Featured Quote :
"I once had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: no good in a bed, but fine up against a wall."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
The type of flowers you select does not matter, it's the quality of the flower
that does! This weekend, as you look at the flowers for your special Valentine
(for her and yes for him, as men love flowers too), let me tell you about them.
We all have our favorites, we all have a budget to think of, and we want them
to last as long as possible. Begin by selecting a florist, garden center, or
nursery you are acquainted with for quality. You may pay a bit more--but in the
long run it will be worth the extra expense. Avoid flowers that will be finished
blooming in just a couple of days or drooping over the day after Valentine's
The number one Valentine's Day flower is, of course, the rose--and the growers
of roses know this. There are only so many available for that day, so you will
pay more for roses and of course more for red roses than other colored roses.
Supply and demand determines the price of everything you purchase--and this is
a one day holiday, not a month like Christmas. So do not always blame the higher
cost of flowers on your florist. A bouquet of mixed color roses will be less
expensive and will send the same message. Often the pink, white, lavender, yellow,
or bi-colored roses have better fragrance than the red roses do. The longer the
stems, the more expensive the roses will be--so what is the matter with shorter
When you select your roses for Valentine's Day, here is what to look for.
Look at the shape of the flower buds, as they are not all alike. Some roses open
by unraveling one petal at a time in a spiral fashion; this is a classic rose.
I want you to gently squeeze that flower bud. It should feel firm, not soft,
as soft rose buds have been kept under refrigeration for some time. If it feels
hard and looks like a Hershey Kiss, it is called a "bullet," and was
picked too early by the grower (not the florist) and it will not open. Look for
firm roses that are unraveling on the tip of the rosebud! Foliage color and appearance
is next; the better it looks, the longer the flowers will last.
Roses keep best in a cool place, so keep them away from heat sources and "out
of the sun." Every morning, add a bit of ice to the vase that is kept filled
with water to cool the plant down and extend the flowering time. Never allow
the leaves on the rose to be under water; remove them from the stem, as they
will rot and this will shorten the flowering time also. If you're transporting
flowers home from the florist, be sure to keep them warm, as freezing temperatures
will damage the flower buds--have them wrapped properly!
Lilies are also very beautiful, more delicate looking, and will last just
as long. What you are looking for in a bouquet of lilies is more flower buds
than open flowers when you receive them. The Oriental types are the most fragrant,
and I like them more than roses for the fragrance.
Carnations are wonderful and will last the longest, if they are fresh. Here
is what to look for when choosing carnations. Just under the flower you will
see a green capsule-like growth; this is the actual flower bud, and that is where
the flower petals came from. Gently squeeze it and if it feels firm, it means
that there are still flower petals inside yet to come. If it feels empty or hollow,
all the petals are out and it will not last as long in your home.
Gerber daisies are also a wonderful cut flower and will last a couple of weeks.
Nice long stems with 3-inch wide blooms that are often multi-petal and unique
looking. This is also your chance to use nice foliage as filler because this
flower has no foliage. Add secondary flowers like baby's breath for contrast.
Gerber daisy comes in all colors like the rainbow,
Alstroemeria is another unusual cut flower that comes in all colors and will
last in your home for a long time. The flower is a cluster of small 1 inch lily-shaped
blooms on a strong stem that open just a few at a time with many buds visible.
This flower is a great cut flower for a warm homes or the office.
Tulips are always wonderful at this time of the year, especially when the
winter has been as snowy and cold as it has been. Tulips also send a message
that spring is just around the corner, and if your special sweetheart has "cabin
fever," this flower will help them to feel better.
The Hawaiian 'King' protea is my favorite flower and hard to come by, but
it will last for 2 to 3 weeks in a vase of water. When the flower begins to fade,
empty the vase and use it in a dry arrangement for the next year. The 'King' protea
is a 5 to 6 inch pink bell-shaped tropical flower with an intricate looking center.
It grows in only 5 places in the world, because it needs special growing conditions.
Hawaii has these special conditions and many florists can get them for you if
you call them now.
No matter what you choose, your special Valentine will appreciate the effort.
Remember quality, colors, texture, and--most of all--presentation. For extra
points, guys, remember flowers sent to her work or even his workplace will mean
even more. For this to happen order NOW, not Monday during your lunch hour. Valentine's
Day is the busiest time of the year for the florist to deliver flowers because
it's a one day holiday. The earlier the better, or they could think you forgot
them and just remembered when someone reminded you!
