Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Yarrow Colorful Tiny Flowers

Achillea has a dozen nicknames including yarrow, old man’s pepper, milfoil, thousand-leaf, wound-wort, devil's nettle and others. The species name, millefolium means thousand-leaf. That name comes from yarrow's many toothed leaves.

Yarrow is the most commonly used name for all the varieties that are available. It is an easy to grow herbaceous (dies to the ground in the winter) perennial that will come back year after year. The wild, white flowering, variety that grows in fields has been tamed over and over again, making garden yarrow into a reliable and beautiful perennial. All yarrows have flat flower-heads containing dozens of small, flowers that are ignored by deer. The green or grey-green leaves are feathery and scented or aromatic.

Gardeners who want cut flowers for the house cannot resist long-lasting yarrow blooms. The flower heads are 2 to 6-inches across on 18- to 24-inch stems that will fill several vases. After cutting or deadheading, the plants will re-bloom. Flower colors include white, ivory, yellow, gold, coral, pink, red, lilac, purple, etc. The newest varieties have stronger stems and larger flower heads than the heirlooms.

Yarrow prefers 8 hours of sun a day and lean, unfertilized soil that stays on the dry side. Shady locations can cause lanky stems that fall over. Humidity and heat are no problem for any yarrow but it will tend to sprawl. The common variety, Achillea millefolium, spreads vigorously.

Yarrow blooms for a month or two, attracting ladybugs, butterflies and syrphid flies. Syrphid flies, also called hover flies, are harmless to us but their caterpillars eat dozens of harmful insects such as aphids. After the summer flowers fade, cut back the plant stems to keep them compact as well as encourage new growth and re-blooming in the fall.

During the growing season, the plant's roots can be divided into several pieces and replanted. Just snip off the faded flowers first. Or, if you prefer, take soft (not woody), tip cuttings and grow them in pots to make a supply of identical plants. Crafters often use the flower heads for dried arrangements. To dry them, cut before they fully mature and hang them head down, in a breezy place, away from sunlight. Yarrows can be started from a packet of seed but most gardeners purchase plants to get the varieties that are propagated from cuttings.

Achillea was named after Achilles. You may recall from high school that Achilles was the Greek hero of the Trojan War in Homer's Iliad. The plant's names of soldier's staunch weed and woundwort come from its early medicinal use of blood clotting. Achilles was said to carry a supply of the plant into battles. One name, old man's pepper, came from the days men used the dried leaves as snuff.

Yarrow also has somewhat spiritual properties. It was believed that if a single man or woman put an ounce of yarrow under their pillow at night they would have a vision of their spouse to be while sleeping. Today, yarrow tea is used to treat colds and flu and is a component of herbal cosmetics. Yarrow is a member of the Asteracaea plant family which includes aster, daisy, mums and sunflower.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Flower Attracting Bees are the Pollinators of Garden

Ninety percent of the world's crops are pollinated by insects especially bees. Bees are attracted to colorful flowers, but what keeps them coming back is pollen and nectar. If they find neither one in a flower, no matter how colorful, they'll move on to another plant.

Natural bee magnets include flowers such as asters, bee balm, butterfly weed, catnip, clover, common milkweed, cosmos, goldenrod, purple coneflower, sedum, sunflower and yarrow. They're also attracted to herbs, such as mint, oregano, chives, rosemary, thyme and sage, and the flowers on blueberry bushes as well as redbud, apple and cherry trees.

There are more than 3,500 species of solitary bees in North America, and these efficient pollinators do most of the pollinating of crops and gardens. Just like us, native bees need a place to live, especially in winter. The spring rains and increase of wildflowers could lead to an increase of bees in the area. Bees increase pollination of flowers and also provide crop genetic diversity and cross-pollination of crops and flowers.

The bees we notice in spring are always large because those are the new queens, the only ones that survive the winter, and they’re out foraging for nourishment from early spring wildflowers, as well as looking for a place to start a hive. For the home gardener, a similar avoidance of pesticides, even in the lawn (bees appreciate flowering lawn weeds like clover and dandelions), and a little tolerance for untidiness can go a long way toward helping our local bees thrive.

But few people realize that bumblebees and other native bees are in trouble. And the native bees are valuable pollinators of both wildflowers and agricultural crops. Researchers have estimated that native bees provide about $3 billion worth of pollination services in the United States. That’s in addition to the work of honeybees. Bumblebees are particularly adept at pollinating tomatoes, peppers, and cranberries, because of what entomologists dub “buzz pollination.”

