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Flower Blog Archive - August 2006

The Flower Expert welcomes the flower enthusiasts to the special feature - Flower Blogs where the flower lovers can share the knowledge about flowers and flower related topics with the flower admiring community world-wide.

For any general questions and doubts on flower blogs and blogging, you are requested to go through Frequently Asked Questions on Flower Blog.

In addition, the Step-by-Step Guide To Flower Blog gives you a a detailed notes on how to blog on flowers.

Post your comments on anything related to Flowers & Floral Industry. You can create a blog instantly without the hassle of username and password. And you can also view our monthly .

Flowers as Outdoor Halloween Decorations

Where Halloween is celebrated, witches, ghosts and other macabre elements will be the focus of attention in the October landscape. But there's still a place in the yard for flowers, even in the fall. Indeed, for many of us, September and October are the last months in the year to enjoy flowers outdoors. So remember to use flowers as a backdrop for your outdoor Halloween decorations. In this article, I offer some examples.

Christmas Flowers - Growing Poinsettias

poinsettia-image.jpgPoinsettias are not difficult to grow. The main factors that influence the growth of poinsettias are temperature and humidity. The temperature should not fall below 60°F and the humidity should be quite high (around 60 to 70 per cent).

You must be receiving poinsettia plants during Christmas. Keep these plants in a cool cellar and they will stay there in the dormant condition. Repot these in spring and place them in a sunny spot. Poinsettias can be propagated by cuttings. When the poinsettias are considerably tall, remove the cuttings and plant in a pot. Remember to keep the soil moist and you can add some regular plant food. The tall plants might need staking. New red leaves will come out in early december. Read more about Growing Poinsettias.

Chrysanthemum Flowers

Chrysanthemums are valued as perennials that bloom in autumn. As such, they can provide your yard with knockout fall displays year after year. But in areas with autumns subject to cold temperatures, the trick is to make sure that your chrysanthemum flowers are truly "hardy mums."

California Wild Flowers

California is home to many species of wild flowers due to its diverse climatic conditions and geography. Here are the names of some naturally growing wildflowers that are found throughout California:

  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica): California Poppy is California's State Flower. The petals of this flower have a natural sheen that makes its orange petals a beautiful gold. It grows primarily in grasslands and distributed throughout California.
  • Buttercup (Ranunculus californicus): It has shiny yellow petals.Found in grassland, oak woodland, mixed-evergreen or coniferous forest throughout the California.
  • Common Monkeyflower (Mimulus guttatus): It superficially looks like snap dragons.Common in wet places and near ditches throughout California.
  • Musk Monkeyflower (Mimulus moschatus): It is a yellow colored, hairy flower, smelling of musk. Grows in moist soil and partial shade. Found throughout California.
  • Western Dog Violet (Viola adunca): These are brilliqantly violet in color and are found in the grass-lands and wet banks in the mountains of California.
  • Common Madia Madia elegans: These flowers look like daisies and are found in grasslands and open forests of California.
  • Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum): The flowers are fiery orange and covered by black spots. Found in moist places throughout California.
  • Tidy-tips (Layia platyglossa): These are beautiful yellow and white flowers. Found throughot California.
  • Wild Mock Orange (Philadelphus lewisii): These are small, white flowers with a delicate fragrance. Found in north-western California.
  • Wind Poppy (Stylomecon heterophylla): These come in briliant hues of red, orange and yellow. Found in grasslands of north-western California.


These are the names of only a few flowers. California has thousands of such floral delights. Start exploring!

Christmas Wedding Flowers

weddingbouquet-image.jpg Christmas weddings are doubly auspicious.You can reflect the merry-making of the season in your wedding by using winter flowers, specially flowers that are significant in Christmas celebrations. Let flowers be your main theme and put them wherever you think they can be.

