Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Flowers Plant Ideals In Spring

Whether you are planning a traditional wedding or a nontraditional wedding, planning your prom date or just shopping for a gift for that special someone, most likely it will include flowers.  Let's examine the current trends in Spring flowers.

A recent survey of wedding planners and upcoming brides suggests that the hottest wedding flower of 2011 is the tulip.  These are available in near black, purple, blues, reds, pinks, yellows, orange and even white.  Orchids are also quite popular lasting nearly a week, keeping their color and shape with very little attention.  Orchids, too, come in various shades and also lend themselves to being tinted, painted or dyed.  The gerber daisy has risen in popularity among more traditional flowers available in a variety of colors and work well when in arrangements with other flowers. 

There is so much more to wedding flowers than just the bridal bouquet and bridesmaid's bouquets.  In addition, there are also the groom and groomsmen boutonnieres, background greenery, greenery for amongst the seating (whether it be the ends of pews or chairs) as well as table centerpieces at the reception.  The right wedding flower selection can be the perfect accent to your special day.

Bling is the hot trend for 2011 senior prom corsages.  Florists are getting very creative in adding faux jewelry accents to these flower arrangements.  Some corsages are getting even more nontraditional by not even including flowers in their wrist or dress corsage.  now, THAT'S original.  Gentlemen, don't order your corsage over the phone but do make the extra effort in coming in in person.  You may even ask for a swatch of your date's dress or a link to a page that offers her dress or the color.  This will help your florist find the right suggestion immeasurably.

For the guys, you'd want something unique for his tux or suit.  Once again, prom boutonnieres come in a variety of colors and shades and can be ordered as an exact match or contrasting color.  For the senior proms in 2011, variety in men's boutonnieres is also the rage.  Roses are making a huge comeback.  In addition, carnations, orchids and the relatively new alstromeria are also quite popular this year.

Finally, no discussion of Spring flowers would be complete without mentioning Spring bouquets.  The most popular flower varieties this year include tulips, lilies, daffodils, gerber daisies and roses.  These varieties in any arrangement are guaranteed to brighten any kitchen, den or sunroom.

The bottom line is flowers are more popular than ever and the Spring of 2011 is set to be yet another wonderful time to share with loved ones.  Still not sure which Spring flower is best for your needs?  Consult your local florist.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Early Spring Flowers Embellish Your Garden

As soon as Christmas is over, and all the decoration have been cleared away, how nice it is to see the early spring bulbs and spring flowering houseplants in the garden centers.While many bulbs re traditionally considered as outdoor features, some can be grown successfully indoors. Bulbs, such as crocus and hyacinths appear in the stores in bud well before any of the- spring bulbs in gardens show through. These bulbs have been forced, but once you have enjoyed them inside the house you can plant them outside the garden to flower again the following year. After they have finished flowering, remove any dead flowers.

When the fear of frost has passed, transfer them to the garden, keeping their leaves intact, where you must feed them with a high potash fertilizer every two weeks to encourage them to flower well into the following year. Primula, with its delicate petals, makes a lovely spring plant for the kitchen windowsill. When the flowers eventually die, you can encourage extra flowering by placing the plant in a cool conservatory or on a frost-free porch where, alter a short rest away from the central heating, a second flush of flowers will soon appear.

 The hydrangea (French Hydrangea) is a popular spring plant, which makes a nice change from some of the smaller flowering specimens. Although you tend to buy these plants in spring; they will flower well into the summer months if given the correct treatment. Hydrangea need at great deal of moisture, preferring rainwater to hard tap water, and they are best placed in a flat-bottomed container so they can absorb water Freely! Surround the plants with damp moss to encourage humidity and keep them in a cool, bright situation.

After they have finished flowering, prune back the stems and re-pot them into a larger container. These plants benefit from a short stay in the garden during the summer months. Simply bury the pot in a shady part of the garden, watering and feeding periodically with a high potash Feed. In fall, bring the plant indoors to a cool, frost-free room and reduce watering to encourage the plant to rest. In early spring, gradually increase watering to bring the plant back into flower once again.

