The Inauguration Environmental Ball 2009
Green Footprints and House Plants
by Ruth S. Foster

There were two environmental Inaugural Balls in Washington in January 2009.  One, was trying to have a good GREEN footprint, and so was decorated with local tree seedlings.  The other was festooned with roses flown in from Ecuador.

Vice President Al Gore's Ball (the trees) was joined by the Sierra Club, National Resources Defense Council, Earthjustice  the Vote Solar Initiative, wind energy, and Youth for Environmental Sanity.  They served locally grown food, which was cooked across the street (to reduce the vehicle transportation carbon footprint).

The other Ball was staged by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation, which is made up of large international and animal wildlife groups like the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Federation.  A prominent sponsor was Exon Mobil.

In addition to their imported roses, special marinated beef from Texas was flown to Virginia, grilled there, and then trucked to Washington for dinner.  The Boys Choir from Kenya entertained.  (Which used lots of fuel).

Christine MacDonald  has written a book, "Green Inc: An Environmental Insider Reveals How a Good Cause Has Gone Bad".  It's about big environmental groups corrupted by corporate dollars.  However big, glamorous soirees and parties make these corporations and big donors feel better about themselves.

The good news is that there was more demand for environmental sponsorship and tickets than both inaugural balls could handle.  Which means there are lots of groups wanting to get in on the ground floor with the new Obama administration's environmental agendas.

Back on the home front, by January, one has lots of Holiday plants, some blooming, some not.  They cheer the winter and are easy to keep going, IF one has inherited the "green-thumb-watering" gene.

Over the years I have found Peters 20-20-20 fertilizer with micro-nutrients to produce the most blooms.  Other fertilizers, in similarly high percentages and with micro-nutrients, work equally well.

Plants grown mainly for foliage can be fertilized with almost anything.  However, I think the manufacturers recommend applying fertilizer too often.  Of course they sell it, and the more you use, the more their profit.  I prefer to see how the plant looks and how fast I want it to grow.

And how is your pointsettia, that ubiquitous, floriferous symbol of Christmas, doing by late January?

If you have been giving it a little water every day or three, it's probably still looking good.  And it will continue for several months as long as you keep it not too wet, but never really dry.  (Watering house plants is such a fine art if ever there was one!)

My poinsettia is almost as good as the day I bought it,  minus the few leaves and petals that it drops each week.    Also, a branch that broke off is in a vase in water, and it looks even better, this after a month.

If you're good at proper watering, then come March or even April you'll be sick to death of the poinsettia.  What to do then?  Cut it back to about 6 inches and fertilize.  It will grow into a nice little green bush. During summer, put it outside under a tree.  In fall you can take it in again for next winter.

BUT, if you want it to have the bright colored petals again, you have to  limit the amount of light it gets to less than 12 hours a day. Even a glimmer will prevent the coloring hormones from activating.

The true flower is a tiny yellow spot in the center, surrounded by colored leaves called bracts.  The original plants were red, but today they're white, pink, variegated and colors Mother Nature never imagined.

To get colored bracts next year, fertilize monthly and give sunshine.  Then for 3 months, put in a closet or dark place for 12 to 14 hours each night.  If  you are compulsive and lucky, the bracts may turn red or pink or white for you.  I've tried this and for my money, I'd rather let the nurseries do it.

How poinsettia got to be so ubiquitous is interesting.  In warm climates it's a scraggly bush that blooms on roads with no street lights. In 1920, a Paul Ecke in Los Angeles, bred the first cultivar that would bloom as an indoor plant, and patented it.

By  2000, the Ecke Ranch in California was sending millions of cuttings to nurseries in 50 countries which supplied 75% of the poinsettias sold in the world.   By 2008, their breeding secret had been discovered, and growers all over the world are now flooding the market.

Wonderful tropical plants are grown in greenhouses all over the United States, as well as in Ecuador, Brazil and other far away places.

Despite the transportation costs, and bad green footprint, the imported ones are cheaper than locally grown stock.  However, I am becoming a Locavore, and whenever  possible, I buy the local products, even if they cost more.  Better to support local American businesses and also have a better GREEN footprint.

No matter how good you are at indoor maintenance, eventually some plants will look terrible, or you get sick and tired of them, or you run out of room.  Well then,  just throw them out.  On the mulch pile if you want to be truly GREEN.