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Royer’s Flowers presents American Red Cross with thousands of holiday cards for area veterans

Because of the generosity of our customers, Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has presented some 2,500 holiday cards and coloring pages to the American Red Cross for distribution to area veterans.

Royer’s, which has participated in the Red Cross “Holidays for Heroes” program for nearly a decade, collected the cards in each of its stores throughout November.

The items will be distributed to veterans at the Lebanon VA Medical Center and at area retirement facilities.

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this year’s Holidays for Heroes.

Photo: From left, Jonathan Glenn, regional program director, American Red Cross, and Barry Spengler, chief administrative officer, Royer’s Flowers & Gifts.

 

Here’s a handy guide to your Christmas poinsettia

Poinsettias have been called the lobster flower and flame leaf flower. By any name, they are the Christmas flower, although their flowers actually aren’t the colorful parts for which they are known.

But like an eager child who hasn’t made a wish list yet can’t wait to open gifts on Christmas morning, we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, some poinsettia background:

  • Native to Mexico, poinsettias are perennial shrubs that can grow 10 to 15 feet tall.
  • Poinsettias were introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico.
  • Dec. 12 is National Poinsettia Day in America, marking Poinsett’s death in 1851.
  • Poinsettias were first successfully grown outside Mexico by Bartram’s Garden in Philadelphia, a 50-acre National Historic Landmark that still operates.

Some people pronounce it “poinsetta” (three syllables), and others say “poinsettia,” (four syllables). We’re not sticklers either way. It’s more important that you enjoy your poinsettia and get the most out of it.

Grown in Lancaster County

But while there’s leeway when it comes to pronunciation, there are strongly rooted facts about poinsettias:

  • The colored parts of poinsettias aren’t flowers but bracts (leaves).
  • Poinsettias come in more than 100 varieties, from traditional red and white to pink and burgundy, marbled and speckled.
  • Poinsettias are commercially grown in all 50 states. Royer’s are from Lancaster County, Pa.
  • Ninety percent of all poinsettias are exported from the United States.
  • Contrary to popular myth, poinsettias are not poisonous, to humans or pets: An Ohio State study found that a 50-pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache. Some people with latex allergies have had skin reactions to the sap that comes from poinsettia leaves.

Poinsettia care

Royer’s offers decorated and undecorated poinsettias in multiple color and size options.

Poinsettias are happiest in conditions that approximate their Mexican origin: as much bright light as possible, warm and never sitting in water. Like humans, they don’t like wet feet.

The plants can suffer from droopy leaves, a condition known as epinasty, if they are exposed to cold temperatures or experience a build-up of ethylene gas.

If you’ve ever shopped for poinsettias at a big-box retailer, you may have seen a rack of them still in their protective sleeves. What you’re really seeing is those plants being ruined because the sleeves trap ethylene gas. An experienced florist knows to remove the sleeves as soon as possible.

By any name or pronunciation, poinsettias are a beautiful and safe holiday tradition, a gift of Mexican origin that keeps giving to the world nearly two centuries later.

Additional source: University of Illinois Extension

 

We can’t promise eternity, but here’s how to make your evergreen wreath last longer

We see them on doors and fences, windows and walls.

Some are even attached to the fronts of cars and trucks.

The evergreen Christmas wreath is a ubiquitous holiday adornment. So much so, perhaps, that it’s easy to overlook the wreath’s rich symbolism.

“The evergreen wreath — its circular shape an emblem not only of perfection and unity but also of the warm, enduring sun — later became a Christian symbol for Christ’s suffering and ultimate triumph over death,” according to a 1988 New York Times article. “It is believed that the holly wreath, with its sharp, pointed leaves, first represented the crown of thorns worn by Christ on the cross, the little red berries symbolizing drops of blood. Later wreaths were formed from a variety of pines and firs, with evergreens embodying eternal life.”

The tradition of bringing evergreen trees into homes dates to the 16th century, according to a Time magazine article, crediting Germans specifically. Pruning trees to make them fit or more shapely left “pieces of greenery” that lent themselves to wreath-making.

“These people were living in a time when everything in their lives was used until it was gone,” said Ace Collins, author of “Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas.”

Wreaths had other associations prior to Christmas, however: as “a prominent emblem of victory and power in ancient Greece and Rome.” Victorious athletes were crowned with wreaths of many sorts, including olives, laurel, wild celery and pine. Wreaths also were worn by priests, by brides and by guests at a feast.

‘Representation of eternal life’

In the context of Christmas, wreaths originally served as tree ornaments.

“They were formed into a wheel-like shape partially for convenience’s sake — it was simple to hang a circle onto the branches of a tree — but the shape was also significant as a representation of divine perfection,” Time wrote.

Similarly, evergreen trees were revered for their ability to survive winter.

“Together,” Time noted, “the circular shape and the evergreen material make the wreath a representation of eternal life.”