The cold winter will end soon.  Let's learn and prepare your flower garden to the coming early spring.
  •     Remove winter mulch only after the weather has become reliably warm. The same also applies in case of cutting back evergreen plants, such as lavender.
        The perennials that have been heaved out of the ground by frost should be replanted as soon as possible.
  •     The dead plants of the winter should be cut and the old perennials should be cleaned of any foliage.
        If you have mounded the earth around the roses, as a protective measure, it is the time to remove it.
  •     Concentrate on pruning the rose bushes before they begin leafing out.
        The flower beds should not be dig too early. Pick up a handful of soil. If it falls apart and is dry enough, you can start digging. You can also start the process of adding compost or manure.
  •     Make sure to take out the weeds as soon as you see them. If you leave them now, you will have too much weeding work at your hand later on.
        Cut the ornamental grasses.  In an early spring garden, grass grows very vigorously. So, put a sharp trench between the flower beds to edge them and to keep the grass within limits. Repeat the procedure a number of times in the season. If you want to avoid the repetition work, go for permanent edging.
  •     Late winter or early spring is the best season to prune your shrubs. They are still dormant, so they don't suffer from it and this time their foliage is minimal, so you can see what you're doing. There is one exception to this rule.
        Don't prune flowering shrubs in spring. By doing so you will cut the flowers you were hoping for this season. Prune these shrubs after they finished blooming. That way they have the most time to recover and regain strength
        When planting spring flower seeds, wait until two weeks after the last frost to plant them in the ground, or start them inside and move them outdoors when the weather warms up.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Eastern Redbud Shines In The Spring Season

If you live in the Eastern United States, you have undoubtedly admired the striking purple/pink display produced by the Eastern Redbud in early spring at some point.  The Eastern Redbud is native to the eastern United States from Florida to Michigan and even into Mexico.  Among the few flowering trees that tolerate some shade, the Eastern Redbud is a good choice for a small tree where early spring color would be an asset, such as in woodsy settings or along roadways, where they are frequently used.

Eastern Redbuds are relatively short-lived tree specimens, rarely lasting over 30 years or so, but they grow fairly fast at 12 to 24 inches per year.  Propagation is easiest by seed, which can be collected from the seed pods when they turn brown in the fall.  Air dry the pods, and then when completely dry, remove the seeds.  Once out of the pod, boil the seed in water for 1 minute to soften the outer coating, and then store in the refrigerator in a bowl of sand for 5 to 8 weeks.  Once removed from the refrigerator, plant promptly at about 1/4 inch deep. 

Obviously, you can also buy a young specimen at the garden center, in which case you should situate the tree in a part-shade to full sun spot.  Redbuds seem to do best when they get full sun in the spring, but will appreciate a little shade from bigger trees during the hottest part of the summer.  Dig a hole about 4 times the width of the root ball in a well-drained area, and set the tree inside.  Replace about half the excavated soil, and water well to remove any air pockets.  Replace the rest of the soil and water deeply, then cover with an inch or two of mulch.  Ideal planting times for Redbuds are spring and fall.  Summer heat will likely stress the sapling if no shade is provided, especially in hotter summer areas. 

Eastern Redbuds form multiple trunks that split off low to the ground as they mature.  Growth habit is quite irregular at first, but as the tree matures, it will form an attractive more or less dome shape. The bark is dark gray or black and is smooth when the tree is young, but becomes scaly as the tree grows. Flowers arise all over the stems either just before or along with new leaves. Leaves are strikingly heart-shaped and matte green. The Eastern Redbud is a member of the pea family, and the flowers very much resemble those of garden sweet pea, though unfortunately without the rich scent carried by sweet peas. Bloom duration is 2-3 weeks.  The further south, the earlier the bloom.  Fall color is an inconsistent yellow, not spectacular, but pleasant enough. Seed pods are oblong and some will fall to the base of the tree, but others stay with the plant through the winter months.  The wood is not a strong wood, and may be damaged by ice or heavy snow.

Redbuds are sometimes called the "Judas" tree because Judas, who betrayed Jesus, supposedly hanged himself from the branch of one (a mid east relative of our indigenous Redbud).  Legend has it that the tree blushed with shame, and has continued blushing ever since (even though there are white Redbuds in existence).  Redbud flowers are edible and taste something like nutty raw green beans.  They are high in Vitamin C and make nice salad and pastry garnishes. Young seed pods are also tasty and can be boiled and served with butter.  Native Americans used Redbud bark for use in teas as remedies for  afflictions such as fever, vomiting, and congestion, and medicines were made for dysentery, diarrhea, and leukemia, but most herbalists don't use it today. 

In the landscape, Eastern Redbud shines in early spring when it suddenly bursts into vivid bloom.  As an understory tree in the wild, the Redbud is an adaptive little tree that will adjust to a variety of home gardening situations, including under other taller trees, in the middle of flowerbeds, along driveways, or as specimen trees.  Though they are not astounding specimens when not in bloom, they are still worthwhile in the home landscape for their multi-trunk form, overall small size, and good-looking heart-shaped foliage.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Facts About How Nature Makes Snow

One common notion is that machine-made snow is artificial. This is not really the case -- it's actually the same stuff that falls out of the sky, it's just created by a machine rather than by weather conditions. The machine works very differently than a weather system, but it accomplishes exactly the same thing. To understand how machines make snow, it's a good idea to first look at how snow occurs naturally.

