Columbia's Poinsettia Tree: The Inside Story
Now, there's a neat postscript in the form of a letter from the daughter of the man who created the tree that became a symbol of a young, planned community in Howard County. Thanks to Ellen Brown Nathan for passing along her story:
I am the daughter of the man who created the poinsettia tree for Columbia Mall and for as many as 20 other Rouse Company malls in any one holiday season. The tree meant a great deal to my dad and is still important to my family.
From about 1961 until his death in 1990, my father Leroy J. Brown was the chief horticulturist for the Rouse Company. He created the Poinsettia Tree, the spring garden, and came in second in the world flower exposition in Amsterdam--second to Holland which voted itself first!
In 1964, when dad was first inspired to construct the tree, he was greeted with skepticism from co-workers, mall managers, and nurseryman alike. The tree required the construction of a steel superstructure, an independent watering system for each plant, and poinsettias grown to specific proportions and peaking on a specific day.
My mother rearranged out traditional family Thanksgiving plans, and we all went to the Mall on Thanksgiving afternoon. The tree had to be completed for the Mall opening on Friday morning. The crew worked long into the night, constructing the superstructure and mounting the plants. Dad placed each plant so that it fit into the proper shape and checked each watering lead himself. I remember scrambling up the superstructure to assist with the plants.
Well after midnight, we all were amazed at this beautiful creation! Mr. Jim Rouse ordered professional photographs of the tree, which became front page news for the young city and surrounding areas--and a part of Columbia Mall's history and tradition.
For 20 years following, my dad made his annual "Poinsettia Run" in which trees were installed in as many as 20 malls throughout the United States. Many people have tried to duplicate the original, but they were never successful. No other trees lasted as long or resembled a Christmas tree in quite the same fashion as my dad's--all due to his secret watering system and specifications for the height of the poinsettias and the width of its brachs.
Thank you sincerely for writing this story and to the citizens of Columbia, MD, who fought to retain the Tree. While they regard it as part of their tradition, it certainly is part of mine and a wonderful reminder of dad's creativity and skill. I am so pleased that the Tree will live on!
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Posted by: Erin | December 26, 2007 12:44 PM
Posted by: Janet A. Brown | December 27, 2007 3:48 PM
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