You can make an elaborate flower arrangement in the centre of the hall for a stunning effect. Hang Christmas wreaths on the pews or at the end of the rows of chairs. You can even decorate the chairs of the bride and the bridegroom, but only on outside, otherwise they will stain the dress. For all your decorations you can use red roses (a great favourite), dendrobium orchids, calla Lilies, gardenias, white lilac, tulips and possibly even peonies. You can also go for baby’s breath, dahlias, and snowberries, but be careful not to include poinsettias in your wedding bouquet because they might spoil your dress. Plan everything in advance and get ready for a great wedding.

Christmas Flowers and Greens

Christmas has been long associated with greens and flowers. Since Christmas is celebrated in winter, flowers color up the dreary winter picture and the greens become the symbol of the approaching vibrant spring. The most common flowers associated with Christmas are Poinsettia and Christmas Rose and the common greens are Holly,Ivy and Misletoe. Interestingly, each of these has a tale associated with it.

Poinsettias occupy a significant place in any Christmas celebration. It is said that, during the birth of The Baby Christ everybody brought expensive gifts.Two poor children had nothing to offer and they picked up some green weeds on the way for The Baby Christ. When they reached there, the leaves had turned to bright red blossoms and hence we got our poinsettias.

There is a similar story about the Christmas Rose. It is said that a poor girl Madelon had nothing for The Baby Christ and and was shedding tears helplessly. An Angel saw her tears and brushed aside the snow at her feet to reveal a most beautiful white blossom with a pink tip and thats how our Christmas Rose came into being.

Holly,ivy and misletoes are associated with good luck. The pointed leaves of the holly represents the thorn crown of Jesus and its red berries signify the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. The clinging nature of ivy signifies man's need for a divine support and kissing under misletoe is said to bring romance and good luck in our lives. Read more about Christmas Flowers.

Thanksgiving Flowers

Thanksgiving flowers image.jpgThanksgiving Day is celebrated on the fourth thursday of November in the USA. It is a day of showing our gratitude to the Almighty for a fruitful harvest. We also extend our thanks to our near and dear ones who matter a lot in our lives, and what can be better than flowers to convey our hearts' message? So, this Thanksgiving Day, make flowers the vehicles of your heart-felt thanks.

Since Thanksgiving Day comes in autumn, try to incorporate the colors of autumn in your bouquet or center-piece. Use a lot of reds, oranges, yellows and browns. You can use green or blue to provide an interesting background. You can choose from mums, chrysanthemums, pansies and asters or any flower in your garden that catches your fancy. You can tie them with a simple ribbon and place them in mason jars, terracotta pots or anywhere you feel they will look good. Just follow your instincts and you can come up with innovative arrangements yourself. But remember to keep the look neat.

This Thanksgiving Day, say “Thanks” with flowers. Read more on Thanksgiving Flowers.

Growing Pretty Flowers from Bulbs

bulbs.jpgMention bulbs... and most people think of daffodils or jonquils, but the range of bulbous plants extends far beyond those pretty flowers.

While tulips, hyacinths and snowdrops also belong with the 'true' bulb family, there are many flowers that have corms, rhizomes or tubers. These include agapanthus and hippeastrums, dahlias, cannas and other lilies, irises, begonias, anemones and amaryllis, to name just a few. Not only do bulbs do the work of reproducing the plant, they store food for those months when the leaves die and the plant is dormant. Thus, when the conditions are right the new plant has all it needs to thrust new shoots up into the sunlight.

Most bulbs need moist, rich, free draining soil and a sunny position to grow happily. Many flower in the spring, but such is their diversity, it is possible to have bulbs flowering in every month of the year.

To grow bulbs such as tulips in a temperate region, keep them in the refrigerator for four to eight weeks before planting out at the coldest time of year. In cold ares, plant in late autumn. Tulips like warm, dry summers alkaline soil. They may be affected by aphids, or a fungal condition called 'tulip fire' if there is too much moisture about. Their vibrant colors make them well worth a place in the garden. Bulbs will usually do well if their natural habitat is approximated in the garden. For instance, daffodils are meadow flowers, so like plenty of sun. They will naturalize successfully in the lawn and flower early before the grass becomes too competitive. It's best not to mow for at least six weeks after the flowers die, because the leaves provide food to the bulb for next years' growth.