Snow comes from water vapor in the atmosphere. Clouds form when the water vapor (water in gas form) in the atmosphere cools to the point that it condenses -- that is, changes from a gas into a liquid or solid. The droplets in a cloud are so light that the air in the atmosphere keeps them aloft. If the droplets get too heavy, they fall in the form of precipitation. If it is cold enough, this water vapor doesn't condense as liquid water droplets, but instead as tiny ice crystals. In most parts of the world, rain generally starts out as snow but melts as it falls through the atmosphere (it is very cold at cloud level, even in the summertime).

Oddly enough, water doesn't automatically freeze at "freezing temperature" -- 32 degrees Fahrenheit / 0 degrees Celsius. You have to cool pure water to a much lower temperature (as low as -40 F / -40 C) for it to lose enough heat energy to change form. Usually, however, water in a cloud does freeze around 32 F / 0 C because of the work of nucleators, tiny bits of naturally-occurring material that help water molecules coalesce. The nucleators attract water molecules, which reduces their energy to the point that they form ice crystals. The nucleators in snow crystals are just dirt bits, bacteria and other material floating around in the atmosphere. Water condenses onto the nucleator, which becomes the nucleus -- the center -- of the snow crystal.

As the snow crystal moves around the cloud, more water particles condense onto it and freeze into crystals. The collection of individual crystals forms a snow flake. As the snow flake grows heavier, it falls toward the earth. If it is cold enough the whole way down, the flake will still be frozen when it reaches the surface.

So how do snow-makers determine if the conditions are right? It turns out they need a lot more information than they can get from an ordinary thermometer. Standard thermometers measure the dry bulb temperature of the atmosphere; but the most important factor for snow conditions is the wet bulb temperature.

The wet bulb temperature is a function of the dry bulb temperature and the relative humidity, the amount of water vapor in the air. Liquid or solid water cools itself by evaporating some water as water vapor. This releases heat, and so lowers the energy level in the water. When there is more water vapor in the atmosphere, water or snow can't evaporate as much because the air is already saturated with water to a high degree. Consequently, water cools more slowly when the humidity is high, and more quickly when the humidity is low.

For this reason, humidity is a very important factor in determining snow conditions. If the humidity level is low enough, you can actually get snow even when the dry bulb temperature is several degrees above freezing. If the relative humidity is 100 percent, then the wet bulb temperature and the dry bulb temperature will be exactly the same. But even if both are at the freezing temperature, you might get rain instead of snow because the air saturation slows the cooling process down so much.

If the temperature is around 30 F (-1 C), you need a fairly low relative humidity (less than 30 percent) for good snow-making conditions. If the temperature is less than 20 F (-6.7 C), you can make snow fairly easily even if the relative humidity is 100 percent. A temperature in the teens is ideal for snow-making.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Local Color Of Autumn Trees

When the temperatures cool down, as the geese take flight for destinations south and football starts up in earnest, I’m used to keeping an eye open to drink in the most amazing of God’s transitions.  Just before winter set in with a vengeance in the Midwest all of us would look forward to the free show with every seat offering an outstanding view.

Every landscape in my last decade of life transformed before our very eyes.  Slowly at first.  One tree would blush.

The greenery that gave shade all summer was starting to change.  Wind breezes would rustle the leaves with a new sound.  It was drier.  The life of the tree was getting ready for the cold of winter.  These sentinels of the regions flora were starting to hibernate.

Before their life is hidden too quickly, they wave good-bye with stunning effect.  God takes His palate of bright autumn colors and splashes them all over creation.  Landscapes of rolling hills light up as if someone plugged in the woods to a huge outlet and drained the local utility district of all of its electrical reserves.
Each day as I made my commute, I would take in the display.  Once in a while, I would pull off the road, then I would breath in slowly and exhale with satisfaction.  Autumn trees decked with their orange, red and yellow coats are striking.

One trees contrast its aura with those around them.  A few evergreens remain steady.  Yet, they too offer that striking contrast that fills every eye that takes the time to pause, the fullness of the cycle of the seasons.
A quick walk through the fields filled with fallen leaves was fun.  Kicking up loads of leaves, hearing the sounds of these piles sifting through heavy morning air and scanning them as they fluttered back to the ground is a part of the Fall season.  I miss the sights and sounds of Autumn filled with changing trees.

Now, on the Pacific coast, I don’t see much of this magic.  The trees here stay green.  But, then again, I did see a bush the other day.  It was kinda changing color.  It may just have been the light hitting it.  A shadow sometimes looks like a color change, doesn’t it?

Someone got it wrong.  I drove a hundred miles north.  Then, I got sleepy!  I had to turn around and head back home.  There were so many trees that were still green that we got excited when we saw just a small clump of Autumn trees standing out in their transition foilage.

It’s humorous to drive for miles and get excited about three trees that are turning color.  Most of the foilage is still green.  The oak trees are all brown.  There was no stunning rainbow of colors decking the flora of the North.