Monday, May 24, 2010

Harlequin Blue RHS Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show

A bi-colored version of a popular houseplant, Streptocarpus ‘Harlequin Blue’, has been named RHS Plant of the Year at Chelsea Flower Show.

Iris versicolor, commonly known as the Harlequin Blueflag the Blue Flag Iris and other variations of those names, is a species of Iris native to North America where it is common in sedge meadows, marshes, and along stream-banks and shores.

Harlequin Blue species is primarily utilized for its brightly colored floral display. The root mass of established colonies provides good shoreline protection. Although the seed is large and kernel-like, there is no documentation of wildlife consumption; the root stock is fed upon by aquatic rodents.

A graceful, sword leaved plant similar to the garden iris, with showy, down-curved, violet, boldly veined sepals. Several violet-blue flowers with attractively veined and yellow-based sepals are on a sturdy stalk among tall sword-like leaves that rise from a basal cluster. Flowers may be any shade of purple, but are always decorated with yellow on the falls. It grows 2 to 3 feet tall.

The selection Harlequin Blue bears relatively large lavender-blue flower heads on dense compact plants from late spring to early fall. Singly borne on long slender peduncles that emerge from the bases of the dissected stem leaves, the flat round flower heads have fringed edges and a central bristle of protruding stamens. The wiry flower stems arise from a basal clump of scalloped oval gray-green leaves. Butterflies and hummingbirds flock to the blooms and insects attracted to the sepals must crawl under the tip of a style and brush past a stigma and stamen, thus facilitating pollination.

This charming and easy perennial grows best in full sun and fertile well-drained acid to alkaline soil. Deadhead regularly leads to encourage continued bloom. A splendid companion for summer-blooming campanulas, veronicas, foxgloves, and verbascums, it is a natural for perennial borders and cottage gardens. The long-lasting blooms are perfect for cutting. It self-sows freely and may become a pest in some gardens.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Natural Medicines using Rose Flowers

The queen of flowers, the rose is an enduring symbol of love and romance. But for centuries it has also been valued for its medicinal, therapeutic and cosmetic properties.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans used rose ointments to treat anxiety, depression and skin irritations, while the centuries old Indian medical system of Ayurveda uses rose cordial to aid digestion and maintain a healthy metabolism. Today, the rose is undergoing a renaissance as a beauty-booster. Roses are packed with soothing and complexion-perfecting properties, from collagen-boosting vitamin C to wrinkle preventing polyphenols, which are being pumped into an array of moisturisers, serums, body oils and cosmetics.

Rose water and rose essential oil are extracted, through a steam distillation process, from petals for use in moisturising creams and shower gels. The more concentrated and fragrant rose absolute oil, which is used in serums, body oils and perfumes, is obtained through a solvent process. Both oils are rich in skin-protecting vitamins and freeradical fighting flavonoids. Rose hip seed oil is the most potent and is acquired using a cold pressed method.

One reason for the rose's longevity in the beauty world is its versatility it suits all skin types and can treat numerous complexion issues. Rose oil increases elasticity so is ideal for fending off wrinkles. Those with sensitive or acne-prone complexions can benefit from its healing, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It adds deep nourishment to dry skin, leaving the complexion hydrated and radiant.

Geraldine has incorporated rose essential oil into the Aromatherapy Associates Anti-Age and Renew skincare collections, which are used in spas all over the world. The oil delivers health, nourishment and radiance to the skin that is hard to achieve with other ingredients, plus its aroma is incredibly uplifting. The seeds of the hip, especially that of the rosa canina species, are high in vitamin C, four times as much as blackcurrants and eight times as much as oranges.

It is also a rich source of natural vitamin A, which works like retinol to boost collagen production, soothing vitamin E and the essential fatty acids alpha-linolenic (omega 3) and linoleic (omega 6), which lighten sun spots and hydrate the skin. The soothing and anti-inflammatory properties of rose oil are being appreciated in cosmetics, too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Flowers Play a Major Role of Attractiveness in Nature

After a week of cold, wind and rain it was great to get out and walk through the woods on a sunny day. The early spring ephemerals had their show days in April.

Dutchmen’s breeches, bloodroot, wood violet, rue anemone, trout lilies, spring beauties, wild ginger and hepatica are done flowering. Now trilliums, phlox, wild geranium, jack-in-the-pulpit and Solomon’s seal are blooming, soon to be followed by the late spring and summer flower show. Most of the trees are leafed out now, shading the forest floor and shutting down the spring ephemeral flowers for the season. Many trees and shrubs bloom before or during leaf-out.

