Some people's minds have "adulterized"
the English language. For that reason I must offer the definition
of a commonly known word before I begin this purely educational
column. The word "butt", as defined by Webster himself,
means "1. the thick end of anything. 2. the remaining
end of anything; stub; stump." Now that we know the true
meaning of butt, the slang?minded will not be offended or
confused if I offer some sound Christmas season advice: KEEP
YOUR BUTT CLEAN AND MOIST BUT DON'T EAT THE FLOWERS.
KEEP YOUR BUTT CLEAN. Hygiene is
especially important if your Christmas tree is to endure
the brutality of amputation from its natural environment.
Imagine that your tree has been cut several weeks ago, hauled
down the mountain, packed into refrigerated train boxcars
and shipped to the final destination. During this period
of translocation the water uptake mechanism of the tree
becomes blocked with dirt, sawdust and resins. To alleviate
this situation buy your tree several days before it will
be set up and decorated and cut the butt of the tree at
a diagonal about one inch above the original cut. This will
open the water uptake pores and will aid in the absorption
of water. Place the butt end in a container of water. When
you decide to bring the tree into the house, saw the butt
again, squaring off the diagonal. This facilitates placing
the tree in a stand as well as further aiding in and increasing
the rate of water absorption.
KEEP YOUR BUTT MOIST. Keep the butt
end of the tree in a container of water the entire time
it is in the house. Refill the container daily as the tree
requires a lot of water. Sprinkling water on the branches
and needles before you decorate the tree will help retain
freshness. You may also want to spray the tree with some
of the anti?transpirants such as Wilt Proof or Cloud Cover
which reduce water loss from needles. The tree will take
up a larger quantity of water at first, as much as a gallon
a day, but will slack off later. Tests show that a 6?foot
Christmas tree will take up between 1 and 2.5 pints per
day during the 3?week season. Once the tree is put in a
container of water, never allow the container to dry out.
Experience shows that needle loss from trees with an interrupted
water supply is far greater than needle loss from trees
with a continuous supply of water. An interrupted water
supply could be worse than no water.
DON'T EAT THE FLOWERS! Every year
at this time when poinsettias are being sold and displayed
some folks go crazy. They want to know if poinsettias are
poisonous if eaten. Who cares! We're not selling poke salad
or collards here; we're talking poinsettias ? ? plants that
are to be looked at, not eaten. . The anti-poinsettia warnings
originated in Hawaii in 1919, when a doctor attributed --
incorrectly, authorities now say -- the death of a 2-year-old
child to eating a poinsettia leaf. Studies have since found
that munching the leaves causes no ill effects besides the
indigestion or vomiting that can occur from eating any kind
of plant to excess. According to the POISINDEX database,
extrapolations from experiments on animals indicate that
a 50-pound child could eat 500 or so poinsettia leaves with
no ill effects. In 1995, a study of data from poison control
centers found no toxic reactions out of almost 23,000 reported
exposures. However, the myth persists mainly because of
the sap, which is thick, milky, and,well, gross looking.
The problem may have something to do with the plant''s name
- "poinsettia" sounds an awful lot like ""poison."
The origin of the myth has a weird coda: By one account,
the Hawaii physician realized his original diagnosis was
mistaken and planned to return to the mainland to correct
his error. He died before he could make the trip.
Despite sound evidence to the contrary,
the poinsettia phobia continues. A recent Bruskin/Goldring
Research poll of 1,000 Americans commissioned by SAF found
that 50 percent of those polled said they believed poinsettias
are toxic if eaten. Only 16 percent correctly know that
they are not. Another 34 percent said they don't know.
Some respondents more misinformed than
The myth is widespread, but some population
segments are even more likely than others to be believers.
Women out-believe men by a wide margin -- 57 percent of
women said they believe poinsettias to be toxic, compared
to 42 percent of men.
Americans aged 25 to 49 are also more likely to suffer poinsettia
phobia than those aged 50 and over.
Geography also seems to play a role. Americans
living in the Northeast believe the myth in higher numbers
(57 percent) than those living in the west (44 percent).
If Americans aren't getting this misinformation
from science journals, where is it coming from? Among people
who believe that poinsettias are toxic, 43 percent said
they learned it by "word of mouth." Not far behind
was the media, cited by 37 percent.
The poinsettia has been declared non?poisonous.
This doesn't mean that the leaves won't give you a stomach
ache if you don't use the proper salad dressing and compliment
the meal with the best wine selection. Rather than eating
the beautiful poinsettia why not plant some seed of collards
or mustard greens for future use? The red poinsettia is
by far the most popular potted plant for the Christmas season.
White, pink, and variegated white and pink are also available.
If properly cared for, they may last a month or more after
Poinsettias also require proper selection
and care. The red flowering poinsettia is by far the most
popular flowering potted plant for the Christmas season.
White, pink, and variegated white and pink are also available.
Many new, long lasting varieties of poinsettias are now
available. If properly cared for, they may last a month
or more after Christmas.
Check your poinsettia daily and follow
these tips. Water your poinsettia frequently but don't drown
it. One easy way to water the potting mix in which the plants
are growing without flooding the living room is to use ice
cubes when applying moisture,i.e., put 4 ice cubes (64 ml
of water) per day per small quart-size or
6-inch pot; put eight ice cubes (128 ml of water) per day
8-inch pot; put twelve ice cubes (192 ml of water) per day
10-inch pots. Ice cube size varies; the recommendations
given are for
ice cubes for which 20 melted cubes will produce 320 ml
of water as
measured by a standard measuring cup used for cooking.
Keep the plant out of drafts, hot or cold. Place the plant
in good light inside the house. And finally, after blooming,
discard or begin preparing the plant to bloom again next
Poinsettias can be cut and used in flower
arrangements, provided the stems are sealed. Cut the "blooms"
with at least four inches of stem. Immediately seal the
cut end by dipping in boiling water or holding over a flame
for fifteen seconds. Sealing prevents the sap from oozing
from the cut and thus, preventing the cut stem from wilting.
"Blooms" should last a week or more. Make sure
the cut end is in water or a wet florist block. Discard
flowers when wilted and leaves start falling.
Poinsettias are perhaps the most difficult
flowering potted plants to rebloom indoors. Fortunately
in South Texas, poinsettias can be planted directly out-of-doors
in the spring after the danger of frost is past. If placed
in a protected area where early fall frost won't harm it,
they will make beautiful plants for the next holiday season.
Make sure that the outdoor poinsettia receives
only natural sunlight. Any additional light from yard and
street lights will inhibit blooming. Keep pinching out the
tips of the new growth once a month so the plant will bush
out. Do no pinching after August 15th. The plant should
flower right on time if these procedures are followed.
So remember, keep your butt clean and moist, don't eat
the flowers and always know that Parsons does not deal in
innuendoes bordering on vulgarity - unless he encounters
some "confused" readers.