While you can’t make an evergreen wreath last forever, you can get the most out of one by following these simple tips:

–Fresh wreaths will get dry over time, but spray-on products such as Wilt Pruf seal moisture in (it works on garland and Christmas trees, too). Be sure to do this away from your door and before hanging the wreath to avoid making a mess.

–Wreaths can cook if placed between a door and a glass storm door, so hang them on an outside door exposed to the elements.

–Keep wreaths out of direct sunlight if possible, such as on a door under a porch roof.

 

Shedding holiday light on the mystery that is mistletoe

Oh, ho the mistletoe
Hung where you can see
Somebody waits for you
Kiss her once for me
 

–“A Holly Jolly Christmas” 

Even if you’ve never seen mistletoe, much less smooched beneath it, it may have been a part of your holiday tradition since childhood.

That’s because the 1964 Christmas special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” features Burl Ives, in the voice of narrator Sam the Snowman, singing “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” All the while, prospector Yukon Cornelius hoists a tower of four elves hanging mistletoe and Rudolph gives the doe Clarice a peck on her cheek.

The poinsettia may be the most popular Christmas plant, but mistletoe seems to have the edge when it comes to appearances in Christmas songs. Everyone from Ives and Perry Como to Michael Buble and Alan Jackson has covered “A Holly Jolly Christmas.” Justin Bieber has a song titled, simply, “Mistletoe.”

For many of us, however, mistletoe is a mystery. Royer’s sells fresh poinsettias by the tens of thousand, in dozens of sizes and varieties, but a much smaller quantity of preserved mistletoe, offered in a four-inch cluster with a bow packaged in a box.

“It’s a novelty more than anything now,” said Cheryl Brill, Royer’s chief operating officer. The typical customer is a young guy.

Not to be eaten

Yet while mistletoe is associated with kissing and Christmas, its role in nature is anything but beneficent. In fact, it’s the Grinch of holiday plants, an honest-to-goodness parasite.

“Mistletoe is an evergreen pest that attaches itself to trees, plants and shrubs, stealing their nutrients and water,” a CBS News story noted. “This can weaken or disfigure the host plant, and eventually even kill it.”

The genus name for North American oak mistletoe, the most common species in the eastern United States, is “phoradendron,” which is Greek for “tree thief.”

Mistletoe is difficult to remove because its seeds sprout and grow through the bark of trees and into their tissues, extending up and down within the branches.

“The most effective way to fight it is to remove an infected branch or limb entirely,” according to CBS.

Mistletoe has a misanthropic side, too. A person eating any part of it may experience drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness or seizures. These symptoms are caused by phoratoxin, which can be found in mistletoe berries and especially in the leaves. (Several types of mistletoe can be poisonous to pets, too.)

“Throw in the fact that some species are poisonous, and mistletoe starts to seem less like something you’d spy mama kissing Santa under and more like something Krampus would plant on your Christmas tree,” an article on the National Geographic website noted.

Krampus is a half-goat, half-demon in folklore that punishes children who misbehave, in contrast with St. Nicholas rewarding well-behave children with gifts.

‘Mystic branch’

But in this season of giving, it seems only fair to consider mistletoe in a positive light. Because it steals water and nutrients, mistletoe stays green year-round and is a symbol of fertility to some people.

“The plant’s parasitic nature is probably why people began to think mistletoe was special enough to kiss under in the first place,” according to National Geographic.

In Europe, according to the U.S. National Cancer Institute website, “mistletoe extracts are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients.” However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition.

Ancient Anglo-Saxons noticed that mistletoe often grows near bird droppings, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Hence, its name derived from “mistel,” which means dung, and “tan,” which means twig. Therefore, mistletoe means “dung-on-a-twig.”

Studies suggest that when certain species of mistletoe were removed from ecosystems in Australia and Mexico, birds suffered.

As it matures, mistletoe can grow into thick, often rounded masses of branches and stems that can reach as big as five feet wide and 50 pounds and sometimes called “witches’ brooms.” Some birds, including wrens, chickadees, mourning doves and pygmy nuthatches, nest in these witches brooms.

Some butterflies lay their eggs in mistletoe, their young eating the leaves and adults (and some native bees) feeding on mistletoe nectar. Mistletoe’s white berries are a no-no for people, but they are favored in the fall and winter by the likes of deer, elk, squirrels, chipmunks and porcupines.

Clearly mistletoe endures as a symbol of Christmas joy and wonder. Charles Dickens, in the “Pickwick Papers” in the 1830s, called mistletoe the “mystic branch.”

The Hallmark Channel carries on that tradition with movies bearing titles such as, “Moonlight and Mistletoe, “The Mistletoe Promise,” and “The Mistletoe Secret.”