Our valley has been fragrant with scent from apple, wild plum, quaking aspen and wild cherry blossoms. A close watch of any of those trees on a warm day revealed squadrons of pollinators. In addition to domestic honeybees, a variety of bumble bees, smaller bees, wasps and beetles were visiting the flowering trees.

Smaller flowers have their own beauty. A magnifying glass helps to see the smaller-scale world. Burr oak leaves the size of a mouse’s ear are accompanied by long clusters of green male staminate flowers. The pistillate flowers form near the ends of twigs and form acorns after being pollinated.

The fancy creeping Charlie flower has hairs inside to brush pollen off visiting small bees. Tiny wild cherry flowers have stamens that curve inward to ensure that visiting insects leave painted with pollen. The ends of the pistils on red osier dogwood flowers turn red after they have been pollinated, perhaps to let the insects know to look for the unpollinated flowers.

It’s fun to take a break from farm, garden or yard work and take a close look at the many species that live in the neighborhood. When observing the real world, the closer you look, the more you see.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Flower Carpet Roses Gives Fancy for Garden

There's nothing simple about roses when you grow the hybrid tea types. They require too much care and too many unwanted chemicals to keep them healthy and productive. There is simplicity in growing roses if you select the Flower Carpet or Knockout selections.

Flower Carpet roses are, without a doubt, the most prolific and no-fuss roses on the market. Roses of Hybrid teas get blackspot, but the Flower Carpets stay really clean. The Flower Carpets have topped out around 2 feet tall, but they continue to spread laterally, even more than Word expected. These plants need no extra care.

Flower Carpets are the most commonly used ground-cover roses by Complete Land sculpture, but the company also uses Drift roses, the newest in the class. Planted in hard soil, baking sun and occasional tidal flooding, they perform without any TLC. They develop few, if any, yellowing leaves among their glossy-green foliage. They need no old blooms removed to promote new flowers, which is why they are called "self-cleaning." A plant established two to three years produces about 1,000 flowers, beginning in April-May in warmer climates and going through fall's killing frosts, sometimes Christmas.

Bugs, including Japanese beetles, never chew on their leaves. They require no special pruning techniques, just cut them back with hand pruners or hedge clippers in late winter. Flower Carpet roses thrive in Zones 5-10; in cold climates, they need protective mulch over the crown during the first winter, or until roots are securely established, according to their breeder, Anthony Tesselaar Plants. In zones 5 and below, continued mulch during winter is recommended.

The roses come in a pleasing selection of colors - a white that stays white, as well as dark red, pink, coral and yellow. Amber with shades of yellow, peach and soft pink is this year's new flower power color.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Peonies Flowers Queen of the Garden

Peonies are called the queen of garden flowers for their month-long, annual display of huge, scented, single and double blossoms. Ideal for low-maintenance gardens, peonies have large, attractive leaves that stay pretty all season on a 3-foot tall plant. Flower colors include white, cream, pink, coral, red and purple.

The plants need a cold winter and plenty of sun in the summer, though they appreciate some afternoon shade in August. A northern exposure suits them best because a south facing location tends to freeze and thaw several times a winter.

Since peonies prefer to grow underground throughout the winter and emerge early in the spring, they are bought and planted in the fall. Spring planted or transplanted peonies will take an extra year to bloom. Each plant or division should have three or four eyes. If the division has less, the plant will need extra years to grow more eyes before blooming. The most common cause of peonies not blooming is that their eyes were planted more than an inch or two deep.

When deciding what to plant with peonies, remember that they are attractive most of the summer. In his book, “Perennial Combinations,” Cole Burrell calls peonies a hardy, durable, long-lived backbone of the early summer garden. The doubles can become so heavy that gardeners feel obliged to stake the stems.

In Burrell’s planting combination, peonies are grown with Baptisia, goat’s beard, iris, allium, nepeta (catnip), cranesbill (geranium), lamb’s ears, and Honeybells hosta. Europeans brought Paeonia officinalis to America for its herbal and medicinal value. The roots were used to treat female cramps, gout, asthma and nerves. In fact, paenia is named for Paeon, physician of the Olympian gods.

Dried peony roots were carved into jewelry that was thought to provide protection from curses, illness and insanity. Pliny the Elder called peonies the oldest plant because they have been grown in Asia for thousands of years. Chinese peony varieties, grown in Asia since the year 1007, came to American in the 1800s.

