Cut flowers (almost) for free

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Nothing brightens up a room or makes a more personal gift than a bunch of fresh flowers. They can be costly, though – I mean really costly, both financially and environmentally. Small arrangements can easily sell from £25 (and up) from a good quality florist. Sadly, the pesticides – often used in greater amounts than on edible crops – and transport miles involved in creating these displays can be considerable, too. Dictated by the demands of the global cut-flower industry, much of this material, despite being 3D-printer perfect in appearance is also boringly uniform. With stems so straight and petals so flawless, they are indistinguishable from plastic, and smell just about as fragrant.

But if you get your species choice right, cut flowers can be among the easiest of all crops to grow. Capable of coming back year after year from just a single purchase of seed, they are far cheaper, too, some arguably free. They will have a stronger scent and longer vase life to boot. It really is win-win all round. Even if you have the smallest plot, there are options to give you months of colour and fragrance. Here are a bunch I am sowing and planting right now…

Sweet peas will offer up months of floral harvests if you keep picking them regularly. Now is still a good time to sow them up north, but if you are in the south pots of seedlings can be picked up at very reasonable prices from garden centres everywhere.

If it’s nose appeal you are after, be sure to check for the word “scented” or “fragrant” on the packet, as not all varieties are scented. My favourite rose breeder, David Austin, has created an astonishing array of varieties far more delicate and olde-worlde looking than any “Dulux-coloured” types sold in supermarkets, all of which are selected for gorgeous scent.

Lavender is easy to propagate from seeds and cuttings and will produce dozens of fragrant flower heads per plant every summer.

In late summer, you can’t beat the blouse, bang-on-trend blooms of dahlias that will churn out a continuous flow of flowers right up to the first frosts. If you pot up a packet of tubers right now, the new growth can be used to make fast-growing cuttings, giving you loads of plants for free. A similar deal is the case with microcosmic that will form a growing clump if left to their own devices, providing more and more flowers each year. Both these blooms have an excellent vase life, lasting well over a week indoors.

For More Information:- James Wong

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Warracknabeal celebrates its entrepreneurial spirit and contribution to agriculture

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A town in Victoria’s wheat belt is celebrating its history of agricultural machinery manufacturing.

The town of Warracknabeal turns 150 this year, and the historical society has gathered wagons, tractors and other machinery from the town’s founding to today.

The invention of the tractor was a game-changer in agriculture, and innovation and invention are what keep the industry going.

Warracknabeal Historical Society secretary Leslie Steffen said the first blacksmiths to come to the town were the beginning of a long line of manufacturers to make their mark.

“The blacksmiths were really the foundation for a lot of the manufacturing that happened here,” she said.

“Because the blacksmiths then turned to making ploughs and other machinery that the farmers needed to grow crops, basically to start the wheat industry in Australia.”

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The Wheatlands Warracknabeal Agricultural Machinery Museum re-opened its newly refurbished museum at the weekend to coincide with the annual Easter Vintage Machinery Rally.

Outside, the museum is surrounded by vast amounts of space displaying old wagons, tractors, harvesters and more.

Ms Steffen said it was a draw card for all kinds of tourists.

“I’m really not into machinery, but you’ve got to admit it’s a pretty amazing collection,” she said.

Innovation in firefighting

All sorts of agricultural tools were invented in the town, including a vital tool used in fighting fires.

Ms Steffen said an important firefighting tool was invented in Warracknabeal, a water pump called the Aussie pump.

“This Aussie pump was used by the CFA and right throughout Victoria. It was put on to a lot of fire engines many years ago,” she said.

“It was very popular because it was very good at pumping a large amount of water.”

Ms Steffen said Warracknabeal had an entrepreneurial spirit.

“It’s certainly not boasted about, but I guess there is,” she said.

Fordson tractors over a century

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As well as Warracknabeal-made machinery, there is also a display of Fordson tractors.

Gordon Mills runs the Warracknabeal Machinery Show, and said the organisation wanted to celebrate 100 years of the tractors.

“Starting from one of the earliest models they ever made and right up until the 60s or 70s,” he said.

“The Fordson tractor was one of the cheapest tractors that farmers could buy at the time, and most of them were reliable.”

For More Information:- Jess Davis

 

 

Can trading website help UK growers exploit new demand for cut flowers?

Exchange rates are also favourable for British flowers.

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Lincolnshire growers’ group FloraBritain and online seller Florismart are leading British flower growers’ efforts to capitalise on Mothering Sunday and Easter, with exchange rates favouring home growers.

The UK retail cut flower industry is worth £2.2bn annually but British growers provide less than 10%. Florismart, which gives independent florists access to exporters, wholesalers and growers, uses FloraBritain as well as a Dutch supplier base. FloraBritain, Flowers from the Farm and Real Flower Company are likely to go live on Florismart in the second week of April.