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In the days of the mighty Roman Empire, the fennel plant was enjoyed as a
culinary plant and used in all types of food preparation. It was also used for
its medicinal properties, as it was believed to help with many common ailments.
It was used by the gladiators to keep them fierce and strong, and a bouquet of
fennel was worn by many to help keep them in good health during battle. It was
mixed with a gladiator's daily food to help him beat down his opponents.
The ladies of Rome used the fennel plant to keep slim and young looking.
During the many celebrations of the Roman Empire, fennel was one of the main
ingredients used in all types of bread, cakes, and salads to calm the hunger
pangs before the festivities began.
The magical properties of the fennel plant were used to help people get through
the fasting days of special holidays. When the Pilgrims landed on our shores,
it was eaten along with dill to help keep them attentive during the long church
services. In the 10th Century, it was hung over the front door to keep out witches
and was a common ingredient for magic and spells. Also ,some early writings show
that the seeds were used in broths and drinks for those who had grown fat and
lazy to help them grow slimmer and have more energy to get back to work.
Today fennel is best used for additional seasoning for fatty meats like pork
and beef or in stuffing for chicken and lamb. If you're making a fresh garden
salad, it is a must in your salad dressing. Use the seeds in sauces and gravies,
also when cooking fresh fish or when mixed in bread dough. The fresh picked leaves
and stems are best when chopped finely and used in salads for extra flavor.
As the plants begin to fade with the season, pull them up from the garden
and wash the plant with fresh water to remove all the soil from around the roots
and dry what remains of the plant. Next time you cook fresh fish--especially
oily fish like mackerel or bluefish--or even chicken on the charcoal grill, add
a few sprigs of the dried herb to the hot coals as you cook for a wonderful smell
around your patio and additional flavor to your coking. When your fennel plant
is in full bloom, pick off some of the wonderful fragrant flowers and break them
into small florets and add to your fresh salads. Just in case you never grew
fennel before, the entire plant has an aniseed/licorice-like smell and taste,
Fennel is an annual for most of us, but if you allow the flowers to mature
in the garden they will spread seeds everywhere and sprout up every year in the
springtime, making the plant resemble a perennial herb. Always grow a bit extra,
as you will often find unusual caterpillars feasting on the foliage of the plant.
When these unique creatures mature beautiful swallowtail butterflies will emerge
for your enjoyment. I always grow extra for the wonderful soft and feathery foliage
the plant produces that looks great with fresh-cut flowers from the garden.
You can start your seedlings right now in small pots to make it easy to transplant
to the garden in May or you can start in cell packs like your egg trays. Use
a light seed-starting soil and keep the soil moist and warm to speed germination.
I like to use seed trays with clear plastic domes over the tray or just place
a few toothpicks in the soil and lay plastic wrap over the tray. The toothpicks
keep the plastic wrap off the soil and help to create a wonderful humidity in
the soil and around the sprouting seeds for faster germination. Remove the coverings
when 50% of the seeds have germinated--in about 7 to 14 days.
When you get ready to plant into the garden, make sure the soil is soft and
well-drained, as fennel will not do well in heavy clay-like soils. Adding sandbox
sand to clay soils will help; this sand can be purchased at any garden center
in the spring. Compost, animal manure, and peat moss are also wonderful additives
to encourage good plant development. If you live near the seashore, get down
to the beach on the next nice day and collect bags of seaweed to add to your
soil if it's heavy, or even on the sandy side. Your fennel plants will always
give you a better crop if you prepare the soil first.
Your fennel plants, like many of the other herbs, love a sunny location that
never has standing water during the winter months—if it does, the seeds
from last year's flowers will rot during the winter months. Sometimes they will
come back for you the following spring if the soil stays moist but not wet. Set
out seedlings when the threat of frost is over and always plant seed about the
same time--usually mid to late May--as warm soils will give you better germination.
Space your fennel seedlings 6 inches apart and in rows 12 to 18 in apart for
the best foliage production. If the weather gets real hot and dry water frequently
or the plant will thin out, grow real tall and produce fewer seeds, plus the
entire plant will have a more powerful fragrance--sometimes overpowering--when eaten or used for cooking.
Watered regularly and well fed, the plant will have the
shape of a ball of cotton candy-like foliage that is soft green and just beautiful
in your garden. There is also a purple foliage variety called Fennel 'Purpureum'
that will give your herb garden much color and contrast.