Woodland bulbs like bluebells and snowdrops will do better in a semi-shaded or a dappled sun position. They do well under deciduous trees. Spring-flowering bulbs may be planted near a well-used path or where they can be seen from a window to save trekking over soggy lawns to admire them.

Most bulbs can be grown successfully in containers, but need at least four inches ((10 cm)) of soil below them and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) above. It's a good idea to plant bulbs in a pot and bury it in the garden to prevent them from being accidentally hoed during a weeding session. If you have trouble with rodents eating your bulbs, plant them inside a wire cage buried in the garden.

Daffodils, or narcissus, are easy to grow and most tolerate at least light frosts. There are many varieties and all are beautiful, but nurseries tend to only stock the most common kinds. Mail order specialist nurseries are where to find the more unusual of these beauties. Colors vary from white through cream to yellow and some even have pale pink trumpets, so it's well worth the extra trouble to seek them out. Reference.

Growing Rhododendrons Successfully in Central Minnesota

rhododendron.jpgRhododendrons are recognized as an important group of landscape shrubs throughout the country. They are grown for their wonderful spring flower displays and for the unique texture their leaves and branching structure offer.

There are several major groupings of plants collectively referred to as rhododendron. In our area, the large leaf rhododendron, small leaf rhododendron, and deciduous azaleas are most successfully grown. Large leaf rhododendron retain their foliage through the winter, which remains green in color. Small leaf rhododendron also hold their leaves in the winter, although the leaves typically turn brown to mahogany in color. In both cases, the leaves curl up, sometimes tightly, during cold weather, so the plant may conserve moisture. Deciduous azaleas drop their leaves in the fall, after turning brilliant orange and red.

Successful culture of rhododendron in Minnesota requires proper soil conditions. Rhododendron like acidic soils that are high in organic matter. High organic content assures that the soil will retain moisture, yet also drain well when too wet. These conditions are typically achieved by planting into soil that has been amended with generous quantities of peat moss and/or compost. Even so, the soil may not be acidic enough. A pH test will ascertain whether additional acidification is needed. Soil sulfur or aluminum sulfate can be used to further acidify the soil.

Another significant issue, for the evergreen rhododendrons, is our winter conditions. As our soils freeze up during winter, less moisture is available for these plants. Rhododendron cope with this by curling their leaves to reduce moisture loss during cold weather. To prevent the foliage from drying out completely, several things may be considered. Rhododendron should be planted in a location where they do not receive direct exposure to west and north winds in the winter, nor where the late afternoon sun will hit them in the winter. Assure that there is adequate moisture in the soil before winter by watering around rhododendron before the ground freezes up. We recommend spraying rhododendron in the fall with an anti-desiccant, such as Wilt Pruf. This is especially important for young plants or those planted in more exposed sites. Rhododendron grow best in partly shaded locations. Avoiding the extremes of full sun or dense shade will result in the best vigor. Fertilizer is typically not needed for established plants. Prune rhododendron in the weeks immediately following their bloom. This allows optimal regrowth and flowering for the next year.

Disease and pest problems are not common. Root rot fungus is the problem most often seen, tending to occur in soils that are not adequately drained. It often manifests as curling of the leaves during the growing season followed by rapid decline of the plant. Unfortunately, root rot is better prevented through good soil culture than cured once it appears. Reference.

Costus Flowers, the Crepe Gingers

costus1.jpgCrepe ginger is a tall and dramatic landscape plant with large dark green leaves arranged on the stalk in a spiral. This Costus can grow to 10 ft (3.1 m) tall in frost-free areas, but typically grows to about 6 ft (1.8 m) tall in cooler regions where it is root hardy but dies back in winter.

