Sunday, May 24, 2009

Vertical Gardening

Look closely at this's not painted on-it's live! Have you heard of vertical gardening? In Europe, vertical gardening is suddenly all the rage. It's really nothing more than plants existing on a vertical surface. This storefront for Louis Vuitton is a great example.

Vertical gardening takes very little effort once it has been put in place. Looking after it three or four times a year is usually enough. It creates it's own humidity and can subsist on a weak fertilizer solution added to the drip lines, which provide water in much the same way as the surface of a cliff. Vertical gardens have been shown to improve atmospheric humidity in their vicinity, so are perfect for greenery-starved high density cities.

I first became acquainted with vertical gardening on a visit to Paris, where I saw this lively assortment growing at the Quai Branly Museum. From then on, I've seen them in many other places in my travels and they delight every time!

This particular garden (right) will induce dizziness if you stare at it long enough.

And this example is um, vertical gardening of another sort?

Patrick Blanc, a french artist who also happens to have a very green thumb, is the man responsible for the renewed interest in vertical gardening. He has constructed his botanical tapestries in dozens of private and public spaces around the world. Many of his creations use over 1.000 plants!

If you would like to try vertical gardening for yourself, check out this month's issue of Lowe's Creative Ideas. In it, they give details instructions for making a 'living wall' with drought tolerant succulents and moss, at a cost of only about $200!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

That Well-Travelled Bloom

Not that long ago, if someone gave you a bouquet of flowers, the selection would have been limited by the season and where in the country you were located. All that has changed, thanks to improved production and faster delivery options. Just a generation ago, most flowers you received would have been from the western and southern United States or from Holland.

But consumers' taste in flowers has changed dramatically, and with it, producers have made it possible for you to have peonies for your December wedding!

California still leads as the US's top flower producer, with Florida a close second. Oregon ranks high as well, especially in calla lilies, peonies, and Hydrangea. However, foreign imports now dominate the flower market, and in some categories can account for up to 90% of US sales.

While this is a challenge for U.S. producers, it means a fantastic selection for the consumer, year round. And U.S. producers are countering this challenge by coming up with more fragrant varieties, and bolder colors.

Columbia is now the dominant producer of U.S. cut flowers, leading with roses, carnations, and Alstoemeria. Ecuador is a close second. Their exceptional climates mean that these countries can carve out niches for themselves in markets such as roses, Delphiniums, and Gypsophila (which is nearly unrecognizable from the old "baby's breath" you may remember.

Greenery too, travels a long way. There is Ruscus from Italy, and Ruscus from Israel.

Orchids from Thailand are a very big part of US flower imports, from one producer in particular.

Flowers today are more economical than they were for our parents or grandparents, and a better value as they are bred to be longer-lasting. So, next time you give a beautiful bouquet of flowers, consider the trip they have made to reach you: planted, grown, harvested, packed, shipped and delivered to your florist from around the world!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Everything's Coming up...Flowers!

Have you noticed? This season, everything is coming up Flowers! A quick glance through any fashion or home decor magazine will have you hooked, placing online orders for some of these beautiful items. I especially love this gorgeous set of floral dishware by Spode.

And though they are far more casual, I also like this set of floral flatware. Fun and festive and great for outdoor parties with their summer colors!

These hand-painted glasses from Roost are almost too pretty to use!

If you can't seem to get a bloom to grow in your yard, don't despair! You can pepper some of these flowered birdhouses around instead.

And when the rain just won't quit, you don't have to give up flowers at all with an umbrella like this.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to Be a Kitchen Sink Florist

Who doesn't love flowers? They add joy and beauty to any room, or even your office cubicle! Whether it's a giant bouquet of luscious hydrangea or one gorgeous long-stemmed rose in a beautiful hue, flowers are sure to brighten anyone's day.

But I often hear this same lament: "I'm not creative". Or, "Flowers just die when I get them home". Neither of these has to be the case, and with just a few beginning tips, you can be a successful kitchen sink florist!

The very first "rule" is to buy the best flowers you can find. No amount of care on your part will prolong the life of a flower that hasn't been properly handled before you. Your florist should be able to tell you about the chain of life...and the longer a flower has been out of water before it reaches you, the shorter will be it's life. Proper handling is vital! But, also understand that some varieties are just naturally more long-lived than other.

If you are using flowers from your own garden, be sure to harvest them early in the morning. Take a bucket of water out with you and submerge them immediately. If you pick your flowers at the end of a hot day, your flower will already be stressed.

Now, once you get those gorgeous blooms inside, what to do with them? First, find a sharp, clean knife. Cutting at an angle, take at least an inch off the bottom. Using scissors is not recommended, as the blades tend to crush the stem, limiting the water uptake.

You should have received a package of floral preservative with your flower purchase-use it! Serving two purposes, this little packet will both feed the flower, and limit the growth of bacteria. Immediately place your freshly cut blossoms in this prepared water.

Next, select your container. Anything can be used-employ creativity and forget 'rules"! A vase, a low bowl, a tea pot, an interesting can, a pitcher, even that pretty chipped glass you couldn't bear to toss -just look around your home and you are bound to find something that would work.

Once you've chosen your container, start arranging. Be sure to remove any foliage that may fall below the water line. This will decay quickly, creating bacteria that will prevent the flower from drinking.

Most importantly, keep your beautiful arrangement out of drafts, direct heat or light. Remember, your florist keeps flowers in a cooler for a reason: flowers like coolness, but not blowing air conditioning. (Having said that, it's never a good idea to store your flowers in your home fridge-fruits and veggies emit ethelyne gasses which drastically shorten a flower's life.)

With Mother's Day coming up on Sunday, why not share some time arranging flowers with Mom?

For more hints on being a Kitchen Sink Florist, or to place an order for stems you can arrange yourself, call Bloomers anytime!