Plant Adaptations: Metaphors for Overcoming Life’s Obstacles

Originally posted on the Horticultural Therapy Institute blog

Plants have acclimated to grow in all sorts of climates and growing conditions, whether they are cloud forests and rainforests or aquatic, alpine, or desert habitats. Native plants in these ecosystems have adapted to the soils, temperatures, precipitation, wind, and other unique conditions of their habitats. This is evidenced by their growth habits, methods of pollination and seed dispersal, and other plant characteristics.

Through in-depth examination and discussion of plant adaptations to their habitats, horticultural therapy clients can translate stories of plants’ resilience to personal experiences in challenging situations. Plant adaptations don’t happen overnight, and this perspective may help cultivate insight on current personal challenges. One might ask, “If a plant can grow, flower, and survive in a tough environment, I might be able to adjust and thrive despite the challenges of my own situation.”

One example of adaptation involves plants that grow in the hot, arid conditions of the desert. We may think of the desert environment as extreme and brutal, but the plants that live there have adapted to flourish in these conditions. Check out some of the ways in which desert-inhabiting plants have learned to survive despite the odds.

KalanchoePanda_SusanMorgan

Many plants have thick succulent leaves, stems, and roots (which are often extensive root systems). These allow plants to soak up as much water as possible during infrequent periods of rainfall and store it for the dry spells. The plants then often conserve resources and expend less energy, resulting in slow growth habits. The slower they grow, the less food and energy is used.

Cactus_SusanMorgan

Some desert plants have minimal to no leaves or shed leaves during times of drought so as not to use all the plant’s energy in sustaining a sizable leaf canopy. Despite having no leaves, cactus stems are able to conduct the process of photosynthesis. Ever notice how some cacti, like barrel cactus, have a “ribbing” on their stems? This acts like an elastic waistband, allowing the stem to swell as it absorbs water when it rains and shrink as it conservatively uses its resources during dry spells.

OldManCactus_SMorgan

The “hair” on plants helps to shade the leaf surface and reduce water loss. Plus these hairs and thorns of plants make them much less palatable for animals to munch.

Kalanchoe_SusanMorgan

The waxy coating of leaves and stems also help to reduce water loss.

IMG_4450

The leaf arrangement and growth habits of some plants help to efficiently manage exposure to the sun and elements.

FloweringSucculent_SusanMorgan

Several flowering plants conserve energy by opening their blooms for a brief period at certain times of the day. Blooms open up at the time of day when their pollinators are most active and then are closed the rest of the day.

Examining plant adaptations with clients in therapeutic horticulture activities

To engage clients, research and make a list of your area’s growing conditions and native plants. Or, select a different ecosystem to study. This can be done either with clients or during pre-session preparation. Have living specimens, pressed plant material, and/or photos of native plants in their habitats available for client interaction. Discuss what qualities make them suitable for growing in this environment. Note how plants don’t all adapt in the same way – for example, some plants have thorns that are a visual and physical deterrent that keep them from being eaten by animals, while others contain poisonous compounds that make them undesirable. Encourage client discussion to similarly evaluate the characteristics of their own environments (the people, situations, culture, etc. in these surroundings) and identify personal adaptations and healthy coping strategies that can enable them to grow and thrive in these surroundings.

SucculentTrough_SusanMorganFor succulent plant activities, plant individual or group dish gardens or open terrariums with succulent plants that offer diverse characteristics. Encourage clients to select a favorite plant and explain what is interesting about it. Explore the senses by blending a special soil mix with sand and/or gravel, ideally suited for succulents. Add a creative flair with colored sand and aquarium gravel as a mulch. Repurpose objects, like colanders, old shoes, and strawberry jars, as planters for succulents. Use woodworking skills to craft wood scraps into planting troughs and then use a woodburning tool to etch inspirational phrases on the side (as shown in photo). (Note: use caution when working with thorny or caustic succulents and gravel and when using woodworking and woodburning tools.)

Sources:

Missouri Botanical Garden, “Biology of Plants: Plant Adaptations.”

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, “How Plants Cope with the Desert Climate.”

National Park Service, “Plant Adaptations.”

Originally posted on the Horticultural Therapy Institute blog

Save

Save

Save

Save

Forcing Bulbs Indoors

Artificially growing plants to produce flowers outside of their typical bloom season is called “forcing.” Bulbs can be forced indoors include paperwhites, amaryllis, hyacinth, tulip, and Dutch iris, among others. Plant bulbs, like amaryllis, in a well-draining potting soil in pots that have drainage holes. Water newly planted bulbs and keep evenly moist. Place in a bright location and rotate pots every few days to keep plants growing upright.

forcing_paperwhites_eatbreathegardenForcing Paperwhites Indoors

Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta) are arguably the easiest bulbs for forcing indoors and even planting outdoors in the garden in my area (USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11). They (as well as amaryllis) do not need to be cold treated – do NOT place them in the refrigerator. If planting outdoors, plant in late fall, after Thanksgiving, arranging them about 6” deep in well-draining soil.

planting_paperwhites_eatbreathegardenWhen forced indoors, paperwhites can be grown in soil in pots or water. To grow in soil, fill a pot with a well-draining potting soil, plant bulb(s) just below the soil line (the growth tip can stick out above the soil line), add water, and place in a room with bright light. Multiple bulbs can be tightly packed together when planting. Water every few days to keep soil evenly moist.

