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Originally published November 29, 2012 at 5:01 AM | Page modified November 29, 2012 at 5:42 AM

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Picking the perfect poinsettia | Ciscoe Morris

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris offers tips on selecting and caring for a poinsettia, and reminds us to turn off irrigation systems as winter approaches.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Pick

Plant Amnesty Celebrity Gardener Gala Auction & Dinner: Drinks and hors d’oeuvres, silent and live auctions, dinner. 6 p.m. Wednesday, Seattle Golf Club, 210 N.W. 145th St., Shoreline; $120 for Plant Amnesty members/$170 nonmembers. Register by Friday (206-783-9813 or www.plantamnesty.org).

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In the Garden

If you’re planning to give the special person in your life a poinsettia as a holiday gift, you aren’t alone. Poinsettias are the best-selling potted plant in the U.S., with well over 50 million sold during the six weeks before Christmas every year. Although there are more than 100 varieties available, if you’re really trying to impress that special someone, choose a red one. More than 70 percent of people prefer red to all other colors. The flowers on the poinsettia are actually clustered at the end of the branches between the special colored leaves, called bracts. Try to pick one that has little or no pollen showing on the flowers, a sign the plant is fresh and will hold its colored bracts longer. Poinsettias resent cold. Ask that the plant be covered with a paper bag before you transport it to the car, and when you give it to your special friend, suggest a bright location away from heat and drafts. Before giving the poinsettia away, punch holes in the bottom of the decorative foil surrounding the pot to provide adequate drainage. Once in its new home, the poinsettia should be watered whenever the surface feels dry, and excess water that ends up in the saucer should be poured out. If the recipient follows your instructions, and the poinsettia still drops its leaves right away, try giving a cactus next year!

Turn off irrigation systems

I’ll never forget on a frozen evening in late November when I managed to complete my first quadruple axel followed by a double lutz. Unfortunately I wasn’t figure skating. I was walking my puppy, Fred, and my aerial twists and spins were a direct result of slipping on a sheet of ice. A neighbor forgot to turn off her sprinkler system at the end of the season. When it ran on a freezing night, it turned the sidewalk into a skating rink. Miraculously, I somehow managed to stay on my feet, but it could easily have ended less fortuitously. Prevent mishap: Double-check to make sure that your irrigation system is turned off. While you’re at it, prevent frozen pipes from bursting and save yourself expensive repair costs by hiring an irrigation specialist to blow out the lines. In the same vein, don’t forget to protect hoses from winter damage by moving them into the garage, and most important of all, cover the hose bibs. Hose-bib covers are inexpensive and easy to put on. If you don’t do it, all it takes is one really cold night, and you’ll have a skating rink to practice jumps and twirls right in your own front yard.

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com

“Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.

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