You can also grow fennel in a shallow trench and when the base of the plants
and roots begin to swell to about the size of a golf ball, mound soil around
it about 4 inches high. This is called "blanching," and the soil will
block out all the sunlight, turning the stem and roots white--with enhanced flavor.
After 2 to 3 weeks the golf ball-sized growth will increase to 3 to 4 inches
and is ready for harvest and cooking in the early fall season.
If you love the foliage, pick off the flowers as they develop so the plant
cannot make seeds and your plants will become bushier, with more branches and
foliage on the plant. Pick the foliage as needed or freeze the leaves in zip-lock
bags for winter use. This wonderful plant that is native to Asia and the Mediterranean
can also be grown in containers with other herbs, but when it gets ready to flower
you may have to stake the plant as they will grow taller in containers.
Fertilize every 2 weeks during the growing season with Miracle-Gro or Blooming
and Rooting plant food. If you're a busy gardener, use Osmocote slow release
pellets to keep plants well fed. Also if you're growing in a container, be sure
to add Soil Moist granules to help hold water in your containers and keep the
soil moist during those hot dry days of summer when the plants are growing best.
You can also plant fennel in the fall in containers for a wonderful winter
crop on your window sill along with chives, parsley, oregano, rosemary, and dill.
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For most of the country, the winter has been very mild, with most areas reporting
little to no snow cover. Could this become a problem or a real benefit to the
northern part of the country and your gardens? Think about this: Florida had
no rain from October 30 to February 6, something that is very rare--and temperatures
were also above normal. Texas had no rain all summer and above normal temperatures
most of those days. The entire Northeast had more snow with the freak snow storm
in October (with 6 to 12 inches), than it did for the rest of the winter so far.
Boston and New York City have had less than 6 inches of snow and record warmth
for the months of November to February. There is little to no frost in the ground
in the entire Northeast part of the country. The cherry blossoms were in bloom
during December and January in Washington D.C. Most of North Dakota cannot remember
a Christmas without snow on the ground—until this year. What does this
meant to you as a gardener, and what should we do about it now?
Soils in the Northeast are on the acidic side, and if we have a mild and
dry spring the soil will stay acidic, which will slow down growth on our lawn
and gardens. While the rainfall is normal how about applying your limestone,
wood ash or lime substitute products to the lawn and garden now; let's get it
working in the soil now while we have moisture in the ground. If you have a heavy
soil with clay in it, let's apply Garden Gypsum to help break up the soil, so
the roots can develop better this spring.
The most important and often neglected part of our gardens is organic matter
in our soils. While we can, let's add a nice thick layer of compost, animal manure,
shredded leaves, and pine needles on top of the gardens. If you live near the
seashore, pack up the kids on the weekend and head to the beach to collect seaweed
by the trash barrel or fill up your pickup truck to help rebuild your garden
soil. The ground is firm, not soft and muddy, making it the perfect time to receive
a truck load of manure without damaging your lawn. Spread it over the garden
and the rains will wash in all the goodness to your soil. You can even rototill
the lime and organic matter in your gardens now and save time when spring arrives.
Lime, wood ash, or lime substitutes like Magic-Cal from Jonathan Green will change
If the weekend weather is nice, how about edging out the flower beds, so they
are ready to be covered with bark mulch or compost when the nurseries have it
in stock. If the weather stays this warm, they will have it for you by mid-March
this spring, so get ready while the weather is in your favor. If you can spread
the mulch on your perennial flower beds and foundation planting now--before they
wake up and begin to grow--it will save you time and eliminate all the hard work.
Plants are still dormant and you can use a rake to spread the mulch, and not
use just your hands in fear of damaging the delicate new shoots coming out of
This is also a great time to do tree work around your home and help open up
the shaded areas with pruning or tree removal. Sunshine will make a difference
to your lawn and garden, so before the tree companies get busy, give them a call
for prices to open up your yard and let in the sunshine. While your trees are
dormant is the best time of the year to prune them--and also the easiest time,
because you can see all the branching structure of the tree and make better judgment
of what has to be cut or removed.