To succeed with peonies, plant them high. They do not grow from bulbs but the roots are so fleshy that they can be destroyed if they stay too wet. If the planting area is heavy clay soil, use lots of compost to loosen the soil and give the roots the drainage they need.

In the fall, cut the plants to the ground and dispose of the trimmings in the trash rather than the compost pile. The forms of blight that damage peonies can be prevented by getting rid of all the stems and leaves in the fall. If the plant looks spotty or distressed during the growing season, spray with fungicide.

Ants on the flowers are not a problem unless there are so many that they prevent blooming. If the winter is extremely cold, use straw to mulch around the plant crown. Late in the fall or early in the spring, give them a little 5-10-10 or 10-10-10 fertilizer, about 6-inches away from the root and crown area, avoiding the stems. Peony plants can live more than 100 years in the same location without being divided. With minimal care, they will provide cut flowers and beautiful leaves for decades.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Buckeye Belle Peonies Flower

Peonies in recent years an early-flowering, ruby red peony called 'Buckeye Belle' has taken center stage. This semi-double has glossy outer petals that loosely follow the curving contours of a wide brandy glass.

These enclose a ruffled taffeta middle of fimbriate red petals set among golden stamens. The foliage has an emerald green tint. When sunlight strikes, this peony is a jewel in the late-spring border. 'Buckeye Belle' is an American hybrid bred by Walter Mains in 1956 and, despite its age, it has just been awarded the 2009 American Peony Society Award for Landscape Merit.

Its green foliage is inherited from Paeonia officinalis, the long-lived cottage garden peony that survives in so many British gardens, including neglected ones. It reaches 2ft at most and the flowers are usually fully petalled in shades that can vary from white, to pink through to dark red. The flowers open in early May and the darker shades always fade.

The single red species form of P. officinalis has been grown in British gardens for centuries mainly for decoration despite its "officinalis" tag, which usually indicates a medicinal use. Many peonies are used medicinally and the name is derived from an Ancient Greek physician called Paeon who was the first to discover its properties.

The double red form, P. officinalis 'Rubra Plena', was written about enthusiastically by John Parkinson in 1629 and these cottage garden peonies were highly popular until they were knocked off their perch by showier varieties bred from the Chinese species Paeonia lactiflora.

These first arrived here in the early 19th century and French plant breeders, who apparently sourced their plants from England, saw their potential and began breeding and naming P. lactiflora varieties from the mid-19th century onwards. Many were developed for the cut flower trade.

These 19th-century French-bred peonies are still highly regarded and they include the creamy white lemon-scented 'Duchesse de Nemours' (bred by Calot in 1856), 'Felix Crousse' (a magenta-carmine from 1881) and 'Festiva Maxima' - a blush-white, flecked with maroon red raised by Miellez in 1851.

Peony breeding was subsequently carried out by Kelways of Somerset between 1880 and 1920 and the nursery named 500 P. lactiflora varieties. It still carries an excellent range and its 10-acre field, known as Peony Valley, opens to the public every June. In its heyday the railway dropped passengers off at Peony Halt, but you can still see 320 different peonies, with more added every year.

Peonies declined in popularity between the two World Wars in Britain, but they remained popular in America and modern breeding is still centered there. Varieties have also been bred in Holland.

The Chinese P. lactiflora varieties are taller and flower later. They have handsome, glossy foliage and come in a variety of colours, except for rich-red. So the quest to breed a good red hybrid was a holy grail for many. 'Buckeye Belle' flowers easily and reliably, reaching 2½ft. It's early and in certain lights the flowers take on a dark patina in the same way that some dark astrantias do. They almost glower in the border.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Disney Topiaries at Epcot's Flower and Garden Festival

As anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a Disney park can also attest, Disney does gardens well. Perhaps that's a bit of an understatement. Nobody does gardens like Disney does gardens is a more accurate proclamation.

Once a year Epcot celebrates the Disney history of fantastic, richly detailed gardens by hosting their International Flower and Garden Festival. The festival was held few years back and now recently held in the weekend in Walt Disney World and were thrilled when weekend coincided with this year’s festivities. As if Epcot wasn’t breathtaking enough, the Flower and Garden Festival adds a whole other layer of eye candy to gaze at.

