December 12, 2013 by  

Poinsettia, Everybody pauses by a picture perfect red poinsettia named Christmas Day trying to be tactful.

“That’s the big seller.”

“It won last year.”

“Really? It’s nice … ”

The “but” hangs heavily in the crisp greenhouse air.

Christmas Day is achingly traditional and — let’s be brutally honest — has an unimaginative name. It isn’t warming hearts or getting my vote.

Not when I’m slack-jawed at the sight of 108 varieties of poinsettias in a white-pink-red-burgundy rainbow.

Premium Picasso looks scrumptious, like ketchup potato chips.

Sonora White Glitter has pointy red “leaves” (technically bracts) with dramatic creamy splotches. People ooh and ah all over it.

Glace, the whitest of the whites, reminds me of my freshly painted bathroom. (Benjamin Moore’s “Simply White.”) The other whites hint at butter, greenery and caramel.

Jubilee Jingle Bells is dull red with off-pink blotchy undertones. It’s lovely. Really.

Harlequin looks like the love child of a poinsettia and a red rose.

Oh what fun it is to wander around the third annual poinsettia research open house at the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre.

“It’s just … it’s … Christmas,” sighs Darlene Grabuski of Vineland, struggling to define the allure of poinsettias. “You have to have at least one poinsettia for Christmas. Red, white, pink — I don’t care.”

Her daughter Josey Grabuski has “quite a collection going from Christmases past,” but still adds to it every year. She pairs red with whites, but makes sure pinks stand alone.

“They’re kind of a statement piece.”

Clutching ballots, we trudge through four rooms in the greenhouse complex. The poinsettias are labelled and grouped by colour. We must pick five: best red, best white, best pink, best novelty and overall favourite.

Christmas Day won “most popular red” last year, stealing the crown from 2011’s red winner, Prestige.

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