AT one and a half miles long and in places only several metres wide, the High Line is the new must-see public park in New York. The three million annual visitors to the park are testament to the need we all feel to go out and engage with nature.

At Christmas most families will have their Boxing Day walk, but it’s also a time to bring the outside indoors.

One plant finding a regular place in our homes is the poinsettia. This plant discovered and popularised by Joel Roberts Poinsett, while US ambassador to Mexico does require some care and attention.

It needs a temperature of between 13C and 18C and no exposure to cold winds. When buying, check leaves do not have a brown tip or edge as this is a sure sign of exposure to a cold wind and the plant will not recover and may even collapse further once you take it home.

The plant should be wrapped in polythene or paper for the journey home. Don’t leave in a cold car while you visit another outlet. Once home the plant requires good but not direct sunlight. I keep mine in the centre of the room on the dining room table.

Avoid the windowsill, there is too much light here, as well as drafts and penetrating cold from the windows. Radiators under the window make it too hot and dry. I also found that if placed too far back in the room the colour soon drained from the red bracts.

Poinsettias don’t need much watering. I leave it until I see the leaves droop then I place the pot in a bowl of tepid water and leave for 30 minutes. Never giver water direct from the cold tap as it will shock the plant. I find I can keep the plant going well into February and sometimes until Easter.

If you would like to keep your poinsettia for the following festive season re-pot it in free draining soil-based compost with 25 per cent grit added. It needs temperatures of about 13C to 18C, so put it outside for the summer. Those bright red bracts are triggered by shortening day length so in September you have to place the plant in a light-free place for 14 hours per day, remembering to take it out each day and return late afternoon.

Quite frankly, life is too short and the cost, availability and quality is such that they should be treated as a festive treat.

One word of warning, the poinsettia is from the Euphorbia family and a broken stem will ooze an irritating sap, if you get some on your hands wash off immediately. For the same reason your cat, if it shows signs of doing so, should be dissuaded from nibbling the leaves.

The High Line is rejuvenating large areas of New York and is 98 per cent volunteer funded. We need plants and nature and we need to be among it in our homes as well as outside. Festive greetings to all.