The flowers appear in late summer or early fall, and are quite unusual looking. They form on red 4 in (10.2 cm) cone-shaped bracts, with several 2 in (5 cm) pure white crinkled flowers protruding from each cone. The flowers look like crepe paper - thus the common name of crepe ginger. After the flowers fade away, the attractive red cone-shaped bracts remain.

As beautiful as the species is, there are a number of cultivars of Costus speciosus that are sought after as garden ornamentals. Most are not as hardy as the species and do not grow as tall. The cultivar 'Pink Shadow' is similar to the species but the white flowers are blushed with pink. The cultivar 'Variegatus' has green and white variegated leaves, flowers similar to the species, grows to 5-7 ft (1.5-2.1 m), but is only hardy to zone 9. The cultivar 'Foster Variegated' has reddish stems and broad creamy white striped leaves which are soft and furry to the touch. It only grows to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall and is less likely to flower than the species. The cultivar 'Nova' is a shorter plant, to about 3 ft (0.9 m), and has light green foliage and flowers similar to the species. Another short tetraploid is offered by Stokes Tropicals, and the description is similar to 'Nova'.

Costus speciosus is native to the Malay Peninsula of Southeast Asia, but it has naturalized in some tropical areas, including Hawaii. It is listed as a potential invasive plant in the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Republic of Palau, and in French Polynesia.

For best results, this plant should get from 3 to 5 hours of direct sunlight daily, and be grown in fertile, organic, moist but well-drained soil. Monthly applications of a balanced fertilizer during the summer growing season will benefit this plant. Generally crepe ginger is pest free. Crepe ginger grows from thick fleshy roots called "rhizomes", similar in appearance to the "ginger root" found in grocery stores. They may be purchased as potted plants or as bare rhizomes, and they are easy to grow either way. Plant the rhizome about 1 in (2.5 cm) below the surface in a sandy loam or clay soil that has been improved with leaf mold or well composted manure. A single rhizome will produce new shoots and increase to a 3 ft wide clump in the second year under ideal growing conditions.

Crepe ginger is best used for dramatic effect in a tropical landscape, but also combines well with other tall perennials as a backdrop. Read more.

Rafflesia: The Super Flower

by Edward S. Ross
More bizarre than beautiful, the Rafflesia flower I had journeyed halfway around the world to see blazed before me. Its five brilliant red petal-like lobes formed a circle a meter in diameter. In place of the tissue-thin petals of a rose were thick, fragile flaps rather like the flesh of a mushroom in texture. The flower’s opening was bordered by a thin-walled diaphragm, which was probably concentrating the odor of rotting flesh that had attracted a buzz of filth flies. ed_rafflesia.jpg

Despite the smell, I counted myself lucky. Botanists from around the world make special pilgrimages to the rainforests of southeastern Asia hoping to see these extraordinary blossoms. But, more often than not, their quest fails. The plants are scattered and hard to reach, and their blooming periods are short and unpredictable.

I had long wanted to feast my eyes on a Rafflesia. The opportunity first arose during one of my insect collecting forays in Indonesia. I made a special trip to Batang Palupuh, a small Sumatran village near Bukittingi. There, a roadside sign reading “Bunga Rafflesia” (Rafflesia flower) announced the flower’s presence. A short hike to the gated, guarded spot led through a rural village with rusty-metal-roofed houses, a mosque, rice paddies, and aromatic cloves and cinnamon bark spread to dry in the sun. I was rewarded by the smiles of villagers—perhaps offered in sympathy because they knew that the Rafflesia weren’t in bloom.

A year later, I returned to Sumatra better prepared. Traveling on an enabling grant from National Geographic, I had the blessings of the leading authority on Rafflesia, Willem Meijer of the University of Kentucky. Meijer’s contact, a local forester, guided me along the densely-forested slope of a volcano to a “secret” locality. I promised not to divulge the name so as to avoid attracting well-meaning but potentially habitat-damaging visitors. This time, I arrived while the flowers were in full bloom and ample stench. It was a rare experience.

