'The Poinsettia Grower' of Burlington reflects on four decades of plant care

When you exit a grey November afternoon and step through the door of the greenhouse at Burlington’s Ritter’s Landscape, Home, and Garden Center, you find yourself submerged by a wave of sensory overload. Bright colors fill the room and the memories of past holidays abound. On rows of orderly benches and tables are thousands of pots of well-tended poinsettia plants, anxiously awaiting the holiday rush that makes Christmas official.

Owner Steve Ritter surveys the riot of colors presented by the traditional holiday plant and allows himself a few moments to reflect on his personal and business ties to the poinsettia, a plant native to South America that has long been a staple of the florist’s Christmas offerings. “I confess that I have a special feeling for the poinsettia that we put out each year," he said. "After all, I’ve been raising and selling them for 40 years and after that long, they’ve become a part of my Christmas.”

Ritter can look back to when his florist business was in its fledgling years and he decided to gamble on a request by a grocery store chain to provide holiday plants. “There were some years that Aldi’s would buy 3,000 poinsettias from us,” Ritter remembers. “In the beginning, it was purely a wholesale business, but people became aware of the high-quality plants we were growing. That is how the retail end of the business slowly grew.

“Somehow, the poinsettias became my responsibility, and at first I was the one taking care of them, but the poinsettia business continued to grow and now I have children and grandchildren helping me. I do, however still consider myself ‘The Poinsettia Grower’,” he said with a laugh, “but things change. I am getting pretty close to retirement and the kids and grandkids are pushing me to write down in a book all the things that they need to know about growing poinsettias.”

Read the complete article at www.thehawkeye.com.

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