01 Dec2005


by Marketman

Marketmanila declares the holiday season on! poin1Though the lights on the main thoroughfares and avenues in Manila have been up for several weeks, the artificial or inanimate Christmas décor already ragged and dusty from months of exposure, the carols on mall sound systems and the radio tired from overuse, it didn’t quite seem like the holiday switch was really turned on. I have been so busy lately that instead of having several Christmas posts lined up and ready to go, I am scrambling to catch up amidst an intensely busy schedule… but on the way back home yesterday from a grueling though successful business trip, there was a definite and noticeable “nip” in the air (read the temperature has dropped 2 degrees or so), the traffic is turning unbearable, people are busily spending their 13th month bonuses and “click” – the Christmas switch flicked “on”. Over the next few weeks I will be featuring several of the Christmas food specialties that were requested by readers in earlier polls…

A visit to the Rockwell mall in Makati a few days ago yielded a pleasant holiday surprise… poin2thousands of live poinsettias used as décor in a stunning display of Christmas “red”. The volume and use of this holiday flower was beautiful, tasteful and impressive. This is probably the only mall that really spends a significant budget on its holiday décor! Poinsettias may strike some as being boring, overdone and old-fashioned. I would disagree… like a fruitcake, paper parols or bibingka, they scream tradition and the holiday season! But please don’t put fake poinsettia blooms on your Christmas tree, Marketmanila style police will come knocking… A native to Mexico, Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) have been around for centuries and grew in the wild in the lower elevations. The Aztec name was “Cuetlaxochitle” according to the comprehensive site of the University of Illinois on the plant. The red “petals” are actually leaves or bracts that have changed color when the weather turns a little cooler and the nights get longer. Named after the American Ambassador to Mexico in the 1820’s, Mr. Joel Poinsett, the poinsettia has become the most universally recognized flower of the Christmas season. The more popular commercial versions now are all farm-raised and force-bloomed…

My childhood memories of this plant are of 8-10 foot bushes in the yard poin3that always seemed to bloom just a few weeks AFTER Christmas when the January chill was at its coldest. These large scraggly bushes used to thrive all across Manila and in the provinces. There doesn’t seem to be as many of the garden variety plants today; instead we have the greenhouse raised hybrids that bring poinsettias into our homes in a highly vibrant, consistent and reliable form. King Louis is probably the largest grower of poinsettias in the Philippines today. They started growing the hybrid varieties a few years ago and I am thrilled that they have them on offer all through November and early December for the holiday season. They have several varieties and sizes of poinsettias on offer and the retail prices are extremely reasonable (wholesale must be even better for Rockwell to order several thousand pots!). Their poinsettias last a good three weeks indoors and come from the finest stock of hybrids from Paul Ecke farms in California. I always have several pots of poinsettias in our home during the holidays and I never tire of the stunningly red, vibrant and classic holiday flower. To get the freshest poinsettias around, go to either King Louis main branch at the Manila Seedling Bank compound in Quezon City or their retail branch at Market!Market! in Taguig. I have two varieties in these photos… the more classic Freedom bride which was PHP250 and the smaller bract poinsettia in a hanging pot that cost PHP350. Poinsettias also come in white and pink varieties. For more information, call Francis at King Louis Flowers at 9294105 and 4339459.



  1. Jean says:

    Nice! Happy Holidays to you and the wifey, MM.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 7:28 am


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  3. schatzli says:

    few more weeks to go…am still contemplating of flying to UK for a freezing xmas but with puddings and creams, crackers and country walks.

    or have an orthodox one (and be merry with Visaya friends here)… the greeks dont celebrate xmas the way we do, but lately with commercialism it has invaded the orthodox culture.

    as for poinsettias, I get them in red and white problem sometimes is the heating so I keep eye on the moisture.
    I found out I do not need to pay a big amount of euro for the holly, up in the mountain where we collected mushrooms have them.. and lots of mosses too.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 7:47 am

  4. Alicia says:

    I do love poinsettias and seeing them in massive quantities in rockwell inspired me to just fill up my house with them.. any suggestions on keeping them alive? My husband teases saying our house is the plant cemetery.. or where plants come to die! A green thumb I have not.. Help!

    Dec 2, 2005 | 8:31 am

  5. Marketman says:

    Alicia, visit the link in the article for care instructions. I think if you are diligent about keeping the potting medium moist (not overly wet), and give them some sunlight they should last several weeks. If you buy in quantity, go directly to King Louis, as they are the SOURCE and have the most reasonable prices…

    Dec 2, 2005 | 8:49 am

  6. Gigi says:

    Merry Christmas y’all! I haven’t shopped for anyone… :( I’m on the verge of a full-blown panic attack.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 9:50 am

  7. Mila says:

    Is there any way to avoid getting the white sickly looking mold that ends up destroying them? I love them for the holidays, but feel so sad seeing them die with that white stuff all over the leaves.

    I remember living in China where the poinsettias would grow in those bushes, one even got to tree height, and it was quite stunning to look at. Pity they don’t grow like that in Manila anymore.

    Dec 2, 2005 | 11:57 am

  8. Katrina says:

    Our garden in Tagaytay has beautiful poinsettia plants. The strange thing about them is that they don’t “bloom” (or turn red) during the cold season, but in the summer! We call them our rebel poinsettias. They refuse to come out with all the others; they’d rather be stars on their own. ;-)

    Dec 2, 2005 | 2:39 pm

  9. Marketman says:

    Mutant summer poinsettias… the macapunos of the floral world… must be your soil?!? Heehee. Mila, what white stuff that appears on their leaves? Aphids? I’m not sure I’ve seen those…

    Dec 2, 2005 | 3:04 pm

  10. edee says:

    reallly we have poinsettias in Manila before ?! … i always associate it with cooler climates…..

