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Zinnias a top flower for nectar, color and cut flowers

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Zinnias are the top flower for the San Antonio summer garden. They prosper in the heat and full sun to produce colorful blooms from April 1 to Thanksgiving. Bloom colors include red, yellow, cream, orange, lavender, pink, gold, bicolor and even green. There are a number of different zinnia species on the market and a large selection of hybrids.

Although they are heat tolerant, zinnias are not xeriscape plants. They do best if they are irrigated twice a week all summer with drip irrigation. The other main cultural challenge is powdery mildew. A selling point for hybrids on the retail market is that they are more resistant to mildew than the old fashioned zinnias like California Giant.

The most common zinnia sold at area nurseries is the hybrid Dreamland. It grows to about 16 inches tall and has a tightly packed, mound-shaped 5-inch bloom with bright colors. Lilliput is a small zinnia (8 inches tall) that has a 2-inch bloom.

The old-fashioned varieties, California Giant and Cactus are grown easily from seed to reach 3 feet tall. Some of the dahlia flowered mixes are even taller. All are of the species, Zinnia elegens.

Zinnia angustifolia var. linearis is a sprawling, small-flowered zinnia available in yellow, gold and white that is drought tolerant and mildew resistant.

Profusion is a medium-size zinnia that produces more colors and larger blooms than linearis. The variety is a Z. elegens-Z. angustifolia cross which is less susceptible to mildew and more drought tolerant than the Z. elegens varieties.

Each year new colors of Profusion zinnias are available on the market. This year Peterson Brothers wholesale nursery reports that the new color is a red.

Zinnias are a favorite summer annual for a number of reasons beyond the showy blooms.

For More Information:- Calvin Finch

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Blue and yellow flowers are a classic colour combination

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A perennial type of veronica, Veronica Mongolian boasts alluring spikes of flowers that are so loved by bees and insects. Perennial veronica aren’t native but were once popular cottage garden plants. Those elegant spires contrast perfectly with the round balls of repeat-flowering roses such as Rosa ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ and if you deadhead them promptly in summer they produce a lovely late flush of blue.

Opposite on the colour wheel, yellow and blue always make each other sing when placed together.

While yellow is forthright and warm and pushes forward, cool blues pull back – drawing the eye deeper into a scene. It’s a ting-and-yang, sweet-sour sort of set-up – opposites creating tension and excitement for the eye.

Yellows are still easy to find in the April garden – mainly from within the daisy family, which are so generous in their flowering. So don’t be snobby about this cheerful colour; go out and grab a pot or two of gold

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Two plants that give generously a second time are pale blue Campanula lactiflora and dark spires of Salvia nemerosa ‘Caradonna‘. After the first flowers have faded, trim off the spent bits and leave the leafy stalks below, which will quickly make side shoots. Both need good staking to keep them from toppling over.

For More Information:- NEIL ROSS

Cut flowers should never be put near fresh fruit

A Cut Flower can simply be defined as any flower that is cut from the plant, thorns trimmed, and are ready to be used in a fresh flower arrangement. Cut Flowers are available at the florist or can be cut from the home garden

Caroline plouff

Most Cut Flowers are popular choices as gifts on Special Occasions, either as a single cut flower or as a bunch or a bouquet of cut flowers.

Rose is the most popular cut flower. Carnations, Gerber’s, Chrysanthemums also enjoy a huge demand in the cut flower market.Tulips, Gladioli, Lilies, Gastroenteritis, Sanitariums etc., are also popular with the flower lovers.
What makes a Good Cut Flower?

A Cut Flower should meet the following parameters-

    Appeal and beauty of the Cut Flower.
Sweet fragrance of the Cut Flower.
  Long stemmed Cut Flower.
Extended vase life of the Cut Flower.

The following features of a Cut Flower make their trade profitable for Cut Flower growers and traders.

More production per square foot of flower bed.
Extended production and a productive life as long as the marketing season last.
Ability to be marketed as Fresh Cut Flowers, while the surplus are sold as dried  florals.

    Resistance to disease and pests.
    Resistance to heat and droughts.
    Relatively easy to harvest and handle.

Cut Flower Care

Caring for Cut Flowers and keeping them fresh is indeed a science in itself. The first step towards making Cut Flowers last longer is to make sure that they are quickly placed in water to prevent them from wilting.

Cut stems should be placed in water immediately, as air rapidly moves into the water-conducting tissues and plugs the cells. This is why a Cut Flower that has been out of water for more than a few minutes should have a small portion of the lower stem cut off so that water moves up freely when the stem is returned to water. Cuts can be made under-water to assure the no air enters the stem. Further, care of your cut flowers is enhanced by following the tips given below-

Commercial floral preservatives increase the life of Cut Flowers and should always be used. A floral preservative is a complex mixture of sucrose (sugar), acidifies – an inhibitor of microorganisms, and a respiratory inhibitor.

