It’s that wonderful time of year again.
Orange Coast College faculty, students, staff and local residents can purchase stunning, vibrant poinsettia plants for the 2018 winter holidays as part of the college’s Annual Poinsettia Sale.
The OCC Horticulture department’s 41st annual sale will be held Dec. 7. While the sale to the public is Dec. 7, pick-up for pre-orders will be Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m.
And while the flowers grown through OCC’s Horticulture department have been a seasonal sensation for dozens of years, the road to selling the mature plants started when classes began in the fall.
On day one of OCC’s Green House and Nursery Science class this fall, led by lead instructor Rick Harlow and department organizer Joe Stead, students began the process of preparing and cultivating poinsettia plants.
“The crop has a 16-week window from planting rooted cuttings to target date of sale,” Harlow said. “It’s a great opportunity for students to see a crop from the absolute beginning to the absolute end.”
Tour the Horticulture department’s poinsettia greenhouses and visitors will hear classical music such as Gnossiennes No.1 by Eric Satie filling the structures. The passion and proud ownership is evident in the horticulture students, instructors and staff who nurture and care for the poinsettia cuttings every day, from start to finish.
“Cultivating poinsettias allows students real world exposure to how a crop works, including new challenges every year,” Harlow said.
As part of the class curriculum, students planted rooted cuttings on the first day of class. Each student was then involved in caring for a certain number of poinsettias and for charting the growth of each plant.
Harlow said the experience of getting their hands dirty and watching cuttings grow is a beneficial learning tool.
“Lecturing for two or three hours a week doesn’t have nearly the value for students as actually doing it and having hands-on experience,” Harlow said.
Unique to the department this year is a red and white poinsettia center piece, which is “treated with a growth regulator that keeps [the poinsettia plants] short and round so you can put them on a table and dinner guests can see each other,” he said.
Harlow said producing florist-quality poinsettias is a lot of work and can be technically challenging. Daily attention to the plants is required so they grow in a way that brings out the beauty of the plants.
“As the heads grow, one growth point can cover another growth point, so the students have to continuously tuck the leaves down so that all these growth points are exposed to the sun,” Harlow said.
A favorite among customers, according to Harlow, is the Monet variety. “It looks like it has been sprayed with a paint brush,” he said.
The pink speckled ice punch variety is also available.
Selling the Christmas flowers is an annual event that benefits the Horticulture department and provides a service to the community. Dozens of residents from nearby cities order the poinsettias in advance and also visit on the day the sale runs.
“Revenue from the sale allows us to have a little freedom to meet the department’s needs. If a fan belt breaks, we have to be able to fix it and fix it quickly,” Harlow said.
While half of the revenue goes toward next year’s crop, another portion of the revenue is “dedicated to student scholarships and to facilitate other [horticulture] classes and hands-on exposure,” Harlow said.
A 24-hour poinsettia webcam with time lapse is provided for anyone to experience the poinsettia cultivating process.
Students, staff and community locals are invited to purchase poinsettias directly from the department’s vast greenhouses on Dec. 7. The most popular 6-1/2-inch pots have three plants instead of the usual one, making them florist-grade poinsettias. In addition, there are poinsettias in 4-1/2-inch pots, 12-inch bowls and 6-1/2-inch centerpieces.
There will be traditional royal red poinsettias and creamy white poinsettias in addition to winter rose that have red ruffled bracts, Monet with pink sprinkled leaves and ice punch with a burst of white splashes.
Prices for poinsettia plants range from $5.50 to $48.