Rafflesia flowers are considered the prima donnas of Earth’s floral stage. Dramatically huge, vividly-hued lobes bordered the flower’s broad circular basin. Numerous depressions marked the upper surface of its diaphragm. I learned that these are produced by the pressure of the lobe warts when the flower is still just a bud. In turn, these depressions appear as elevated, pure-white spots on the lower surface of the diaphragm. Further down, inside the corolla of petals, were reddish, tentacle-like, branched “ramentae,” which are thought to be the source of the flower’s carrion-like odor.

To more thoroughly photograph the flower’s details, I asked for permission to dissect a specimen. It was one of the numerous male flowers in the area, and its age suggested that its pollen had already been harvested. A broad cylinder rose from the heart of the flower, its flat top covered with erect, spike-like projections. A fold beneath the rim hid a ring of yellow-tipped warts—the anthers—which exuded slimy pollen. In female flowers, which are much rarer, tiny, peanut-shaped seeds develop by the thousands in the heart of the central column. For much of the year, Rafflesia seems to be absent from the forest floor. But later, buds and flowers appear to rise from the ground. Closer inspection reveals that the flowers are slowly emerging from lianas buried in forest leaf-litter.

In fact, Rafflesia are leafless parasitic plants residing just beneath the rough bark of lianas in the genus Tetrastigma. They send out nutrient-absorbing threads known as haustoria to penetrate the tissues of host vines. Well-adjusted freeloaders, Rafflesia don’t kill their hosts: their haustoria simply sap some of the nutrients produced by the host’s leaves and, of course, the water and minerals its roots draw from the soil. Unfortunately, foresters frequently cut and destroy lianas to reduce competition in the canopy and increase the growth of timber trees. In so doing, they unwittingly accelerate the extinction of rafflesias. Read more.

Eco-friendly gardening can be a money-saver for you

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Not only can a garden be healthy and well-manicured, but it also can be a place for good conservation and environmental savings.

Properly managing yard waste can enhance a garden environment and save money. Scraps of food, yard trimmings and organic waste, for instance, can become important contributors to a garden's healthy green appearance.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers the following cost-efficient and environmentally friendly solutions for eco-gardening and large-scale landscaping projects.

  • Shred untreated wood and leaf wastes into chips and use them as mulch on garden beds to prevent weed growth, retain moisture, regulate soil temperature, and add nutrients back to the soil.
  • Build a backyard fort or treehouse for children from recycled materials, such as wood scraps and cardboard.
  • Purchase recycled-content gardening equipment and tools, such as garden hoses made from old tires, stepping stones made from old glass bottles, or hand tools made with recycled plastic. You can also use plastic lumber made from recycled plastic bottles and bags to make flower beds, trellises, decks and birdhouses.
  • Recycle used oil and tires from lawn and garden equipment.
  • Keep a lawn mower and other gardening equipment in efficient operating condition. Perform regular maintenance according to the owner's manual. Purchase a nozzle that prevents fuel spills when refilling your lawn mower. Use manual tools when appropriate to save fuel and protect air quality.
  • Leave grass clippings on your lawn instead of bagging them, or use a mulching mower. The clippings will return nutrients to the soil rather than take up space in landfills.
  • Cut the bottoms off plastic milk jugs or use small paper bags to protect young seedlings from frost, wind, heavy rain, and roving animals. Recycle the bags and jugs once seedlings have grown.
  • Donate healthy plants that you want to replace to community gardens or schools, or offer them to neighbors.
  • Introduce ladybugs to eat aphids, plant marigolds to ward off beetles and look for quick-sprouting plants to block weed growth.
Reference.

Sunflower Revolution

By Pam Ruch
Everyone can enjoy sunflower power. Take a look at these variety of options and you'll see that you can plant sunflowers that are short and shorter still; puffy and fluffy; tawny red or creamy white; and even varieties that are ideal for gardeners with allergies. This is one flower that has a place in every organic garden.

