KINGSTON, R.I. – November 28, 2008 — The University of Rhode Island Master Gardeners will offer 74 varieties of poinsettias for sale to the public on Dec. 6 from 9 a.m. to noon. The sale of the 1,354 unusual plants, plus handmade wreaths, table centerpieces, St. Nicholas shoes, sandcast leaves, and other items, will take place in the Master Gardener greenhouses at URI’s East Farm on Route 108 in Kingston.
The sale will benefit the Master Gardener Association.
These extraordinary poinsettias have become a regular part of life for the 80 Master Gardener volunteers who have tended them since they arrived at URI as rooted cuttings in late July. Seven teams of volunteers worked 3-4 hours per day watering, fertilizing, fluffing the soil, and primping the leaves to make the colorful bracts stand out.
Every plant has been tended every day by the Master Gardener volunteers as part of the National Poinsettia Trials, which take place at 30 different sites across the country. “The trials are sponsored by four poinsettia breeders and were established to provide an independent evaluation of the many new cultivars that are introduced every year,” said Master Gardener Poinsettia Project Leader Francine McVay. “We are the eyes of the breeders.”
The Master Gardeners have met very rigid standards for research purposes and for best gardening practices, according to McVay. Each volunteer team was responsible for the research and record keeping on their assigned 11 varieties of plants, including measuring each plant’s height and width and recording the shape of the leaves. No chemical pesticides or growth retardants have been applied to the plants.
At the end of the National Poinsettia Trials, members of Rhode Island’s green industry were invited to view and rate the different varieties of plants. From their feedback and the research done by the Master Gardeners, the poinsettia breeders will gain invaluable information that may affect the future direction of the poinsettia industry.
For additional information about the plant sale, contact Master Gardener Roselyn Morris at (401) 783-6684.
URI Master Gardeners Maria Durbin (photo 1), Judy Guthers (photo 2) and Bob
Beausoleil (photo 3) tend poinsettias in the East Farm greenhouses.