One of the features each year is something Disney Horticulture has always been famous for and that’s topiaries. Topiaries have been at Disneyland as far back as the early 60’s, requested by Walt himself, and they’ve been at Walt Disney World since it’s opening in 1971. I’m a sucker for Mickey topiary and there are hundreds of other character’s carved into ivy throughout Disney World. It’s hard to pick a favorite but I love the elephant in front of Dumbo, the sea monster in the Magic Kingdom’s hub, and Sorcerer Mickey at Hollywood Studios.

Several of the topiaries at this year’s Festival have been there before and they’re always a welcome sight. Others were either new to the festival or new to us as festival goers. All in all there were more than 70 topiaries to enjoy at Epcot.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lemon Symphony Osteospermum Flowers

Osteosperum used to belong to the genus Dimorphotheca, but only the annual species remain in that genus; the perennials belong to Osteospermum. The genus Osteospermum is also closely related to the small genus Chrysanthemoides.

Osteospermum blooms will close every evening, and open up again in early morning. Regular deadheading will encourage new bloom, and a light summer pruning may result in a fall flush of bloom after the weather cools off. They grow 8-15”, with a mounding growth habit. Be sure to use these at the front of the border or set them around the patio in pots. Osteospermum 'Lemon Symphony' is a Proven Winner Selection; this variety is lemon yellow with traditional daisy type petals. It has a dark purple eye that is surrounded by a halo of lighter purple at the base of the petals.

Plant Osteospermum Lemon Symphony is fertile in well drained soil in full sun. Keep the soils moist and never allow the plant to wilt. Fertilize monthly when grown in beds, twice monthly in containers. Remove spent flowers to promote new flower growth.

Lemon Symphony Osteospermum displays yellow daisy-like flowers with a dark purple eye that bloom from spring until fall. Lemon Symphony does well in hanging baskets, window boxes, landscaping and combination planters.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Million Bells Flowers For Your Garden

Those who love plants have surely been to their favorite garden center this spring and noticed calibrachoa, the great warm-season performer with small flowers that look like petunias.

Calibrachoa (pronounced kal-ih-bruh-KO-uh) is more commonly called million bells. These plants are related to petunias and should be grown in full sun. They produce an unbelievable number of inch-wide flowers from spring until frost.

The plants grow up to 10 inches tall and have trailing stems that will spread to create a beautiful ground-cover mat or sprawl over the edge of containers or hanging baskets. If the plant gets a little out of hand, prune it to generate more growth and more importantly more flowers. It will tolerate part shade, but flower production will decrease according to the level of shade.

There are many series of million bells available in shades of blue, violet, purple, magenta, red, orange, bronze, yellow and white. Though it puts on a show of literally hundreds of flowers, deadheading is not required, as the plants are self-cleaning.

Million bells, like petunias, are vigorous, tolerate heat and have few insect pests. Unlike petunias, the leaves of million bells are not sticky. It also tolerates drought better and has a more bushy and compact growth habit than petunias. Million bells are suitable for both the landscape and containers. Either way, the effect is incredible. They are easy to care for in hanging baskets, containers, landscape borders or accent ground covers in small areas.

This plant may actually thrive on a little neglect. Water only when the top of the soil feels dry. Too much water can lead to root rot problems, especially when planted in the landscape. Million bells is a tender perennial that may overwinter on the Coast, but it should be used strictly as an annual in the north.

If planting in the landscape, amend the soil using 3 inches of organic matter to improve drainage. Finish the planting with a good bark mulch to keep the soil cool, help slow evaporation and retain moisture. Million bells do not need much fertilization, but when growing in containers or hanging baskets, feed every other week with a 20-10-20 or 20-20-20 water-soluble fertilizer.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Beautiful and Aromatic Lilacs Flower

The lilacs bloomed early this year. It must have been that warm spell in mid-April. The 80-degree temperatures jump-started the lilacs and caused them to produce huge clusters of flowers before the end of the month. Lilacs can’t in bloom during April, but they made an early appearance this spring and remained in their glory through Mother’s Day.

Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. Lilacs are beautiful flowers that most commonly are found in a lovely shade of purple, but can also be found in white and pale pink. They are produced in spring. When dried, lilacs can be a beautiful touch to a floral arrangement.

The Syringa (the Lilac's botanical name) is a hardy deciduous needing sun and well-drained, preferably alkaline soil. They are easy to grow and easily thrive. Remove flower heads from newly planted lilacs and deadhead them for the first few years. The plants are upright when young, spreading into a bushy shrub. Plan your lilac bushes for edging, privacy, and fragrance.

Lilac leaves are heart shaped and green with flowers that can be white, pink or deep purple. Their time of blooming is said to indicate an early or late spring.