I've planted quite a few sunflowers in the Organic Gardening Test Garden over the past two years. And I'm convinced that the absolute best garden sunflowers are the 4- to 6-foot branching types. Among our favorites are 'Sonja', a perky orange-gold with strong stems and clean prickly foliage, and 'Soraya', slightly larger and later-blooming. One of the first to bloom is 4-foot-tall 'Prado Red', followed by sturdy, long-lasting yellow 'Ikarus'. 'Sunrise' is a big favorite with pollinators (that is, bees, butterflies, and other insects), and 'Ring of Fire' impressed us with its great numbers of comparatively small red-ringed flowers. Clear yellow 'Valentine' is a reliable, and beautiful, 5-footer.

If you favor red, 'Chianti' is "a deeper red than any of the others," states Margaret Thorson of Thousand Flower Farm, in Waldron Island, Washington. It's also pollen-free. (More on pollen-free varieties on the next page.) Thorson also favors 'Italian White', for its elegant creamy-petaled, dark-centered blooms, and 'Indian Blanket', a festive bicolor. "But sometimes," she notes, "the very nicest ones are those that come up from seed the birds missed the year before."

Tom Heaton, Ph.D., a California plant geneticist, began breeding sunflowers decades ago with the goal of making the stems strong enough so they do not topple in late-summer storms. Heaton's 'American Giant' is a single-stemmed Goliath with huge leaves, a tall beauty of a brute that remained upright through most of last summer in our OG test plot. 'Kong' is the branched version. For gardeners who can't settle for a single variety, 'Autumn Beauty' blends old-fashioned, branching beauties of all colors in each seed packet. 'Giant Sunflower Mix' is a mix of sky-high types.

What has brought cut-flower status to sunflowers is the sterility trait discovered decades ago and used in the breeding of oilseed. It seems that certain sunflowers are naturally pollenless, or male-sterile; that is, unlike most plants, which have both male and female fertile flowers, they possess only female characteristics. Breeders create hybrids by fertilizing a male-sterile plant with pollen from a different variety that produces pollen. The lack of pollen not only makes the breeding of hybrids easily doable; it also makes a flower better suited for cutting. Pollenless sunflowers don't shed yellow dust, they are less apt to be allergenic, and they last longer in a vase. Read more.

An Orchid with Record-breaking 54 Blooms

Recently at the Taipei Wholesale Flower Market, a rare specimen of potted orchid appeared – a red V31. Its elongated twin stems were graced with 54 red butterfly orchid flowers. Experienced orchid fanciers say that apart from international orchid competitions, no orchid this rare and with so many flowers has been seen in the last decade -- a specimen with more than 40 flowers more than most of its brothers and sisters. The competition to obtain the plant was fierce, with the wholesale price leaping to nearly NT$5000, some 20 times the price of an ordinary orchid plant, and the projected retail price will likely be in the tens of thousands.

Taiwan has been developing orchid varieties for over three decades, and is well known internationally for work in this area. Each year, the International Orchid Show is held in Taipei, attracting flower lovers from around the globe to place orders. Orchids account for about 40 percent of the potted plant market in Taiwan, and orchids are one of the few varieties whose fortunes have not slipped with economic hard times. The Taipei Flower Market says that in March of this year at the Tainan International Orchid Show, the record for flowers on a single stem orchid plant was 22, but this butterfly orchid has 27 on just one of its stems. Each flower is complete and flawless, with a diameter of about 12 centimeters. These are large blooms on vigorous, long vertical stalks, and the plant sets a record in every way. It is said that orchid fanciers have already inquired about purchasing it.

