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It’s that time of the year — smile!

November 29, 2013
By H.I. JEAN SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral ( , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Yes, folks, it is that traditional celebration time of the year, so practice smiling as we continue on through the holiday season for the next 4 1/2 weeks

We started with a cool Hanukkah, then a cold Thanksgiving and now into the home stretch of Christmas and New Year's celebrations. I am not getting into the dates and different versions of this holiday season, that is too much like a history lesson. You know what and when to celebrate your special holiday occasion, and I hope you are mindful of the fact that there are a lot of us and we will not all be celebrating the same way.

What a boring life if we all had to celebrate the same exact way, or dress the same exact way, or garden the same exact way. So lighten up and do your thing with a smile and peace in your heart.

I think that Cape Coral is receptive to all celebrations and I especially enjoy coming into town evenings via Cape Coral Parkway and seeing all the well-lit holiday reminders.

I myself am a Christmas celebrating person and I love my small old secondhand artificial Christmas tree during this holiday season. I am also a real senior person so maybe I have seen so many holidays that I am not needing to start any holy wars over who does what this time of the year.

I do smile a lot though. I smile at all the pretty lights we have in our neighborhoods. I probably would not smile at the big electric bills these decorations are costing but, hey, I am not paying so that's a good thing.

I smile because I know that this city tries hard to collect toys and foods for our families that are having hard times in their lives. I am happy that we try to bring some holiday joy to our shut ins.

I do not leave home without a can of food to drop off somewhere, and if I pick a name from a charity tree, I take the time to pick a name of someone that reminds me of a lost loved one.

Music events are another great thing to smile at. Some mighty fine music is available - just watch the news outlets, most are even free. There are a lot of reasons for a smile right now. Better to smile and shake your head at the dummy who makes a lefthand turn from the far right lane. Surely he has an angel on his shoulder, or maybe I have one who is keeping me from being run over.

I can never understand the scrooges at Christmastime. A good sense of humor sure goes a long way. I can understand being tired. Bless the parents who can make it through the next weeks working, caring for their family and stretching their time and money to the limit to have a nice family Holiday. I remember those days. I can tell you from personal experience you will look back on times like this, you just have to believe in what you are doing and keep your smile.

It is better to have Santa bring one or two gifts that are presented with love, then a mound of gifts with Santa in an unhappy or depressed frame of mind.

Yes, I still like to believe in Santa.

I do have one weak spot during my Christmas season, that is the traditional plant called poinsettia. I even buy a few after Christmas.

A plant from the spurge family, this Euphorbia Pulcherima is very plentiful right now and it comes in many sizes so that almost anyone is able to have one or two setting around. They last for weeks and do not require much care. You mostly have to remember to water it about once a week and let it drain well.

It likes bright light, however if the sun is really hot, it will be a little too bright and will lose some of its brilliant color and become too dry. When a stem is broken or cut, there is a white sap that seeps out and may be irritating to the skin. It's NOT poisonous unless you eat a couple hundred plants. Pets should not chew this plant. They do not seem to be attracted to it.

We are not supposed to have cold drafts around here but there is always a chance for a sudden drop in temperature so you can set them in the garage for overnight to keep them warm. I have had some left out when it was a 40-degree night and could not see any damage to the plant. One night is not the same as two or three.

They can be kept in the house but I think the lain or the front porch or walkway is the best place for them. You can sink pot and all into soil for a fast plant and removal.

You do not have to fertilize them for the couple months you have them, and you can have fun planting them out in the soil.

Outside planting may result in a poinsettia bush, if all goes well. They will need some food then and a trim.

I did have a knee high one a few years ago and it did well all winter in the soil but in late spring a horrible large hornworm ate it all. Well, it did leave some nice green stems behind. I worried all winter over that plant so decided I was not up to that again. There was a larger one in the neighbors yard so I just went and admired that, whenever.

The plant comes in the traditional bright red and a pale red and even a soft velvet, almost maroon red. Pointy leaves and rounded leaves. The actual flower is the little tiny bumps in the middle of the large leaves. The ones with the varagated leaves are just georgeous.

I do take exception to the ones that are covered in sparkles. Mother Nature never intended her poinsettia to look like a glittered lady of the night. However, I am sure that someone does enjoy them - to each his own.

There is a lot more to say about the lovely poinsettia plant but this is enough for now. Even though I love the poinsettia, I did plant a bunch of small geraniums today and they are great for color. They like this cool weather, and they are an easy care plant also.

The wind has taken its toll of anything old and weak so the outside needs some cleaning up. Always something to do out there!

Happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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