Lilac Trivia
Purple lilacs symbolize first love, while white lilacs are said to represent youthful innocence. The Lilac is also the flower of wedding anniversary number eight. The Lilac is related to a class of anti-diabetic drugs, lilacs attracting bees were related to a patient's complicated diagnosis.

Lilac Superstition
There is some superstition surrounding the lilac. The idea that lilacs bring bad luck may have originated in the belief that fairies were once associated with the lilac tree, and if brought inside, fairies could disrupt the household.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Flower Garden for Tasty Recipes

Get all the best and tasty recipes at your flowering garden. These small efforts and others below can make your meals more fun and your kitchen garden the talk of the neighborhood.

BLUE VINEGAR: Borage flower corollas can be soaked in vinegar to make vinegar blue. (I start the soak about 30 minutes before serving while I prepare the rest of the salad.) Combine the vinegar with your favorite oil as salad dressing. A mix of rose petals and borage or anchusa petals tossed with your favorite greens makes a colorful and delicious salad to use with this dressing. While borage flowers taste like cucumbers, that is usually masked by the more assertive vinegar.

VIOLET SYRUP: I use it on crepes, poundcake and fresh, chopped fruit that needs a little sweetening. The following recipe from flower in your garden makes almost 1/2 cup of syrup:
  • 1 1/2 cups Labrador violets (Viola labradorica), Johnny-jump-ups (V. tricolor) or pansy petals (I usually remove pansy stems). For the best color, use the darkest flowers available.
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (an option I add to brighten flavor)
Stir together all of the ingredients in a heavy-bottomed pan and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture is reduced by half. Strain the syrup to harvest more of the color and syrup.

FLOWER SUN TEA: Steep aromatic petals of roses, anchusa (Anchusa azurea), bee balm, borage, honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), honeyberry (Lonicera kamtschatica), jasmine, lavender, pansies, pineapple sage, pinks, poppies (Papaver rhoeas, P. somniferum), Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) and/or violets in water in the sun for about two hours before drinking. Do not soak overnight as the tea will become bitter. The flowers lend color and the pollen reflects light to give a crystalline look. Strain out the flowers or leave them in, but use the tea soon after soaking.

EAT THE RIGHT PARTS: Of the many edible flowers, only some are edible in their entirety. In others, only the petals are considered edible while other parts are bitter or otherwise unpleasant.

EAT THE WHOLE FLOWER: Arugula, basil, bean, bee balm, borage, citrus, daylily, jasmine, Johnny-jump-ups, lilac, nasturtium, pansies, pea, pineapple sage, rosemary, runner bean blossoms, thyme and violets. A runner bean named 'Painted Lady' is bicolor (red and white) and is among the best-tasting of all bean flowers.

EAT ONLY THE PETALS: Calendulas, chrysanthemums, lavender, roses and tulips.

EAT AT ONLY PETALS BUT NOT THEIR BASE: The petals of some flowers, such as Dianthus, marigolds and roses, need their bitter white base removed before they are eaten.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poet's Daffodil Blooming Season

Narcissus poeticus (Poet's Daffodil, Nargis, Pheasant's Eye, Findern Flower, and Pinkster Lily) was one of the first daffodils to be cultivated, and is frequently identified as the narcissus of ancient times - often associated with the Greek legend of Narcissus. Extremely fragrant, with a ring of petals in pure white and a short corona of light yellow with a distinct reddish edge, Poet's Daffodil grows to 20-40 cm tall and is widely naturalized in North America and Europe.

Use in perfume: Poet's Daffodil is cultivated in Holland and southern France for its essential oil, narcissus oil, one of the most popular fragrances used in perfumes. Narcissus oil is used as a principal ingredient in 11% of modern quality perfumes-including 'Fatale' and 'Samsara'-as a floral concrete or absolute. The oil's fragrance resembles a combination of jasmine and hyacinth.

This very special variety features a white perianth and a small yellow cup with an orange edge and green centre. Deliciously fragrant blooms. It is ideal for naturalizing. Most true species daffodils, the real "wildflowers" that have been hybridized for years, are very small plants, but this one is strong and tall with large flowers.

These bulbs are the best of the best of timeless, classic and elegant varieties that have been bred to relative perfection. These antique varieties have endured the test of time, and are as amazing as they were thousands of years ago.

