to have it for a midnight snack.

I'm also in the process of killing a bunch of indoor plants. I'm ok outside in the garden, but inside, forget it. I'm going to start a series called "Will It Survive?" as I try to bring back a few plants. I'm going to pitch it to Bravo.

I'm so jealous you went to Vanuatu. Did you outwit, outplay and outlast? You could now cause you're all SHREDDED.

Michele said...

We had a poinsettia that we planted in the yard in Tempe, AZ. When we left it was doing great. Go Figure.

I walked by the poinsettias at Costco this year. We are not going to be home. Our hearth will remain naked.

Mad Woman said...

I found that when I went to Bermuda to visit my dad...the air was fragrant. Those poinsettias are beautiful!!

Elizabeth said...

When I was in preschool, we did a play about the poinsettia. I'm pretty sure I was a little Mexican girl.

The Dental Maven said...

I do the same thing with Poinsettia's after Christmas as I do with pumpkins after Halloween.

A Day That is Dessert said...

I would looove a return-to-summer series!

Regarding the eggnog, I'm sorry to say there's not much of a "recipe". Here's how I make it:
- buy good eggnog. For us that means without artificial stuff, esp. high fructose corn syrup.
- over ice, add 1 part brandy (not cognac - straight ahead brandy like Christian Brothers) to 2 parts Myer's Dark Rum. Proportions relative to the eggnog depend on your mood or maybe more accurately, your desired mood
- sprinkle a bit of nutmeg if you're feeling ambitious.
-Stir very well
- Repeat as necessary!

Fantastic Forrest said...

That IS a major mindbender. The first time I realized it, I kept thinking how strange it was, and wondering how people there feel about all the popular culture depictions of Christmas being snowy and icy. I'll bet they're ticked off.

I like pointsettias, but rarely buy one. I think I will buy one this year and console myself when it dies with the thought that yours is surely suffering the same fate. Yet another thing that binds us together, Matron.