201217ind URIMasters

Several varieties of poinsettias grow in an East Farm greenhouse at the University of Rhode Island in this file photo.

WEST KINGSTON, R.I. — Hundreds of poinsettias are making their way to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in South Kingstown and elsewhere in the state, giving each resident a leafy and colorful “care package” courtesy of the University of Rhode Island’s Master Gardeners.

The Master Gardeners of URI are donating more than 650 poinsettias to retirement communities throughout Rhode Island, including Brightview Commons and Brookdale South Bay in South Kingstown.

Dozens arrived a few weeks ago at South Kingstown Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, Administrator Brian McGuinness said.

“We decorate the facility with them, the various common areas and the units,” McGuinness said. “We were given quite a few of them so we had enough to pass around to the residents to put (the plants) in their rooms.”

Long-term patients and short-term rehabilitation residents received the donations, McGuinness said.

“There was enough for staff as well, so they took some home,” he added.

The donation was very thoughtful, McGuinness said, and appreciated by staff and residents, especially right around the holidays and while still affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

“We’re thankful (the Master Gardeners) were thinking of us,” McGuinness said. “Sometimes when you get kind of a care package like that it just makes things a little easier.”

South County Hospital also received the poinsettias, a spokesman said.

Elsewhere, the Rhode Island Veterans Home in Bristol, the Little Sisters of the Poor in Pawtucket and the Village at Waterman Lake in Smithfield were recipients.

The plants were grown by the Master Gardeners as part of the North American Poinsettia Trials, an annual research program that contributes data to help commercial poinsettia growers learn about the growth stages, leaf structure, colors and blooms of a wide range of poinsettia varieties.

In addition to traditional red plants, the donated poinsettias include rare pink, variegated, yellow, white and other varieties.

“Our ability to participate in propagation trials all these years has been a win-win for the commercial poinsettia growers and our plant-loving URI Master Gardener volunteers,” URI Master Gardener program administrator Kate Venturini said. “And this year, our ability to spread some colorful cheer during this dark time is icing on the cake.”

The poinsettia trials begin each year in July when plugs arrive from three poinsettia breeders and are started in the Master Gardener greenhouses at URI’s East Farm.  This year, despite COVID-19 restrictions, more than 50 Master Gardeners tended the plants throughout the growing season.

A total of 1,400 poinsettias were grown in 2020, and about half were sold to URI faculty and staff to support Master Gardener educational programs. The remainder are being donated.

“I just know these plants will lift the spirits of our residents during this difficult time,” said Sister Mary Vincent, collecting sister at the Jeanne Jugan Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor.

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