There are only a handful of choices among "Poet's Daffodils"; they are so unique they create their own category among Dutch daffodil types. One is called "Old Pheasant's Eye" for obvious reasons. But we chose "Actaea" since we think it's a bit more beautiful. Both have the stunningly-colored short center cup in brilliant contrast colors against the flat background of pure white petals. You'll love this daffodil.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Marigold Flowers Care Itself

Like flowers in your garden, but don’t want to go through too much trouble? There’s a flower to help you. It’s called the Marigold. Other than water, it takes care of itself and you. Marigolds are hardy, annual plants and are great plants for cheering up any garden. Broadly, there are two genuses which are referred to by the common name, Marigolds viz., Tagetes and Celandula. Tagetes includes African Marigolds and French Marigolds. Celandula includes Pot Marigolds.

Marigolds come in different colors, yellow and orange being the most common. Most of the marigolds have strong, pungent odor and have has great value in cosmetic treatment. There are many varieties of Marigolds available today. Some of the major Marigold varieties are listed below:

African or American Marigolds (Tagetes erecta):
These marigolds are tall, erect-growing plants up to three feet in height. The flowers are globe-shaped and large. Flowers may measure up to 5 inches across. African Marigolds are very good bedding plants. These flowers are yellow to orange and do not include red colored Marigolds. The Africans take longer to reach flowering stage than the French type.

French Marigolds (Tagetes patula): Marigold cultivars in this group grow 5 inches to 18 inches high. Flower colors are red, orange and yellow. Red and orange bicolor patterns are also found. Flowers are smaller, (2 inches across). French Marigolds are ideal for edging flowerbeds and in mass plantings. They also do well in containers and window boxes.

Signet Marigolds (Tagetta signata 'pumila'): The signet Marigolds produce compact plants with finely divided, lacy foliage and clusters of small, single flowers. They have yellow to orange colored, edible flowers. The flowers of signet marigolds have a spicy tarragon flavor. The foliage has a pleasant lemon fragrance. Signet Marigolds are excellent plants for edging beds and in window boxes.

Mule Marigolds: These marigolds are the sterile hybrids of tall African and dwarf French marigolds, hence known as mule Marigolds. Most triploid cultivars grow from 12 to 18 inches high. Though they have the combined qualities of their parents, their rate of germination is low. (Source: The Plant Expert & Britanica)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Leaves of the Carnivorous Plant Mimic Flowers to Trap Insects

A plant is not a flower, and some insects are learning at their expense. Biologists and chemists have shown that French carnivorous plants gave off the smell of flowers to attract their prey. The leaves of the Nepenthes rafflesiana, Found in Southeast Asia, biochemically mimic the flowers to mislead insects. They are attracted by a wide range of volatile smells mild and sweet compared to those given off by flowers and are trapped in the urn-shaped leaves of the plant.

The Nepenthes rafflesiana has leaves shaped urn containing a kind of sticky saliva to trap insects and prevent their escape. These leaves have developed traits in common with the flowers, like:
  • nectar
  • bright colors
  • guides ultraviolet
The researchers found that, depending on their position on the plant at ground level or height, the ballot boxes did not catch the same prey:
  • Urns of plant have a pleasant odor and trap a variety of insects such as flies, mosquitoes, moths, beetles, bees, wasps;
  • Urns land, low odor, captured mainly ants.
The researchers believe that this work can inspire discovery programs against insect pests or disease vectors cons involving mosquitoes.

The upper, or aerial, pitchers of the plant have a pleasant odor and trap a wide variety of insects, while pitchers at ground level emit little odor and mainly capture ants. The researchers compared in the field the insects that visited these two types of pitcher.

Aerial pitchers, even when they were placed on the ground, attracted more insects than ground pitchers, and notably a wide variety of the insects that normally consume flower nectar or pollen: flies, mosquitoes, butterflies, beetles, bees, wasps, etc. The team then performed olfactory experiments on the insects using olfactometers. Ants (normally visitors to leaves) and flies (normally visitors to flowers), had to choose between a control compartment containing only pulsed air, and another containing pulsed air and the scents of freshly cut pitchers. The researchers observed that in the absence of any visual stimulus, the insects preferred to visit the odorant compartment, and the flies were more attracted by the scent of aerial pitchers than that of ground pitchers.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Bees Nests Using Flower Petals

When we think of bee nests, we often think of a giant hive, buzzing with social activity, worker bees and honey. But scientists recently discovered a rare, solitary type of bee O. avosetta that makes tiny nests by plastering together flower petals.