To grow in water, there are a couple of options for forcing bulbs. (1) The first option is to grow a bulb in a special forcing vase. After placing the bulb in the reservoir on the top of vase, add enough water until it sits at the base of the bulb. If the water is allowed to sit too far up on the bulb, it can cause rot. (2) The second option is to grow bulb(s) in a shallow decorative container, a tall vase, or a wide mouth canning jar. First, add a loose, clean gravel to a container to the desired height. Place the bulb(s) in the gravel so it stays upright – at least 1/3 of the bulb should be above the gravel. Add water to fill up to the base of the bulb(s).

Within days, roots will begin to form, then the leaves, followed by flower buds. Bulbs will generally start flowering within 4-6 weeks after planting.

If planted bulbs are kept in a location that is dry and hot, the flowers may not open. It is ideal to keep newly planted bulbs in a cool, dark environment (~55-65 degrees F) while roots begin to form, then move them to a warmer, brighter location after two weeks. Stagger plantings to enjoy blooms all season long. Paperwhites can get tall and leggy in insufficient light. If this happens, stake and tie foliage loosely together with a decorative ribbon to help it stay upright.

paperwhites_eatbreathegarden‘Ziva’ – One of the most fragrant and readily available paperwhites. Clusters of early blooming delicate white flowers. Can be forced in soil or water. Grows 16-18” tall.

‘Wintersun’ – Newer variety that has a light to moderate fragrance. Delicate white flowers with creamy yellow cups. Can be forced in soil or water. Grows to 12-16” tall.

‘Inbal’ – Light fragrance. Does best when forced in soil, not ideal to grow in water. Delicate white flowers. Grows to 16” tall.

Note: Narcissus has toxicity. Keep away from children or pets. The fragrance of paperwhites can be unpleasant to some.

 Sources:
Brent and Becky’s Bulbs
Forcing bulbs indoors, Clemson Cooperative Extension
Your guide to paperwhites, Southern Living

Save

Pumpkin Planters

Transform a Jack O’Lantern into a Jack O’Planter! Add a festive flair to your fall decor by transforming a pumpkin into a planted container. (Check out these festive fall activities with pumpkins.)

Supplies

Pumpkin of choice – We used your standard Jack pumpkin, but you could also use more unusual pumpkins, like peanut pumpkins or Knuckle Head pumpkins, or even gourds – whatever you could imagine using as a vessel!

Potting soil

Plants – We chose from marigolds, pansies, dianthus, Dusty Miller, Swiss chard, ornamental cabbage, ornamental kale, and mustard, in 4″ pots.

Carving knife – I prefer the carving utensils, with a cutting tool and scoop, sold for $0.97 at my local box store, over heavy duty knives. Though the handle for the cutting tool doesn’t have ideal ergonomics, it cuts in a sawing motion much easier than a knife, which can be bulky and awkward to handle.

pumpkin-planters_eatbreathegardenStep by Step instructions

Carve a lid on top of the pumpkin, around the stem. You can carve fancy shapes into the lid opening, or a simple, circle shaped lid works too. Remove the lid. Use the carving knife to remove the pulp off the lid. Set the lid aside for future use or discard.

scooping-pumpkin_eatbreathegardenRemove the pulp and seeds out of the insides of the pumpkin and discard.

Carve a drainage hole – about the size of a quarter – out of the bottom of the pumpkin.

scoop-soil-pumpkin_eatbreathegardenFill the pumpkin with soil. Gently tamp the soil to remove any air pockets. (Note: to keep soil from washing out the drainage hole during watering, you can add a piece of newspaper over the drainage hole inside the pumpkin, before filling with soil.)

planting-pumpkin_eatbreathegardenPlant the plants in the pumpkin.

pumpkin-lid_eatbreathegardenOptional – Add embellishments to the pumpkin. You can repurpose the pumpkin’s lid by affixing it with skewers to the outside of the pumpkin. (I inserted a couple of skewers to the outer wall of the pumpkin and then attached the pumpkin lid to the skewers.) OR, incorporate fall themed embellishments, like a scarecrow or spider webbing.

pumpkin_eatbreathegardenCare for Your Pumpkin Planter

Place the pumpkin planter on a pumpkin stand. This helps to keep the pumpkin elevated off the ground, which can help slow down the decomposition process (a little bit).

