Phenomenal Poinsettias

Be ready for a blast of color.

That’s what you’ll get when you enter Rutgers’ floriculture greenhouse on the George H. Cook Campus at this time of year (or scan the slideshow below).

DAZZLING VARIETY

The greenhouse is currently wall-to-wall with a dazzling variety of poinsettias—the result of a program to grow new poinsettia cultivars and show them off to gardening enthusiasts. “They love it,” says Nicki Graf, a 1977 graduate of Rutgers’ Cook College who is the greenhouse manager. “It’s a chance to see a lot of varieties they’ve never seen.”

Poinsettia growers in New Jersey also get to assess how people like the latest varieties. “It’s an important crop in New Jersey,” notes Professor George Wulster, extension specialist in greenhouse horticulture.

  • A vast expanse of color greets visitors to the floriculture greenhouse.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    A vast expanse of color greets visitors to the floriculture greenhouse on the George H. Cook Campus of Rutgers–New Brunswick.

  • Greenhouse manager Nicki Graf coordinates a variety of volunteers and workers.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Greenhouse manager Nicki Graf coordinates a variety of volunteers and workers, who help plant and care for the poinsettias. The volunteers include Rutgers alumni, staff members, students, and gardening enthusiasts taking classes in Rutgers’ Master Gardener Program.

  • Nicki Graf tends to the poinsettias with Gail Johnson (left) & Helen Misiewicz.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Nicki Graf tends to the poinsettias with Gail Johnson (left) and Helen Misiewicz (right). Johnson, a head greenhouse technician at Rutgers, worked in the floriculture greenhouse for 14 years and now works in another university greenhouse. Misiewicz, who works as a groundskeeper at the university, volunteers in the greenhouse on the weekends.

  • The greenhouse is divided into two rooms with different growing conditions.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    The greenhouse is divided into two rooms, which allows Rutgers horticulture experts to learn how the poinsettias grow under different conditions. The poinsettias are being grown under relatively cold temperatures to evaluate the energy savings potential of this approach.

  • Visitors to Rutgers’ Poinsettia Open House are able to see the latest cultivars.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Visitors to Rutgers’ Poinsettia Open House are able to see the latest cultivars, which are provided by breeders and propagators, including Dummen, Ecke Ranch, and Syngenta. Poinsettia varieties are often given names, such as Freedom Red, but many of those being grown here arrive with just a number, as they haven’t yet been released for sale.

  • The Poinsettia Open House is held each December.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    The Poinsettia Open House, held each December, is an opportunity for plant breeders and propagators to hear from plant lovers. “It’s helpful to the industry since they get to hear what people like and don’t like,” says Professor George Wulster, extension specialist in greenhouse horticulture.

  • Visitors to the Poinsettia Open House often marvel at the variety of plants.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Visitors to the Poinsettia Open House often marvel at the variety of plants. “This is a chance to see the odd and unusual,” says Nicki Graf, greenhouse manager.

  • The colorful part of the poinsettia is known as a bract; a modified leaf.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    The colorful part of the poinsettia is actually known as a bract; it is basically a modified leaf. The true flowers (cyathia) are quite small and can be viewed in the middle of the bract cluster.

  • Devices around the greenhouse measure light, humidity, and temperature.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Devices around the greenhouse measure light, humidity, and temperature, relaying the data to computers elsewhere in the building and allowing staff to precisely control conditions within the greenhouse.

  • Rutgers volunteers participate in planting, watering, and weeding.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    Rutgers volunteers participate in everything from planting the poinsettias over the summer to watering and weeding them.

  • “I love the floriculture greenhouse,” says Helen Misiewicz.
    A Blast of Color in a Rutgers Greenhouse

    “I love the floriculture greenhouse,” says Helen Misiewicz, who volunteers to help care for the poinsettias. “It’s beautiful. How could you not like it?”

  • A vast expanse of color greets visitors to the floriculture greenhouse.
    1/11
  • Greenhouse manager Nicki Graf coordinates a variety of volunteers and workers.
    2/11
  • Nicki Graf tends to the poinsettias with Gail Johnson (left) & Helen Misiewicz.
    3/11
  • The greenhouse is divided into two rooms with different growing conditions.
    4/11
  • Visitors to Rutgers’ Poinsettia Open House are able to see the latest cultivars.
    5/11
  • The Poinsettia Open House is held each December.
    6/11
  • Visitors to the Poinsettia Open House often marvel at the variety of plants.
    7/11
  • The colorful part of the poinsettia is known as a bract; a modified leaf.
    8/11
  • Devices around the greenhouse measure light, humidity, and temperature.
    9/11
  • Rutgers volunteers participate in planting, watering, and weeding.
    10/11
  • “I love the floriculture greenhouse,” says Helen Misiewicz.
    11/11