Each nest is a multicolored, textured little cocoon a papier-mache husk surrounding a single egg, protecting it while it develops into an adult bee. With a flair for the colorful, bees makes a "petal sandwich" out of two layers flower petals inside a small burrow it digs in the ground, cementing them together with clay or mud. Then it caps the chamber with a mud plug, which seals the humidity inside while letting the outside harden. It's the perfect environment for the bee’s egg.

The humidity inside plastered together flower petals is high because the chamber is constructed with two layers of petals with mud in between, which means the food, will not dry out when the larvae feeds. Meanwhile the outside becomes very hard like a nut. This makes it very comfortable and very safe because nothing's going to come down and crush them. Anything that wants to eat them from above is going to have a hard time.

It turns out that the vast majority of the world's 20,000 bee species are solitary creatures, like the O. avosetta, where one female builds just a few nests for her eggs. It's incredibly important to understand bees because they're responsible for the success of so many human crops.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Rhododendron Best flowering Shrubs

The name Rhododendron comes from the greek words "rodon" which means "rose" and "dendron" which means "tree", hence Rose Tree. Rhododendron flowers are usually produced in trusses. The family Ericacea, into which the genus Rhododendron falls, also includes heathers, mountain laurels, blueberries and cranberries as well as manzanita, trailing arbutus, madrone, huckleberry, kalmiopsis, sourwood, blueberries and a number of other genus. Rhododendrons are referred to as the King of Shrubs since they are regarded by many as the best flowering evergreen plants for the temperate landscape.

Some Popular Rhododendron Varieties
There are around 1000 species/varieties of Rhododendrons. Here is a list of some popular ones-
  • Rhododendron arborescens
  • Rhododendron argyrophyllum
  • Rhododendron augustinii
  • Rhododendron auriculatum
  • Rhododendron calendulaceum
  • Rhododendron calophytum
  • Rhododendron camtschticum
  • Rhododendron campylogynum
  • Rhododendron canadense
  • Rhododendron catawbiense
  • Rhododendron caucasicum
  • Rhododendron chamaecistus
  • Rhododendron cicliatum
  • Rhododendron cinnabarium
Rhododendron beanianum is a rare 'lost' species of rhododendron, thought to have died out 50 years ago, thought to be the only one of its kind in the country, and has been identified and rediscovered by an excited gardener by Ray Abrahams at Minterne Gardens in Dorset. With its stunning display of bell-shaped flowers in colorful hues the Rhododendron is a spring time delight for garden enthusiasts and bees alike.

Rhododendron beanianum was originally planted in the 23-acres of Minterne House, which has been home of Churchill's ancestors and now the Digby family for the last 350 years, in 1910. It was well-loved until the late 1950s when it seems to have been forgotten about. The last record of the shrub was in 1963. Now the discovery is causing a stir in the horticultural world once again as it is hoped Mr Abraham can cultivate and propagate the plant to sell to Rhododendron collectors.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Geraniums Flowering Throughout the Summer

In the early 1980s, we lived in a home that had a backyard that can be best described as a solar oven. Now we are keeping in small planter boxes. Just plant some cuttings of geraniums and be a fan of the flowers ever since.

The name “geranium” is based on a Greek word meaning crane. It was given to the plant because of the shape of the schizocarps, the seed pods, which resemble the bill of a long crane.

Geraniums can be annual, biennial or perennial. Their flowers can be single, double or semi-double. They grow best in full sun and will tolerate most soil conditions, but they do not like their roots to stay wet too long.

To keep them flowering continuously throughout the summer, you will need to keep them dead-headed. Dead-heading is the removal of spent flower heads as they begin to deteriorate. This will prevent the plant from going to seed and force it to produce more blooms.

Geraniums do have their share of problems with disease and insects. One disease is bacterial leaf spot. This disease is especially prevalent in warm, wet weather and when plants are grown in crowded conditions. Symptoms include small, circular or irregular brown sunken spots on older or lower leaves. Large numbers of spots will occur on a single leaf, and these will combine to kill a large portion of the leaf, which will then drop off. Leaves infected with bacterial leaf spot should be removed immediately. Heavily infected plants should be removed.

Another common disease of geraniums is a fungus known as botrytis leaf spot or botrytis blossom blight. Botrytis occurs under cool, moist conditions or when plants are watered frequently, particularly from overhead. Leaves develop brown lesions that then develop into a grayish-brown mass of fungal spores. The lower leaves will turn yellow and rot. Flowers may also become infected and display discolored petals, which eventually wilt and fall. All affected leaves and flowers should be removed.