Chief executive Steve France said Florismart was expecting record turnover of £1m in the week up to Mothering Sunday, up from £200,000 last year. It will sell to 600 florists and 5% of sales will be British flowers such as daffodils and tulips. He adds that in summer 15-20% of sales will be British flowers, through FloraBritain.

France, who set up Floris mart two years ago, says he wants to bring in more growers, particularly with strong demand for vintage wedding flowers from florists. Most buyers are Dutch so the vast majority of the 7,500 UK florists sell Dutch flowers because that is what is available, he adds.

Growers such as Lambs Flowers sell direct to supermarkets but Flora Britain and Floris mart can sell to a wider range of retailers that like to sell a wider range of flowers than the bigger retailers, France argues. He says logistics have always been a problem for UK growers so he has 80 vans using hubs in Northampton, Taunton, Hull, Glasgow and Ashford to collect British flowers and deliver to florists overnight. France says a £300m-a-year business includes only 1% British flowers but if it can get to 10-20% it would be great for UK growers. He is keen to incorporate Flowers from the Farm and other artisan grower groups.

Gill Hodgson set up not-for-profit group Flowers from the Farm in 2011 to promote British-grown cut flowers and encourage more production for the home market, so reducing imports while making less familiar varieties available to the public. She says exchange rates are “making florists look again at British flowers because they are paying so much more for imports and are looking to save money. I’m not keen because I want British flowers to be premium products but at least they’re looking. They are taking British flowers seriously.”

She adds that Floris mart is “going to make a big impression this year” because in the past “the trouble with British growers is getting them to the florist”. She adds: “Florists should be able to order British flowers as easily as Dutch. Both sides are keen to make this work.”

Demand for British flowers

Sue Lamb of Lambs Flowers says: “We’re definitely seeing people keener to take British flowers. Tulip demand is very good, predominately with Wait rose, and Asda and direct mail with Moon pig is way up, and also Wait rose Direct and Ocado. There is huge potential with British growers in British florists but it’s getting it all to work together and getting the logistics right. Steve France is the engineer and he has the finance and intentions to do it.”

France says previously there were no clear logistics in place to link British florists with the professional British growers. He adds that large flower growers in the UK specialist in growing four or five varieties throughout the year and are generally set up to sell larger amounts, therefore the minimum order quantities, and values, have been too high for the majority of florists who would prefer to buy a larger selection in smaller amounts.

For More Information:- Matthew Appleby

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

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

Congressman Abraham honors men for decades of agriculture work

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Congressman Ralph Abraham, M.D., R-Alto, honored two residents of Louisiana‘s 5th Congressional District for their recent induction into the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction with a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, March 20.

Dr. Abraham recognized Ray Young of Wisner and Charles “Buck” Understand of Alexandria for their decades of work contributing to the success of farming and forestry in Louisiana. Both were inducted into the hall of distinction earlier this month.

A transcript of Dr. Abraham’s comments can be found below:

“Mr. Speaker,

“I rise today to recognize two of my constituents, Ray Young of Wisner and Charles ‘Buck’ Understand of Alexandria, for their recent induction into the Louisiana Agriculture Hall of Distinction.
Since growing up on his family farm, Ray Young has dedicated his life and career to farming.

“After earning a degree in Agriculture from Louisiana Tech and a Masters in Entomology from LSU, Ray went on to pioneer the ‘Stale Seed Bed Conservation Tillage System,’ known today as no-till and used across the South to enhance crop production.

“In 1989, Ray presented to Congress an application to charter the Federal Land Bank of North Louisiana. He has served on the board of directors for the Federal Land Bank, as the Board Chairman of the Louisiana Land Bank, and as a leader of numerous state and federal agricultural organizations.

“Ray and his family still farm cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes, corn, vegetables, cattle, hay, wheat and pine trees. He is a tremendous example of a Louisiana farmer making a life and a living off his land, and his insight is always valuable to me when I’m working on agriculture policy for our nation.

Buck Understand has spent 34 years presiding over the 4,000-plus members of the Louisiana Forestry Association, a past president of the Southern Forest Heritage Museum, and a past president of the National Council of Forestry Executives.

“During that time, Buck has helped pass the Forest Productivity Program to get part of the state’s severance taxes distributed to forest landowners as cost-share for replanting. It’s recognized as one of the top programs in the nation.

“He’s been instrumental in advancing forestry education at the Technical School and University levels so that we can have sustainable and productive working forests.

“Buck continues to serve the forestry industry today, and I look forward to working with him in my role on the Working Forest Caucus on behalf of foresters across our country.

“Mr. Speaker, Louisiana is one of the top agriculture states in the nation, and I am proud to serve on the Agriculture Committee here in Washington to represent our state’s farmers, foresters and ranchers.
But the real contributions to our state’s agricultural prowess can be traced back to folks like Ray Young and Buck Vandersteen, men who have spent their lives enhancing the industry that is so vital to Louisiana.

For more Information:- WASHINGTON D.C

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

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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