WHAT SHALL we highly resolve?

To begin with, I resolve not to tell anybody how to keep poinsettias from year to year.

"I put mine out on the deck," is the way beautiful women usually approach me this time of year, "and it was just fine all summer, and then I brought it in the house and it just did nothing."

The fool things are said to require darkness during the fall and winter, at night, and bright light during the day. One achieves this by running back and forth from the closet to the bay window with, needless to say, the terrier at the heels and the cat prepared to scratch a bit.

Think of its as a mercy killing.

In February, when the blooms finally go (they have a revolting way of lasting indefinitely), you can pitch the plant on the compost pile.

Now the gardener can read all he wants to, but I am here, telling you how to care for a poinsettia; and if anyone wants to waste a few decades trying other methods, fine. But next year I know I'll hear it again:

"I put it on the deck in the summer. . . ."

Having tended to poinsettia culture, let me say a word about the gardening budget.

I have here a list of plants I desperately need, and the total comes to about $200.

Very well, I have spent, after all, some months weighing merits - no impulse buying - and it's not too much.

I date, you understand, from the days in which $200 sounded as if one were buying a house, so it still seems like a great deal of money to me.

And I never buy anything without agonizing over if for a spell, sometimes as long as 10 years.

So when my final list is made, it's really made.

What a relief. I knew what I wanted, where to buy it, how much it would cost and everything. My order would go off in late December, before everything I wanted is sold out. There is nothing like planning, surely. So far so good.

"There is something funny about the car." said a person close to me on Dec. 22. "I thought it was a flat tire, but a nice man at 20th and K looked, and said no."

"Well, it's probably nothing," I said.

"maybe. But you get a funny sensation when you turn the corner. I don't think it will run any more. I think you should get it towed."

Well, who cares about the rest of that conversation. The bill is $498.75. I should say that is not far from $500.

Now the point of this is to order things for the garden the instant you know you need them. Don't wait. Any time you wait, your car will fall apart, the hound will get kidney trouble or four roof tiles will crack. ("Well, but they don't make that kind of tile any more. We had to copy them in heavy copper. Sorry there is a minimum order, but you'll have some spares for the future.

It's going to run more than we told you at first. . . .")

If you buy your plants, these things don't happen.