    Dec 2, 2005 | 6:36 pm

  11. Mik says:

    Hi Market Man,
    Word of caution if you have dogs or cats at home… poinsettas are poisonous and can cause mouth irritation or stomach upset.

    My mom is an avid gardener and we both love looking at poinsettas but sadly enough don’t have any at the house for christmas because we have 8 dogs lol

    Happy Holidays!

    Dec 2, 2005 | 8:29 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Mik, I have heard this poisonous story before and have quoted it myself, but a quick search on the internet suggests otherwise… in fact on this site http://oror.essortment.com/arepoinsettias_rfpo.htm it seems to debunk all the assertions that the plant is bad for humans or pets… I am not a doctor and I wouldn’t have any first hand knowledge but it seems the plant may be less harmful than earlier thought…

    Dec 2, 2005 | 8:44 pm

  13. Chris says:

    I remember we had poinsettias in our garden in Tuguegarao when I was a kid but I never really associated them with Christmas until I lived here in Manila. Perhaps because it was cold and thus, the poinsettias were “blooming”, from December to February or maybe because my mom never used them for decoration inside our house, prefering instead to just let them be in the garden(they were planted on the ground and not potted). But I do remember that she had a Cattleya that blooms a gigantic flower every year just a few days before Christmas. She would cut the flower on the morning of the 24th and offer it the local parish church. The priest in turn puts it right on the crib of the Belen. So for me a giant purple and white cattleya feels more Christmassy than poinsettias =)

    Dec 2, 2005 | 11:54 pm

  14. Mik says:

    Thanks for the link! :) Our dogs are incessant chewers, hence the worry.

    Dec 3, 2005 | 8:05 am

  15. Marketman says:

    Chris, funny you should mention the cattleya, my mom used to grow them as well. A stunning large bloom is the ultimate achivement for an amateur or professional gardener alike. Cuttng it and giving it to the church on Christmas eve is a wonderful gesture… so extravagant, so personal, so genuine… the best stuff is always that which is closest to home… Oh, the holidays are shaping up just dandy this year!

    Dec 3, 2005 | 10:18 am

  16. Skunkeye says:

    Don’t they still grow in Bagiuo? I seem to remember at the Residence there… a few years ago.

    Dec 4, 2005 | 5:34 am

  17. Marketman says:

    Skunkeye, yes they still grow in Baguio and Tagaytay in a few gardens. But I would guess that they are about 80-90% less common than at their peak in the 1960’s and 1970’s…

    Dec 4, 2005 | 6:50 am

  18. schatzli says:

    am no expert on this part but.. I saw yellow poinsettia yesterday at the greek market. The other has pinkish middle with speck of red like freckles. I didnt bring a cam though. Ah this cross breeding of plants

    Dec 4, 2005 | 9:36 pm

  19. Mila says:

    I was talking to the lady who had a large set of poinsettias at Salcedo market last Saturday and she told me to do a quick spray of water with a little bit of soap to clean the stems and the undersides of the leaves, kills/prevents aphid infestation and hopefully will prevent the mold my poinsettias seem to get (maybe I have a white thumb?).

    Dec 5, 2005 | 11:33 am

  20. noel says:

    It’s summer here in Wellington. They have red flowering tree – pohutukawa which blooms with red flowers and has become the NZ’s Christmas tree. Google the word pohutukawa and you can read more.


    Dec 5, 2005 | 11:37 am

  21. Skunkeye says:

    Well I got a clarification from my mother about Baguio poinsettias…
    as I remeber, they did grow all over the Residence grounds but she claims the native varieties were “stalky” (ala the geraniums I’ve been growing for the last couple of years and bring in each winter to a sunny room just because I feel too guilty to let them die)- an dreally didn’t serve much ornamental quality.
    I had this idyllic vision of all our poinsettias being grown on our land in Baguio and brought down to Manila (there were tons of em!) – but, alas, I suspect what we had were imports as you said.
    Its funny because the pricing for them is highly variable in cosmopolitan DC – city flower shops and supermarkets will chards upwards to twenty bucks for the plants – but if you go out to the suburbs to Home Depot or Lowes, you can find 4-5 plants for less than ten bucks.
    I do know, however, from experience, that these varieties don’t last more than three weeks and do succumb to that affore-commented white rot.
    Maybe do a post on “paperwhites” or narcissi, forcing the bulbs that is, no? I have a huge, fragrant jungle going on right now indoors in my house and I seem to remember a pletheroa of them in HK which makes me think they might be of particular regional interest in Manila. My amarilyii are just staring to take root and grow – I’m looking forward to the blooms. this is the first time I’m working with non-pre-grown bulbs.
    I’ve also got daffodil bulbs that have been paper-bagged in fridge for some ten weeks now – I hope my forcing experiement works out…
    Haha, it is snowing here right now!

    Dec 6, 2005 | 4:51 am

  22. Marketman says:

    Skunkeye, Snow?! Oddly, I am envious. I love snow in small doses. They do have amaryllis here from dutch bulbs but the paperwhites seem to flounder in the heat (I tried growing them from bulbs I brought in my luggage one year)….

    Dec 6, 2005 | 5:24 am

  23. Lani says:

    I also saw poinsettias in Market! Market! I actually took pictures of it. Christmas na christmas na talaga.

    Dec 6, 2005 | 6:14 am


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