Su Qiudong of the Taipei Potted Plant Marketing Company says that this butterfly orchid comes from the Kelong Biologicals Company in Pingdong. The company has been doing research into orchids for at least 6 to 8 years now, and keeps its orchids in 25 degree or hotter hothouses year round, no allowing them to flower. Only last October did the company begin to use temperature differentials as a catalyst to get the plants to flower, and in February of this year, they burst forth into bloom with vibrant red blossoms. The result was 27 blooms on a single branch, and a total of 54 for the two branches, a new record. Su says that most butterfly orchids might have at most 10 blooms, and that competition level plants with 25 are rare. A plant with 27 is truly a rarity.

"Huilan Gardens," the shop that managed to purchase this amazing plant, was low-key about its success, saying that similar plants are all competition plants, and do not make their way onto the market for sale. This is not only because of the rarity of such plants, but also because there is concern that no one would pay as much as the plants are worth. As to whether the shop had found a buyer, no word was forthcoming; the shop merely emphasized that even if it was unable to sell the plant, it would still be excellent for propagation. Reference.

Water conservation and August gardening

The frantic pace of gardening seems to slow down a bit at this time of year and yet there is still lots that can be done during August.

Water conservation is of course a major factor. Bare soil can be mulched to help retain the moisture. Some good mulches are organic materials like compost, grass clippings, straw, bark or rocks.

Many folks keep a rain barrel on the go, for dipping in to water potted plants, hanging baskets and house plants.

If you do not have a rain barrel and would like to set one up select food-quality containers, not containers that have held chemicals. Wash them out well with a mix of 1/8 cup of bleach to five gallons of water. This will eliminate any food particles or juice remnants. If you wish to get really fancy you can install a ¾" hose spigot a few inches from the bottom of the barrel but most folks just 'dip'. Rainwater is also wonderful for washing your hair. It leaves the hair soft and silky. Hanging baskets need special care when watering them. The trick is to water them lightly to prime the soil and then a little while later go back and water them deeply.

If you don't do this the water will just run straight through the basket and be wasted, with little or no benefit to the roots of the plant.

With every second watering give them a feeding of quarter-strength fertilizer as the nutrients get leached out of the soil rapidly. If your Iris needs to be divided, August is the perfect time to do it. Keep only the outer young rhizomes and discard the old inner ones. It is a good idea to divide them about every 4 years. Extras can be given to friends or relocated to other spots in your garden. Plant them so that they are just at ground level. Iris hates to be planted too deeply.

Keep dead-heading your flowers for successive blooming. This is important for annuals. If they are allowed to set seed they will stop blooming. Perennials such as delphinium and foxglove (digitalis) will send up side shoots that will flower later in the summer if you keep removing spent flowers. Read more.

Chinese flower power hits Thais

By Marwaan Macan-Markar

On the misty hills of northern Thailand the chill in the air encourages roses to grow larger than apples. Hundreds of these large blooms - in colors ranging from red and crimson, to orange and white - are harvested daily to feed the flower markets of Bangkok.

Roses, carnations and chrysanthemums are part of a bouquet of 30 types of flowers that are commercially cultivated in this part of Thailand, which borders Myanmar.

"This is the peak production season for roses," said Suthat Pleumpanya, manager of a floral project initiated by Thailand's royal family to raise the standard of living of the rural poor. "They bloom best between February and July. The elevation and the environment are very conducive to these flowers, especially the roses."

But there are signs the business in roses and carnations grown in Fang, which is 1,100 meters above sea level, may soon fade thanks to competition from growers in China's southern Yunnan province.

"In Chiang Mai [the province where Fang is located], we grow a lot of flowers, but now the growers are having a surplus because of the flowers coming from Kunming," the capital of Yunnan, said Chuntana Suwanthada, a horticulturist at the agriculture faculty in Chiang Mai University. "We are worried about the Chinese flowers overtaking ours." She conceded that the flowers from China are cheaper and the "quality much better". It is a view echoed in the major flower markets in Bangkok, such as the sprawling Pak Klong Talat, on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. The women who run the flower shops, the market vendors and the street sellers say they have only Chinese roses to offer, in addition to imported carnations, lilies and gerberas.

