I remember the moment well, even though it occurred 27 years ago. I had just been hired to work in a large commercial greenhouse business in Richmond, BC. I’d pestered the owner about a job for a few months until finally I think I wore him down.
My previous job, between semesters at university, had been at a greenhouse growing tomatoes and cucumbers, so I was familiar with both the environment and working with plants. I was excited about this new opportunity; this facility was much larger, much more modern and grew potted flowers, poinsettias and bedding plants for the retail and wholesale market.
What would be my very first task on my first day on the job, I wondered? I was handed a pair of pliers and directed to a greenhouse which held what looked to me to be about a million pots of white chrysanthemums. Each eight inch diameter pot had a four inch pot nestled in the middle.
My mission was to take the pliers, grab the edge of the smaller pot and pull it out, thus creating a hollow space in the centre. The next task was to take a single stem poinsettia, a plant with one red “bloom” out of its four inch pot and carefully place it into the hole in the middle of the chrysanthemum pot. Voila, a “mumsettia” was born!
Day upon day I “made” mumsettias as the calendar slid closer towards December. Some of them were sold at retail in the shop set up at the front of the main greenhouse; most were wrapped in a protective sleeve, boxed and trucked on Tuesday mornings to the flower auction located across the north arm of the Fraser River.
My experience “suckering and winding” greenhouse tomatoes (removing the side shoots and winding the main stem around a string) gave me the manual dexterity and the confidence to navigate the poinsettia into place without damaging anything and I have to say I was a pretty good mumsettia maker.
Much has happened since that first day on the job. The greenhouses are long gone, swallowed up the urban sprawl which was beginning to engulf the farmlands of Richmond even when we lived there. The owner and his wife passed away several years ago.
Over a quarter century later I still have a soft spot for mumsettias and the red and white combination of colours will always be my favourite at Christmas. I honour that time of my life when I look at the crisp white chrysanthemum blooms and the blood red poinsettia bracts on the living room table; newly-married, children yet far away on the horizon, living in the city in a small apartment. I’m always amazed at how flowers can take you to these places in your memory.

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