The vibrant red and deep green leaves of poinsettias provide a rush of Christmas glow at a time when most of nature lies fallow and colorless. A single plant can infuse any setting with holiday cheer.
The Christmas spirit is at its height in 10 acres of greenhouses at Dixie Green in Centre, arguably Alabama’s center of wholesale poinsettia production. Beginning in mid-October, concrete floors are transformed into a vivid patchwork of cardinal red, rosy pink and snowy white as more than 400,000 poinsettias burst with color.
“One of my favorite things about growing poinsettias is putting out a beautiful product people enjoy,” said Hank Richardson, co-owner and operator at Dixie Green. “People from all over the world get to see our plants. I think that’s pretty neat.”
Hank serves on the Cherokee County Farmers Federation board and the Alabama Farmers Federation State Greenhouse, Nursery and Sod Committee. At Dixie Green, he oversees sales and shipping, while his brother, Jerry, serves as head grower. Their plants are sold at retail locations across the country and adorn displays at a famous Orlando, Fla., theme park.
With more than 30 years in the business, the family bond at Dixie Green is strong and visually expressed in a framed pencil sketch of three brothers hanging above the office fireplace.
Raised as farmers, Hank and Jerry expanded their operation in 1973 when they started growing plants with their oldest brother, Harlan.
“At the start, the greenhouse was a side business, but it turned into more greenhouses and less farming,” Jerry said. “Our first little bitty greenhouse still sits on the property out by itself. We’ve built up the business from there.”
The three brothers worked together daily, with Harlan managing the office and overseeing construction until his sudden passing in 2011.
“We miss him a lot,” Jerry said of his older brother. “We all started this together. His daughter, Amanda, still works for us.” The recent loss makes the younger Richardson brothers even more appreciative of the time they spend together as co-workers.
“To me, it’s one of the greatest things that we’ve been able to stay together and work together,” Hank said. “We don’t fuss, fight or carry on. We just work, and we’re really proud to do it.” The brothers also take great pride in their community. Aside from wholesale distribution, Dixie Green provides flowers to schools, clubs and other groups for fundraisers.
“We’re glad to be involved in helping community organizations raise money,” Hank said. “One group in Rome, Ga., sells 20,000 to 30,000 of our poinsettias every year. We usually send them two to three tractor-trailer loads of flowers.” As the growing season winds down, Jerry and Hank share their remaining flowers rather than keep them to themselves. “I might take a poinsettia home on Christmas Eve,” Jerry said, with a laugh. “We’ll take poinsettias as gifts for nursing homes and hospitals, and we give some to our church for the Christmas party. Everyone always appreciates it.”
When the season is over, Hank said he’s happy to know his family’s business provided holiday cheer for consumers. “It’s the same as needing a Christmas tree in your house — it’s just not Christmas without a poinsettia,” Hank said.