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Cosentino: Plants we don’t see much anymore

Cosentino: Plants we don’t see much anymore

Carmen Cosentino holds up a large poinsettia at Cosentino’s Florist. Poinsettias are all the rage. They seem to be everywhere: garden centers, home improvement stores, supermarkets and even in flower shops. Why? Well, for any number of reasons. Looking back some 30 or 40 years, today’s poinsettias are totally different than what we knew in those earlier days. Poinsettias were very tall plants, usually 3 or 4 feet tall. To make them shorter, florists — that was where they were primarily sold — often folded the stems back on themselves to shorten them; that also shortened their life span, which was not very long anyway. Poinsettias were an outdoor plant that was brought indoors to give that spot of color that we so badly wanted. Then in the ’50s, a couple of Californians, Paul Ecke and his son Paul Jr., longtime commercial poinsettia growers, began working on the plant. And after years of their work, we now have poinsettias in a wonderfully wide range of heights and colors beyond the reds, from white and pinks to creams and bi-colors. As we concentrated on poinsettias, we lost track of and stopped growing some other beautiful plants. The first that comes to mind is the calamondin orange. I was introduced to this plant I had never seen during my first year at Cornell. This perennial shrub is a cross between a tangerine and a kumquat. It’s a small plant, covered with small, glossy leaves that, when snapped, give off a strong citrus aroma. The flowers, too, give off a very strong orange flower smell. It can easily be kept to shape and size by pruning as new growth starts in the spring. The plant can easily be kept in a 10- or 12-inch decorative pot to a height of 24 to […]

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