Water plants as needed.

When your pumpkin really starts to decompose, pull the plants out and replant them to another location in the garden. Add the rotten pumpkin to your compost pile. Who knows? You may have some pumpkins pop up in your compost next year, and then you can start the process all over again.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sunflowers

Sunflowers. Beautiful, cheerful sunflowers. Flowers that resemble the sun with their rays of golden yellow petals. Aside from roses, sunflowers are perhaps the most recognizable and friendliest of flowers.

At the sight of sunflowers, people are often transported in their minds to driving past fields of sunflowers in the Midwest or seeing the mammoth sunflowers that grandma grew in the backyard – you know, the ones that towered over you as a child. Or, there is a memory of picking the ripe sunflower seeds of the spent flower. I can also remember watching birds swarming around ripe sunflowers – perched on the fence, tree branches, wherever and taking turns flying to the flowers, pecking off some seeds, landing on the ground to eat them, and then back again, with the occasional altercation or squirrel.

Here are some interesting facts about sunflowers.

sunflower2_eatbreathegardenSunflowers are Helianthus annuus, from the Greek words ‘helios’ for ‘the sun’ and ‘anthos’ for ‘flower.’ ‘Annuus’ for ‘annual’ references the flower’s complete life cycle in one growing season.

Sunflowers are native to North America. Though several of my favorite plants are native to other parts of the world, sunflowers are native to this continent. Native Americans traditionally used sunflowers for culinary, medicinal, and dye-making purposes.

sunflowerringoffire_eatbreathegardenSunflowers come in a variety of colors and sizes. The “traditional” sunflower has mustard yellow petals surrounding a dark center, atop a tall sturdy stem. There are a multitude of different flower heights and colors. ‘Mammoth Russian’ sunflowers are as big as the name suggests and grow up to approximately 15 feet tall (Renee’s Garden). (Check out more tall sunflower varieties.) There are dwarf types, including ‘Elves Blend’ which grows 16 inches to 2 feet tall (Botanical Interests) – and then everything in between. There are also sunflowers with the creamy yellow – almost white petals of ‘Vanilla Ice’ (Burpee), burgundy petals of ‘Chocolate’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed), and the bicolor flowers like ‘Strawberry Blonde’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed) or ode-to-Johnny-Cash ‘Ring of Fire’ (Seed Savers Exchange). Check out the unusual, “shaggy blooms” of ‘Teddy Bear’ (Johnny’s Selected Seed) or the beautiful blend of fall colors of ‘Autumn Beauty’ (Seed Savers Exchange). New in 2016 – ‘Sundancer’ grows quickly to 4-6 feet tall and blooms early in the season (Renee’s Garden).

The tallest sunflower measured at 30 feet 1 inch tall. The Guinness World Record holder was grown by Hans-Peter Schiffler in Germany in 2014. That’s about 2.5 stories tall! (Check out a video of the tallest sunflower.)

Sunflowers are hyperaccumulators – or “soil cleaners.” Sunflowers aren’t just pretty faces. They are used in phytoremediation to help rehabilitate soils and groundwater that contain heavy metals, such as lead, uranium, and cesium. In fact, sunflowers were planted near Chernobyl and Fukushima to remove the toxins after the nuclear plant disasters.

Young sunflowers track the sun’s movements in a process called heliotropism. Perhaps one of the most interesting things about sunflowers is the young plants’ ability to follow the sun as it moves in the sky throughout the day. A young plant starts its day greeting the sun as it rises in the east. Then the tip growth moves during the day, “following” the angle of the sun before ending its day facing west at sunset. During the night, it resets itself to once again face east by sunrise in the morning. Eventually as growth develops and flower buds form, the stem hardens and becomes rigid, not allowing for further movement. The sunflower ends up facing east, generally speaking, and no longer tracks the movement of the sun. Read more about these flowers’ circadian rhythm and why the it tracks the sun. watch time lapse video of a sunflower seedling tracking the sun.

sunflower3_eatbreathegardenHave you ever noticed the Fibonacci patterns on the sunflower? Look closely at the center of a sunflower, and you’ll notice a spiral pattern. You may have also noticed this pattern on agave, cactus thorns,  snail shells, the Milky Way, hurricane formations, the bottom of a pine cone, and more. The sunflower florets are arranged in a unique mathematical pattern as to create a series of interconnected spirals. Read more about what causes this.

