SCARBOROUGH, Maine (NECN) -- Nothing brightens up a home in December quite like a tropical poinsettia. And in the weeks leading up to Christmas, some 34 million of these potted plants will make their way from climate-controlled greenhouses into holiday decorating schemes across the country.
In Maine, the story behind some of these plants is just as lovely as the plants themselves.
Inside the greenhouse at The Morrison Center in Scarborough, the afternoon shift gets straight to work. One worker transplants seedlings, another sweeps the floor and a third wraps poinsettia pots in red and green foil.
"I like working in the greenhouse," said Mathieu Cain. It's nice and warm and peaceful."
The fact that the 25 adults in the Seedling Program are developmentally disabled comes into focus more slowly.
"We try to match strengths with strengths," said Seedling Program Director Kevin Kearns. "Sure, I work with people with disabilities, but everyone's got some disability. There's no normal people Thank God! Or life would be so boring ya' know."
Kearns has been directing the program at the non-profit center for twenty years.
This is crunchtime--when the gorgeous red, white and pink poinsettias they've been cultivating since August are going to homes across Southern Maine.
"They're a little fussy and susceptible to root rot diseases," he notes.
But these greeen thumbs have spent months giving the poinsettias just the right combination of water, light, fertilizer and heat to produce vibrant colors.
Consumers who buy their plants from the non-profit are getting a good value. For under $20, They take home locally grown, pesticide free poinsettias.
And these symbols of Christmas carry a powerful message.
"We get so hung up with the shopping and purchasing this time of year," reflects Kearns. "The real wealth in my mind is the ability to touch people's lives and to connect with the community. What i see here at the center every day is just that."
In this greenhouse, both plants and people and nurtured.
"I see guys come in, who've never had a job before and they just totally thrive," said Kearns. A useful reminder--- that under the right growing conditions, both plants and people will come into bloom.
The Greenhouses at The Morrison Center in Scarborough sell poinsettias, house plants and holiday wreaths.
They are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am - 4:00pm.