2012-12-19 / Local & State

Perfect Poinsettias Start Growing In July

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) – Christmas begins in July for Judy Pemberton of Pemberton's Greenhouses in Lexington.

That’s when the business begins growing the popular Christmas poinsettias so they are mature in time for the holidays. Pemberton told the Lexington Herald- Leader that she gets 12,000 tiny poinsettias to plant at the greenhouses. She said she cranks up the Christmas music to get in the spirit, even though she and others are working in 120-degree heat, which can make some workers a little testy.

“I was playing ‘Let It Snow,’ and they turned on me,” she said, smiling.

The family knows the ins and outs of perfecting poinsettias – they are sixth-generation growers, having been in the nursery business since 1871 and at their current location near Georgetown Road since 1945. It was formerly called W.P. Pemberton and Sons.

The family, which includes her daughters, Ashley Pemberton Herndon and Janna Pemberton Schmidt; son Colin Pemberton; and husband, Jeff, buy rooted stock that is shipped in July. She says the plants come by their colors naturally after a little pampering.

“They do have to have pure darkness at night to turn,” Janna Pemberton Schmidt said in describing the process that causes the plants' upper bracts to turn a different color.

“The bigger challenge is color,” she said about guessing trends. “ It’s always changing, ... whatever is in Southern Living.”

This year reds seem more popular, Schmidt said. Last year, white was the favorite.

Many of the poinsettias grown at Pemberton's are sold through fundraisers held by youth, school and church groups.

“We’re the largest independent grower,” Schmidt said.

They greenhouses also sell directly to walk-in cus- tomers, she said. Although they try to predict how many poinsettias they need, they don’t always estimate right.

“We do run out. Then we make adjustments the next year,” Schmidt said.

If they don’t have enough poinsettias, customers have plenty of other options at the nursery.

“We’ve got Christmas cactus, amaryllis, paperwhites, ... ” Schmidt said.

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