Greatest transformation in horticulture

Back when I worked for the Extension Service of Texas A&M, Wayne Cranfill of Bonham (Fannin County) was one of my favorite county agents. He always planned a good program and he always had a nice crowd waiting when I arrived. Plus, he had a great smile and a kind way that won him friends wherever he went.

Kenneth Cranfill has nurtured his poinsettia crops for 25-plus years. Click image for larger view.

Crazy that now, 40 years later, his son Kenneth would be one of my best friends. His dad was proud of the grower Kenneth turned into. I’m sure his mom still is. Kenneth is really close to his mom.

I’ve said it many times: Kenneth Cranfill is the best grower I’ve ever known. He can take seeds or cuttings of a crop he’s never grown and may not even know and turn out perfect specimens every time.

But when you give him a crop that he’s grown for many years, the best just gets better.

Such it is with his poinsettias. Kenneth has been growing them for at least 25 years. Each year the numbers are in the range of 14,000-15,000 plants. And they are always just beautiful. Oh, they’re like my mom’s cinnamon rolls. She always found some kind of fault with them, but I never complained. He’ll find something wrong, but we mere mortals certainly can’t see it.

This was an unrooted cutting just 25 days earlier. Stuck in florist foam in a mist propagation bed, it quickly formed roots.

Anyway… point of my little story is to show you what his poinsettia cuttings looked like 10 days ago when I visited Kenneth. He uses Oasis® Root Cubes (from the company that makes florist foam). He puts them under mist to keep their humidity up so the cuttings don’t wilt. (A good plan when it’s 98F outside!)

If you look in the flat straight down from his thumb, you’ll see the little spot where that cutting lived for the first couple of weeks of its life. The foam block holds moisture, yet it allows good levels of oxygen. Those roots are bright white and healthy.

If you look at the very top of the photo, you’ll see empty pots already filled and ready to receive the rooted cuttings. That’s what happened last week. The plants were set into moist potting soil, then watered to get them started. They are now well on their way.

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And now the amazing part…
Here we are in the first couple of days of September and these little plants are just getting started. How on earth will they ever be ready in time for Christmas?

Kenneth’s crop from three years ago. These were grown using the same schedule and roughly the same numbers of unrooted cuttings. And, you can see for yourself why I say that nobody grows things any better. Click image for larger view.

The photo shows upwards of 15,000 poinsettias ready for sale. If you look closely down in the centers of their floral bracts you can see that the small yellow “true flowers” aren’t yet fully developed, proof that these plants are just reaching their peak.

This has all happened from those unrooted cuttings in three short months. All it took was the right greenhouse, great potting soil – and the best grower ever.

This is why, when someone asks me how to get a poinsettia to reflower a year later, I always invite them just to buy a new plant from a specialist who does it best.

I marvel at Kenneth’s talent every year. I choose my friends well.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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