Of course, the happy ending is always sealed with a kiss.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lancaster County-grown poinsettias are arriving at Royer’s stores

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It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, but Christmas is in full bloom at Esbenshade’s Greenhouses Inc. just north of Lititz.

In one vast expanse of the so-called Gilbert greenhouse, the floor is a carpet of red poinsettias. A visitor asks Roger Esbenshade, president of the family-owned company, how many there are in this one area.

“Probably 25,000,” he said. “This is maybe 10 percent of the crop.”

Royer’s Flowers & Gifts has been an Esbenshade’s wholesale customer for decades. Royer’s sells some 20,000 poinsettias every holiday season, most of which are grown by Esbenshade’s.

Only a week prior, Royer’s CEO Tom Royer and Geoff Royer, vice president of central operations, were at Esbenshade’s to review the poinsettia crop.

Esbenshade’s grows nine to 10 sizes and 30-some varieties. Red remains the most popular by far, but even red comes in seven or eight different varieties. The biggest plants come in 10-inch pots and grow to 25 to 30 inches in height.

Depending on the size, the growing season can range from three to five months. What are now almost fully developed plants began as two and one-half inch stems. From the end of October until mid-to-late November, the poinsettias required only watering and disease control while Esbenshade’s tended to its spring crops.

But with the holiday season here, once again poinsettias are the focus of attention.

“For me, being responsible for the growing, it’s a very challenging time,” Esbenshade said. “It’s not a difficult crop to grow, but a lot of things can go wrong.”

He lists the challenges of controlling plant height, temperature, nutrition, diseases.

“It can vary from year to year,” he said.

‘Longevity for the customer’

Timing is important. That sea of red described above arrived only four weeks earlier. All poinsettias are green until their ultimate color reveals itself. Some plants will get redder still, which dictates when they will be shipped to customers.

“We try to have good color development but not overly developed so that they have longevity for the customer,” Esbenshade said.

Wholesale customers such as Royer’s typically place master orders, or what they anticipate needing for the year. Then they draw on that order on a daily or weekly basis.

For example, Esbenshade’s will deliver to Royer’s distribution center in Lebanon on 15 dates between mid-November and mid-December.

Esbenshade’s has approximately 30 workers tending to poinsettias at this busy time. When orders arrive, the workers wrap individual plants in plastic sleeves and place them in corrugated boxes for shipping via trucks.

The plants that are on the floor receive water and nutrients from below. Water rises to a depth of two inches through holes in what are called flood floors. Once the plants have absorbed what they need, the water level lowers and excess moisture drains from the pots.

If cared for properly, poinsettias can last for months if not years. They will cycle back to green in the off-season.

Esbenshade’s mother, Nancy, founded the company with her husband, Lamar, in 1960.

“My mom, she usually has hers up till Easter,” Esbenshade said. “I think most people don’t do that. She’ll usually send me pictures around Easter time and say, ‘My poinsettias still look good.’ ”

No matter how long you plan to keep your poinsettias, they’re vibrant and abundant at Royer’s now through Christmas.

Royer’s presents more than 4,000 cards and coloring pages to Red Cross’ ‘Holidays for Heroes’

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Royer’s Flowers today presented the American Red Cross with more than 4,000 holiday cards and coloring pages for area military veterans.

Royer’s collected the cards and coloring pages at each of its stores from Nov. 11-Dec. 4 as part of its annual participation in the Red Cross’ “Holidays for Heroes” program. The items will be delivered to veterans living in long-term care facilities throughout the region.

How lovely are thy branches: Hershey store contributes to inaugural Christmas Tree Showcase

With a fresh-cut Christmas tree, you can bring a little bit of nature indoors.

But Andrea Campbell didn’t stop there with Royer’s contribution to the inaugural Christmas Tree Showcase in Hershey, describing her embellished evergreen as having a “natural, outdoorsy” vibe.

“As if you took a walk in the woods,” said Andrea, who has been with Royer’s for 12 years and has managed the Hershey store for one year.

Royer’s was among six area florists involved with the Christmas Tree Showcase, an exhibit that opened Nov. 17 at the Milton and Catherine Hershey Conservatory at the Hershey Gardens. The six decorated trees surround an ersatz 14-foot poinsettia tree, comprising red and white versions of the traditional Christmas plant.

Andrea, assisted by Hershey sales associate Lexi Miller, used lotus pods, shelf fungus, tree branches, pine cones and the like to achieve the rustic look of their tree. Hershey Gardens provided eight-foot-tall trees to the florists, who brought their own decorations.

Andrea said it took approximately an hour and a half to decorate the tree on Nov. 13.

“It’s kind of my creation, and Lexi helped me put the vision together,” Andrea said. “Because it’s a lot of tree to decorate.”

The flip side is that it’s a lot of tree to behold, which you can do from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Dec. 31 (closed Christmas).

You can get a sneak preview courtesy of this gallery on the Pennlive website.