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Painted poinsettias growing on Southlanders

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Updated: January 17, 2013 6:19AM



At Ted’s Greenhouse, the colors of Christmas are changing.

To purple, turquoise and patina copper, among others.

Though the Tinley Park garden center has been painting poinsettias in European fashion for several years, it has only been recently that the dyed and shimmery foliage has acquired a following in these parts.

“Seems everybody’s turning into Al Gore these days. They’re not happy with Mother Nature so they’re going to change it,” Dan Biernacki said with a chuckle.

Biernacki runs the family business that his father, Ted, started back in 1948.

Though the red, white and pink varieties of the traditional Christmas plant continue to bring the most sales, customers increasingly are inquiring about a new crop of living works of art.

The practice of painting poinsettias, which are native to Mexico and other Latin American countries, has been popular in Europe for decades, Biernacki said. It began with growers and florists wanting to create a blue plant for Hanukkah observers.

A few Christmases ago, Biernacki was experimenting with the process. A customer came in, spied the new creations and asked if he could order 50 of them. Just like that, a new department was born at Ted’s.

Today, requests come in for blue, orange, even Green Bay Packer green and yellow poinsettias.

Some want their Christmas plant to match the colors in their house. Some want the leafy pots to reflect their team loyalty. And some simply think it’s about time neon green and deep purple got their holiday due.

Whatever the motivation, and preferred color, Biernacki is only too happy to work his magic with his assortment of spray bottles and glitter containers.

The concentrated dye does not come cheap, however. A liter, imported from Europe, costs about $100.

The plants start at $4.50 for a 4-inch pot, plus $2 for painting. Plants of 8 1/2 inches cost $30, plus $10.50 for the paint.

Transforming the traditional plants into shimmery jewel tones or bright pastels is fairly easy, once one understands the process, Biernacki said.

Only the bracts — the showy, leafy sections often mistakenly called flowers — are sprayed, on top and underneath. The bottom tiers of leaves, as well as the tiny yellow flowers in the center, are left their original colors.

After the first coat dries, a second coat can be added, as well as glitter or other iridescent coatings.

Customers can come in and create their own painted poinsettia, either during a workshop or privately, or they can request that the staff do it for them.

Biernacki uses an alcohol-based permanent dye that, once sprayed on, must be allowed to dry before adding shimmer or glitter and also before taking the plant out into the cold. Cool temperatures will dry the alcohol and cause it to burn the plant.

“The most requested color from the kids is neon — turquoise or fuchsia — with iridescent glitter,” he said.

Adults run the gamut. His personal favorite is a copper-colored creation.

“No two painted plants ever look exactly alike,” he said.

If you think they all turn out wonderfully, think again.

“There have been plenty that we just went, ‘Ugh,’ ” he said.

Then again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some people ask for black. Biernacki said it’s not his job to judge.

Poinsettias are popular at Christmas, Biernacki said, because they traditionally are red and bloom during shorter days. Contrary to popular belief, they are not difficult to care for, he said.

“Poinsettias can tolerate a lot of drying out,” he said. “Today, they’re actually more sensitive to over-watering.”

Ted’s will host a poinsettia-painting workshop at noon Dec. 17 at the greenhouse, 16930 S. 84th Ave., Tinley Park. For more information, call (708) 532-3575 or visit tedsgreenhouse.com.



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