Idaho grown poinsettias nurtured by local hot spring

Credit: Paul Boehlke/ KTVB

Idaho grown poinsettias nurtured by local hot spring

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by Dee Sarton

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVB

KTVB.COM

Posted on December 4, 2012 at 9:55 PM

Updated Wednesday, Dec 4 at 1:41 PM

GARDEN VALLEY -- The small community of Garden Valley is gearing up for winter. The area is known for lots of frost, snow, and beautiful mountains.

However, Garden Valley's bumper crop of winter snow has nothing on its other winter crop -- gorgeous poinsettias -- and the folks who grow them are busier than Santa's workshop this time of year.

At Ward's Greenhouse, there are 36,000 poinsettias that fill 62 greenhouses in what has to be a most unusual place to grow tropical plants.

"About 65  to 70 degrees -- pretty nice," said Ellen Ward with Ward's Greenhouse. "The reason it's here is because we have hot water and Jack and Orpha who started the greenhouses wanted to start a business."

"We had hot water, natural hot water and that was probably one of the main things that started us. We started out real small," Orpha Ward said.

That was over 40-years ago, and Orpha's still at it.

She says the geothermal heat she and her husband harnessed from the Riverside hot spring across the road makes it affordable to produce these warm-weather plants in such a cold climate.

"We're lucky that we have geothermal heat that we can heat it. That's really our ace in the hole is having geothermal heat," Ellen said.

Poinsettias are a difficult and expensive crop to grow, Ellen explains, "You've always gotta watch 'em. You can't walk away from it. You have to babysit the crop."

That babysitting starts in July and the first red, pink, white or marbled leaves appear the first week of October.

Ellen explains that the red is not actually the flower, but the flower is located in the middle of the leaves.

By Thanksgiving time, the plants are ready to head out to stores and flower shops all over Idaho and Oregon. You will probably see some Ward's poinsettias before the holiday season is over.

"They're local, everybody knows them, their quality is awesome. They're consistently awesome over the past years that we've worked with them," said Tom Holloway with the Albertsons in Eagle. "We just really like dealing with the local flavor with Wards, and I love the quality."

Ellen explains how to keep to taking care of these beautiful plants and how to keep them looking festive. "To take care of a poinsettia is really pretty simple. You don't want it to get too cold, and you don't want it to get too hot. You don't want it too wet, and you don't want it too dry. Keep it pretty smooth just right down the middle. And they can last for a long time. I've seen 'em last clear into July and still look good."

The poinsettia grows in the wild in Mexico and other areas of Central America. When it grows in those climates, it is a shrub or small tree that can reach 16 feet tall.

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