  • To aid the floral preservative in slowing down the growth of microorganisms around the Cut Flowers, always clean the flower vase or container.
  • Remove all leaves on the stems of the Cut Flowers below the water surface as they soon deteriorate.
  • Place the cut flowers in a cool location for an hour or two. Cut Flowers placed in cool temperatures lose less water.
  • A process called hardening ensures maximum water uptake, where the freshly cut stem of the Cut Flower is placed in 110 degree Fahrenheit water (plus preservative).
  • Check the water level of the floral container or vase, where the Cut Flowers are placed, daily and add water plus preservatives when needed.
  • Let the cut flowers get a good amount of ventilation.
  • Keep Cut Flowers away from hot or cold air drafts and hot spots (radiators, direct heat, or television sets).
  • Never store fruit and Cut Flowers together. Apples produce ethylene gas, a hormone that causes senescence or aging in the Cut Flowers.

For More Information:- The Flower Expert

If your green thumb is getting itchy, tend to your houseplants

Caroline plouff

There is a note of desperation in the voices of my gardening friends right now along with wistful looks out the window as yet another snow flurry sweeps through. Spring is not going to come easily this year.

So we are going to have to look inside for our green fix for a while longer and play with the next best thing; our houseplants. As the daylight lengthens, this is the perfect time to spruce them up and get them ready for their yearly adventure on the patio or deck.

Start by checking the plants for water. Most of our houseplants go semi-dormant in the winter so they don’t need as much to keep them alive. With the return of longer days, they are starting to wake up and will need a good drink. Small plants can be set in the sink while larger ones can be put in the bathtub or shower and given a long slow drink to re saturate the soil. Once they have had their fill, let them drain the excess water away before returning them to a brightly lit place to finish drying off.

Resist your first impulse to water more and fertilize. Plants need much less food and water during the winter in order to remain healthy. Only feed your plants when there is active growth; this pretty much eliminates the need for fertilizer during the coldest and shortest days of winter. If fertilizer is necessary, it is best to only use about half as much as the directions call for. Once spring and summer arrive, go back to full strength. NEVER feed a plant that is very dry. If the plant is dry, water it well and then feed it a couple of days later. Plants that are stressed should not be fed and if there is ever a doubt, just skip the feeding. Plants will do much better for much longer without food than with too much food.

Sometimes we forget to water until it’s too late. If the soil has dried out completely and is shrinking and pulling away from the edge of the pot, it is unlikely to get properly dehydrated with regular watering methods. The best thing to do is fill the sink or a pail with tepid water and plunge the whole pot under water. It is really best if the water is over the surface of the soil. If it floats, hold the entire pot under the water surface or weigh it down so it remains submerged. Leave it submerged until it stops bubbling. Drain and if the plant is wilted, set it in a cool shady spot to recover. Remember that plants don’t need as much water in the winter as they do during the summer. Keep an eye on your plants and adjust their care accordingly.

Re potting can be done at any time, but the best time is just before growth begins, which is in spring for most houseplants. Here are four signs that a plant is ready for reporting: New leaves appear slowly and are very small compared to older leaves; soil dries out very quickly or water runs down the inside of the pot without soaking in; roots are growing out through the drainage holes or are appearing above the soil’s surface in the pots; or roots are so tightly coiled that when you pull the plant from the pot, you see all roots and no soil.

If you’ve stored dahlias and other tender bulbs in a cool spot for the winter, check on them now and then and remove any that are moldy or rotted. Also they may begin sprouting prematurely if they’ve been a bit warm, and then you’ll need to pot them up and grow them indoors (in as cool an area as possible, but not freezing) until spring. If you let the stems grow without being planted, the bulbs will soon die.

If you just need some color to brighten up winter days, consider a pot or two of forced bulbs (if you didn’t start your own), or some cut flowers. Buy cut flowers in bud, just opening, for longest life. Keep cut flowers protected on the way home from freezing, and put right in water containing a flower preservative (available at most florist shops and garden stores).

For More Information:- Pat Munts

Best Environmental Initiative – Winner Flowers from the Farm

Yorkshire farmer Gill Hodgson set up not-for-profit group Flowers from the Farm in 2011 to promote British-grown cut flowers and to encourage more growers to produce them for the home market, so reducing imports while making less familiar varieties available to the public.

Caroline plouff

It now boasts more than 300 UK cut-flower growers, ranging from the Scilly Isles to central Scotland, and aims to reach 500 within the next four years.

Around 90 per cent of cut flowers sold in the UK are imported, typically having been grown in Holland, South America or East Africa, air freighted and traded through the Dutch auction houses before being transported on wards by air or refrigerated transport to their point of sale, entailing a large carbon footprint.

