Life with Poinsettias
When it comes to poinsettias, it’s personal with Patterson Farm. The Pattersons, fourth-generation farmers in southwestern Rowan County, have been growing and selling these beautiful blooms at Christmas time for 45 years.
It all started with Phyllis Patterson, mother of Randall and Doug Patterson, now owners of Patterson Farm. She was a young mother of four children and the farm bookkeeper when she talked to husband Carl about growing poinsettias in an unused greenhouse at nearby Twin Oak Farms, owned by Carl’s dad.
“The greenhouse was only used six weeks in springtime to grow tomatoes,” says Phyllis. (Tomatoes are the biggest crop grown by the farm.) Phyllis offered to rent the greenhouse from the farm, pay for the fuel and grow a crop of poinsettias.
That first year, she and Carl drove their station wagon to Jacksonville and brought back 1,000 plants. By December, the greenhouse glowed with the beautiful blooms.
A Winter Fairyland
“I felt like I was in fairyland when I first went to greenhouses where they were growing,” says Phyllis. “I love the beauty of them. The different colors fascinate me. I’m anxious to see the new colors every year.”
She learned about fertilizing the plants and diseases to watch out for. She recalls a 10-inch snowstorm in early December, and her older sons trying to move the weight of the snow off the greenhouse while her 10-year-old carried snow out of the greenhouse in his wagon.
She remembers picking up stock plants at the Charlotte airport and delivering loads of blooming plants to a Charlotte mall. She recalls delivering a load of plants to a student at Wake Forest University to take to West Virginia. Her daughter, Lisa, also a student at Wake Forest at the time, sold them. Beyond learning to run the business, Phyllis is convinced that spending all that time in a moist greenhouse cured her sinus problems.
The family now grows poinsettias at greenhouses on Millbridge Road in China Grove. The flowers are sold to churches, businesses, and individuals, as well as used for fund-raisers.
Phyllis turned over the management of the crop years ago, but she still visits about every day as the plants mature and bloom.
The Pattersons’ plants are watched carefully and they respond beautifully. “We don’t crowd them,” says Phyllis. “We spend a lot of time in the greenhouse. If you water too late in the day, the leaves can be wet overnight and can have a fungus.”
A Winter Wedding with Poinsettias
On a personal level, the Pattersons gather around poinsettias during the holidays for family photos, involving Phyllis’ children, families of Randall and Doug (owners of the farm), as well as families of daughter Lisa and son Michael. A highlight of the Pattersons’ “life with the poinsettias” was the winter wedding of Randall and daughter-in-law Nora. It was held in January at their church, Thyatira Presbyterian, with the church filled with red and white poinsettias and bridesmaids carrying bouquets of poinsettias.
Years ago, the Pattersons began buying stock plants from Paul Ekle of California, who studied the plants in their natural habitat in Mexico and developed different colors and varieties. The plants also grow wild in some parts of Florida, California and Texas, says Phyllis. Paul Ecke Ranch in Encinitas, Calif., is the world’s largest poinsettia producer with 50 percent market share.
They order stock plants and grow cuttings to pot. Instead of a fall crop, the poinsettia business starts as soon as the tomato plants are moved out of the greenhouses in the spring. “We take the cuttings in August from each plant and pot them,” says Phyllis. The pampering starts. By just before Thanksgiving, Phyllis has her fairyland back.
It’s beautiful to see. Come see for yourself and observe the beauty of the season. The greenhouse, located at 3480 Millbridge Road, China Grove,will be open from Friday, Nov. 23, through Friday, Dec. 21. Hours are Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm, and Saturday, 8 am-noon.