Tag Archive | amazing flowers

Getting bees hooked on flowers with nicotine

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While some researchers have been busy developing a possible vaccine to help humans beat their nicotine cravings, others have been getting bumblebees addicted to the stuff. But the experiment wasn’t just an exercise in getting the bees buzzed, it was an investigation into whether or not the drug could influence the insects’ ability to learn the color of flowers. Hint: It can.

They sure do love their bumblebees over at Queen Mary hooked on flowers. Researchers there have previously taught the pollinators how to push a ball around a playing field, and pull a string to get food rewards. In a further demonstration of how a creature with a brain about the size of a pin head can be trained to execute particular behaviors, researchers there used nicotine-laced nectar on artificial flowers to see if they could get the creatures to show a preference for one color over another.

So they laced blue flowers with a plain sugar solution and purple flowers with a sugar solution containing nicotine. They then set 60 different bees lose in their artificial garden to see how they behaved. Sure enough, the bees showed a clear preference for the nectar that was doped with nicotine in the purple flowers. Interestingly though, the bees were repelled by the nicotine-containing flowers if the concentration of the chemical was too high.

The researchers then reversed things: They laced the blue flowers with the nicotine solution and the purple flowers with the plain nectar. The bees continued to fixate on the purple flowers however, showing that they had associated the color with the reward, even if they could get a nicotine buzz by visiting the other flowers (pin-head-sized brain, remember?).

“Flowers typically reward pollinators ‘honestly’ with rewards such as sweet nectar, but nature’s trick box is endlessly resourceful, said professor Lars Chittka from QMUL’s School of Biological and Chemical Sciences. “Some plant species gain an unfair advantage over competing species by spiking their nectar with addictive substances, such as nicotine in tobacco flowers.”

While the experiment might seem a bit obvious – of course bees would prefer a buzz-bringing solution over plain sugar water – the researchers say it opens the door to wide range of future studies analyzing ways in which plants might out compete each other for the attentions of insects that can spread their pollen.

For More Information: Michael Franco

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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

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

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

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

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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