"We have been getting a lot of Chinese flowers since two years ago," said Patthama Praephon, 53, as she opened a newly arrived box of red roses from China. "These will be going to the south, to Phuket and Songkhla."

Wholesale flower traders such as Patthama, who has been in the business for nearly 30 years, say the flowers from China are delivered within two days of placing the order. "Some of them may be more expensive, but they last longer and are more beautiful." The Bangkok-based Kasikorn Research Center (KRC) has already warned that when the October 2003 free trade agreement (FTA) that Thailand signed with China is expanded to cover other products, the balance will tilt in favor of the flowers coming from Kunming, which has a climate described as "an eternal spring".

Such a reality will only add to the damage the FTA has caused to other agricultural products. The cheaper imports of garlic and onions from China in the wake of the agreement have put nearly 40% of Thai farmers out of business, says FTA Watch, a group made up of Thai activists opposed to such free trade deals. "About 50,000 farming households have been affected." Read more.

Global integration of a major Italian flower business

The amalgamation of a number of flower and plant growing businesses in Italy has implications for the global floricultural industry and shows that there is considerable optimism in Europe for the future of the industry.

The Flower Council of Holland estimates that the value of the European market for flowers and plants in 2004 was €22.7 billion (€13.8 billion for flowers and €8.9 billion for plants). In the period 2004 - 2014 the increase in value of the market is estimated at 3.1% for flowers and 3.9% for plants.

Ciccolella Holding, a family controlled floriculture business in Southern Italy, has joined a larger group that has been quoted on the Italian stock exchange. The move could be viewed as a significant challenge to the European import market for roses due to the type and quality of roses being grown, the much reduced transport distances and what will become a fully integrated distribution from production through to retail at an international level.

Production costs are made much more competitive through the co-generation of energy – utilisation of waste hot water from power generating stations for heat. The Ciccolella group represents the most important production of cut-roses in Europe, producing 15 million stems in 2005. It is the exclusive licensee in Italy for the well-known cut-flower rose varieties bred by W Kordes & Söhne. It is also one of the largest producers of anthuriums with three million stems.

Ciccolella Holding production facilities consist of 24ha of greenhouses but is set to increase in the next few years to more than 100ha and an eventual total production capacity of 118 million roses and 15 million anthurium stems.

The group's plans include the construction of a centre for flower processing and an agro-industrial research centre. The group has other production facilities in Morocco, Tunisia and Hungary. In addition to the cultivation of fresh cut-flowers, the group also produces young plants and graftings.

As part of the amalgamation Ciccolella Holding purchased the Dutch Zurel Group for a price of €7.8 million.

The Zurel Group, with a turnover of €123 million and a workforce of 200 employees is one of the five most important wholesale distributors of flowers and pot plants to the international market, exporting to 60 countries. Reference.

Temperature Sensitive Flowers

Swift Perishable Logistics (SPL), headquartered in Dubai, has announced the completion of its first two shipments of highly temperature-sensitive flowers.

These consignments were shipped from Nairobi to Rome and Japan via the Dubai Flower Centre.

These two consignments were the first for SPL--but they were also among the first to be transshipped through the newly opened Dubai Flower Centre. SPL maintained the cool chain throughout the entire process, ensuring that the flowers reached their destinations on schedule and once again proving its reputation for excellent service.

These successful shipments have led SPL's first two customers to affirm their faith in the quality and reliability of this service. As a division of the Swift Group, SPL provides a complete range of airfreight options for dispatching perishable goods within time and handling constraints.

SPL's comprehensive services ensures an unbroken cool chain for the transport and distribution of perishable goods, such as cut flowers, plants, fruits and vegetables, chilled and frozen fish, and live fish.

SPL operates weekly charter flights and has belly load capacity from Africa to its Flower Centre headquarters, and offers value-added services such as pick and pack, labeling, consolidation and splitting and transshipping loads in Dubai to various destinations. Reference.

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