Grow 546: Poinsettia, poison, advice

Early Winter!

No poison in colorful poinsettia plant


Dear Janet,

I usually get a poinsettia every year but this year I may not. I have a one year old who puts everything she finds into her mouth, and I've heard poinsettias are poisonous. Is that true?


Dear S.D.,

Not true. The American Medical Association's "Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants" reports that "...poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) has been found to produce either no effect (orally or topically) or occasional cases of vomiting. This plant does not contain irritant terpitenes."



You must be a really tough gal, being able to brave gardening in December down to 40 below (as per your recent article). I laughed out loud, hoping you will also when you see the copy.


Dear B.X.,

I was puzzled, then annoyed, when I saw in my December 6 column, "December is a gardening month for me... I choose forty below degree days without wind..." That word, "below," hadn't been in my original. It appeared somehow during the editing process.

Then I read notes from you and others and I did laugh. My thanks to those like S.M. who chuckled, "I can't resist this... I think you need more clothes than you said you wear, to work out there at 40 below!" And a thumbs up to C.N.  "I expected you to go on to say you were aiming to create some additional winter interest in your garden, a life-size ice statue of a gardener."


Dear Janet,

Years ago you gave a talk that I enjoyed very much. I don't remember many details, but I do recall that when someone questioned your advice to cut a particular shrub at a certain time you said, "Sure, there is probably a best time to cut that shrub, but what good is knowing the ideal if you're not out there then or need to cut it now? Just go ahead and cut it when you can. It'll be okay." That really gave me a different outlook on gardening. I just wanted to say thanks.


Dear N.H.,

Thank you! As an instructor and how-to writer, I like to know what it is I've said or written that sticks with people, so I can phrase more of my talks and articles that same way.

Your note prompted me to ask other instructors what they have heard along the same lines as what you just wrote to me.

Judy Jacobs, Gardening Coach and Instructor of Apprentices, said she's heard this, "I'm so glad you told me that if it worked, whatever it is, I should do it again!

Julia Dingle, container garden specialist and owner of The Classic Garden, reports that her students say, "I love to know that I can keep something in my outdoor containers pretty much all year and even do things like dig up a bleeding heart from the garden in early April, put it into my pot, watch it bloom, then move it out again to make way for the next thing."

Nancy Perry, specialist in organic growing and kids' gardening, says she's gotten thanks for telling people that blue-blooming hydrangeas are not reliably bud hardy in Michigan -- they may grow but they might not bloom.

Your interest led me to 30 remarkable bits of advice, too many to report in one setting. I'll include them here over the next few weeks, to capture the wealth of one year as we move into the next.


Green thumbs up

to the season of rest in the garden. Ancient lore says that in this season all the creative energy in the cosmos has flown back into the earth to renew itself for next spring. Do likewise and relax. Your garden was beautiful and productive in 2003 and it will be even more so in 2004!


Green thumbs down

to overdoing those holiday plants. Your family is just beginning to get reacquainted with you now that you can't disappear into your garden every day. So restrict yourself to just one poinsettia, Christmas pepper, azalea, amaryllis, paperwhite or holiday cactus -- not one of everything!

Originally published 12/20/03