All of your commercial orchards are pruning now, so if you have fruit trees,
let's begin to prune them to remove the dead, dying, or broken branches. Let's
prune to control the size of the trees and to create a better shaped and better
If you're working in the yard and there are areas in your lawn that are still
covered with leaves, don't rake them; mow them with your lawn mower and turn
those dried up leaves to rich organic matter for the lawn. Ground up leaves and
pine needles will break down even faster when you apply your fertilizer in late
March to early April. If you play golf you know that they NEVER rake up the grass
clippings and leaves on the course, they mow them and turn them into food for
the soil and the grass. Don't bag your leaves and grass, recycle your organic
waste back into the soil.
Because the winter has been so mild, we could have a real problem with insects
and disease this year! You heard right...a real problem. A potentially greater
problem with common and unusual insects because the cold did not kill off insects
like it normally does. Ken Kukorowski of the Bayer Advance lawn and garden division
has told me that he is concerned about exotic and common insect and disease problema
for this year. Ken told me that when temperatures stay warmer than normal and
we have no snow cover, more insects are able to tolerate the winter weather and
Such insects as the wooly adelgid, the long horn beetle and more are stopped
from moving further north with the cold winter weather. So potentially Maine,
New Hampshire, Vermont, North west Massachusetts and New York State could have
major insect problems this year. Also many disease problems like powdery mildew
and leaf spot spores have not been killed without the cold weather.
Ken Kukorowski has his PHD in science, and he is a concerned scientist specializing
in insects. Ken wants all of you to get out in your yards on those nice days
and spray all your flowering trees, fruit trees ,rose bushes and your foundation
plantings with a good "All Season Oil" to smother and kill insect eggs
that are on your plants now. This spraying can make a tremendous difference on
insect problems in your yard this spring. Use a copper fungicide also to kill
of many of the disease spores still on your plants as they will soon wake up
with the warm weather and, like the insects, cause you many problems later. An
ounce of prevention now will save you many hours of work and frustration later.
These products are natural and much safer to use than traditional insecticide.
By April first, be sure to apply "Tree and Shrub Systemic Insecticide" to
your evergreen trees, especially your Canadian hemlock and your ash trees, because
these two trees have real problems with exotic insects like the wooly adelgid
and the long horn beetle. With the development of new systemic insecticides developed
by Bayer Advanced, controlling insects today is easier and much safer for you--the
home owner. Because the product is added to the soil, not sprayed up onto the
foliage of the plant, it cannot drift on you, as you apply the product to the
plants. t is also inside the plant, so water will not wash off the product, making
it last longer in the plant.
So just be prepared for an early spring this year, and use the nice days we
are now getting to get things done that take time from your hectic gardening
schedule. If you can kill the bugs now, before they hatch, you will eliminate
possibly hundreds of insects in your yard and garden. Work done now equals more
time later for you to go to the golf course, go fishing or just sit down on the
back deck enjoying the summer. Think about it!!!
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A Customized Gardening Tour of England and the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show
Paul Parent hosts a tour that includes the Wisley Gardens, the Chelsea Flower Show, Tower of London,
Roman Baths & Pump Room, Riverford Organic Farm, Garden House, Rosemoor Gardens,
Lost Gardens of Heligan, Village of Mevagissey, Stonehenge, the Wilton House
Garden Centre and more.
Click here for details.
Trivia will be returning soon.
Are you looking for a great gift for a gardener (or yourself)? This garden
journal helps make planning and organizing easy. This journal, autographed
personally by Paul,
makes a perfect gift for gardeners. The cover holds a 5x7 or 4x6 photo and a
heavy-duty D-ring binder.
- 8 tabbed sections
- 5 garden details sections with pockets for seeds, tags...
- Weather records page
- 6 three year journal pages
- Insect & diseases page - 3 project pages
- 3 annual checklist pages
- Plant wish list page
- 2 large pocket pages
- Sheet of garden labels
- 5 garden detail sheets
- 5 graph paper pages for layouts
- 5 photo pages, each holding four 4x6 photos in landscape or portrait format
Click here to order online.
- 6 (1-ounce) squares bittersweet chocolate
- 2 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
- 10 tablespoons (1 1/4 stick) butter
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Step by Step:
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Grease 6 (6-ounce) custard cups.
- Melt the chocolates and butter in the microwave, or in a double boiler.
- Add the flour and sugar to chocolate mixture.
- Stir in the eggs and yolks until smooth. Stir in the vanilla.
- Divide the batter evenly among the custard cups.
- Place in the oven and bake for 12 minutes. The edges should be firm but the center will be runny.
- Take a knife and dip into hot water, run the knife along the edges to loosen the cake, invert onto a desert plate and enjoy!
Yield: 6 servings