St Albans-grown poinsettias are bucking the trend

ST ALBANS horticultural expert Tony Day obviously thrives on challenges.

Over the past four months the Aylett Nurseries nursery manager has been carefully tending his 3,000 “babies” – that much-loved classic British Christmas plant, the poinsettia.

Despite fears in the mainstream media that there is a dearth of home-grown poinsettias, one of Aylett’s directors, Adam Wigglesworth, confirmed there was no such problem for the garden centre, which is selling all 3,000 plants at its outlet.

He said: “There isn’t a shortage in St Albans because they are grown here, but there is a shortage of British poinsettias. They are grown in our nursery in St Albans and haven’t come from a distant country. There are no ‘plant miles’. They are ready now and are looking fantastic.”

Although the decorative small shrubs are notoriously difficult to grow, Tony is putting 25 years of experience tending poinsettias to effect, ensuring no leaf is unturned in producing the perfect crop.

“Since October 1 they have been provided with 12 hours of darkness a day to help bracts turn a deep shade of red.

Adam explained: “We love these things, they are our babies.” And he assured those nervous about maintaining the plants at home that there were a few simple rules to follow.

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“Poinsettias like being kept warm at a minimum 16 degrees C, and don’t put them on a cold windowsill.”

He advised: “If it’s sitting in a doorway in a shop, you shouldn’t be buying it as it needs to be nice and warm. Cold and over-watering are fatal to poinsettias.”