As a result, flowers that were once viewed as exciting and rare such as chrysanthemums, lilies and Gerber have become commonplace, while the traditional varieties they replaced – dahlias, pinks, bells-of-Ireland and sweet peas – have become rare and sought after, leaving a gap in the market that Flowers from the Farm seeks to fill.

Most of the group’s members grow on plots of less than a hectare, use no extra heat other than for germination and, while not claiming official organic status, avoid using pesticides, with flowers growing and flowering in their natural season in fields full of wildlife. Members help and support each other, buying inputs in bulk and sharing transport to market wherever possible.

Flowers from the Farm’s extensive appearances at flower shows and in national media last year has greatly raised public awareness of the benefits of locally grown flowers.

Finalists

PJ Stirling (Berry Gardens), Building Biomass Technology into Scottish Strawberry Growing

Vitacress, The Vitacress Conservation Trust

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For More Information:- HortWeek

If you’re after a cottage garden for spring, it’s time to get sowing

caroline_plouff

If you’re after a big display of spring and summer flowers next year, you should sow seeds before the cold weather sets in.

Right now’s a good time to sow annuals and perennials including wildflower meadows. Wallflowers, poppies, delphiniums, Stephenson, acanthus, aquiline, pansies, violas, primulas and many more flowers are easily grown from seed.

There’s a far wider choice of varieties if you sow your own rather than seeing which seedlings are on offer at the garden centre next spring. Seeds are much cheaper too! One packet of seed will give you enough seedlings for generous swathes of blooms

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Delphinium cultivator. Large-grade delphiniums can be expensive in spring. Plant seed in autumn and they’ll flower in early November; deadhead and they’ll bloom again in February. Look for ‘Dwarf Fountains Mix’ for a wide range of pink, mauve, blue and purple flowers on stocky plants, or ‘Pacific Giants Mix’ for the back of the border and as cut flowers.

Our pictures show seven flowers to tempt you but there are hundreds more to choose from. For the widest selection of tempting blooms browse these online seed catalogues.
* Kings Seeds
* Egmont Seeds
* Wildflower World
* Yates
* McGreggor’s
* Owairaka Seeds

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‘Zinfandel Peach Blush’ is a double-flowered crested zinnia in shades of cream, peach and salmon. It’s a superb cut flower, with strong stems reaching 75cm high. A 2014 Electroscope Novelty Award winner, this hardy annual flowers over several months. From Kings Seeds.

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Snapdragons (Antirrhinum magus) are excellent for bedding, borders and cut flowers. Pictured is double-flowered ‘Twinny Peach‘ from Edmonton Seeds.

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California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) close at night and open in the morning. They thrive in poor, sandy or stony soils and love the hot and dry. An annual, it self seeds freely but it’s easy to control.

For More Information:- BARBARA SMITH

How to Get the Most Out of Your Flowers

caroline-plouff

The best thing about flowers is that they’re beautiful, the worst thing about flowers is that they die. But there are precautions you can take to make sure your bunch will last as long as possible. For advice, we enlisted stylist Therese Mousse, who is responsible for turning Sydney’s The Grounds of Alexandria into a secret garden this month, with floral arrangements filling every nook and cranny — making the space even more of an Instagram’s dream.

Therese is big on using flowers in multiple ways and getting every bit of life out of them, so together we came up with a six-step plan for flowers you’ll be able to enjoy for much longer than a few days.

1. Have an Open Mind

If you go into the florist with your heart set on a certain kind of flower, you might not walk away with the freshest (most long-lasting) bunch. Go in looking for the most beautiful flower in the store on the day, and know some flowers (like Australian natives) have a longer vase-life.

2. Look for Warning Signs

Like searching for a firm avocado, there are a few signs that a bunch is on its way out. Slimy stems, brown leaves, or wilting petals are a no-go zone.

3. Do Your Home Prep

“A tip Silva, our on-site florist at The Grounds, has given me and which works really well,” says Therese, “is to cut 2 cm off the bottom of the stems, on an angle, before placing them in water.”

4. Feed Your Flowers

You know those little satchels that come with the flowers? Yep, use them. If you’re sans satchel, you can DIY your own flower food. Just mix 950 ml water with two tablespoons of lemon juice, one tablespoon of sugar and half a teaspoon of bleach.

5. Do a Day 2 Water Change

“Another tip from Silva,” says Therese, “is to change the water on the second day, trimming a little bit more off the stems at an angle again.”

6. Give Them a Second Life

It’s time to say a proper goodbye when no amount of stem trimming can hide the petal wilt, but Therese says flowers can get a second chance at styling life. “When they have finished their life cycle as a fresh visual piece, rather than chucking them in the green waste, they can be hung up high and dried! Creating the look couldn’t be simpler. I take cut flowers, tie some string around them and hang them upside-down behind a door to dry out (they won’t get in the way there). After a couple of weeks they’ll be ready to make a grand entrance in their new life as a great styling piece.”

For More Information:- Alexandra Whiting