sunflowercutflowers_eatbreathegardenActivities with Sunflowers

  • Watch time lapse video of a sunflower seedling tracking the sun.
  • Sow sunflower seeds, either by direct sow in the garden or in pots to transplant later in the garden. Try growing the giant sunflowers in your garden – research how to grow the biggest, tallest varieties in your garden.sunflowerarrangement_eatbreathegarden
  • Create sunflower arrangements using flowers cut from the garden or purchased from the florist.
  • Examine a sunflower up close. Notice the rigidness and height of the stems, the texture of the leaves and stems, the soft fuzziness of the point where the back of the flower meets the stem, the Fibonacci patterns of the flower’s “eye,” the colorful petals, the sticky part of the flower’s “eye” (at least on cut flowers, that is)…what else? This can be quite a grounding sensory experience.
  • Notice the Fibonacci patterns of the sunflower florets and study other plants and objects in nature that also contain this pattern. Learn more about the Golden Ratio – this could possibly be a bridge, or lead into a conversation, about the Golden Rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.sunflowervase_eatbreathegarden
  • Examine pictures of Monet’s sunflower paintings or Van Gogh’s series of sunflower paintings painted in anticipation of a visit from his buddy Paul Gauguin. Think about how nature has inspired the masters’ work, particularly Van Gogh who painted sunflowers in all stages – from young flowers to those past their prime. Create your own floral arrangement featuring sunflowers and then have the group sit in a circle around the arrangement. Then encourage them to paint or sketch a still life from their perspective. Paintings and sketches will most likely be different from all angles and can be a good topic about perspective in a group discussion.
  • Harvest sunflower seed once ripened. Pick the sunflower seeds out of the flower head by hand – this challenges fine motor skills.
  • Scatter sunflower seed, with other birdseed, outside for the birds. Or, fashion birdseed “cookies” with seed, flour, water, and corn syrup. Hang outdoors using a piece of twine as a hanging bird feeder. (Birdseed ornament recipe here.)

Save

Nature is beautiful #1: Interesting Plants

I love to take photos, particularly plant and nature photos. I’m not a trained photographer in the true sense. But over time, I have cultivated a sense to how images, especially those taken at certain angles, really speak to me. I see so much beauty in the world…beauty that is awe inspiring. And because I have a photographic library that has crashed hard drives with countless untitled images, I thought I would start sharing some of my favorite images of cool plants, beautiful nature scenes, or other awesome things so that I can start filing some of my favorite memories in a photographic journal.

Here goes…a visit to a greenhouse.

Milkweed_eatbreathegardenMonarch Promise Variegated Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica ‘Monarch Promise’). (Hort Couture) Say what?!? Love this variegated milkweed that is sure to attract the monarch butterflies. I mean, it says it in the name.

Bonus shot below.MonarchPromiseMilkweed_eatbreathegarden

Hibiscus_eatbreathegardenTropical Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ‘Blues in the Night’). (Hidden Valley Hibiscus) Hello, lovely. A ‘blue’ hibsicus – need I say more?

IMG_1062Celosia ‘Dragon’s Breath’. (Sakata Seed) This guy develops beautiful red plumes and red/green foliage.IMG_1066Angelonia ‘Archangel Orchid Pink.’ (Ball FloraPlant) Love me some angelonia. This big, bodacious angelonia has beautiful light pink flowers.

ColeusFlameThrowerSpicedCurry_eatbreathegardenColeus ‘FlameThrower Spiced Curry’ (Solenostemon). (Ball FloraPlant) A pretty coleus for sun to shade – and this isn’t even its full coloring. So many coleus, so little time.

Save

Save

The Accessible Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

This article has been published collaboratively with eatbreathegarden and Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association’s People-Plant Interactions. Authors Lesley Fleming, HTR, and Kathy Carroll, HTR, have previously written articles together, sharing a common philosophy of the power of plants and the role of horticultural therapy in health and wellness.

By Lesley Fleming, HTR & Kathy Carroll, HTR

Photos: L. Fleming

Intended to welcome visitors of all ages and abilities, the Anne Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens is a visual and experiential delight. Like other public gardens including Dallas Arboretum, Naples Botanical Garden, and Ringling Museum, the addition of children’s gardens in the last five years reflects a trend signaling an interest in attracting a younger/family demographic. A 2015 study determined that 55% of 163 public gardens [investigated] included a children’s garden and an additional 26.4% planned to add a children’s garden in the near future (Kwon, 2015).

IMG_4286_LFleming_SelbyAnne Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens

The design of gardens, specifically children’s gardens, seek to offer “people plant connections…to provide the richest experience” using all five senses, according to landscape designer Mark Kosmos (2013). More than merely a visual experience, he suggests that “integrating opportunities for tactile, olfactory, auditory, and taste provide a more memorable experience.” Embracing this multi-sensory and interactive construct, Selby’s Children’s Rainforest Garden has been able to successfully integrate accessible features in a manner that is creative, safe, and appealing to a broad spectrum of visitors.

Universal design principles and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations guided the garden’s accessibility plan. Without drawing attention to who or how accessible features are used, experiences within the entire garden including its tree house, epiphyte canyon, 12 ft. waterfall, and multiple play areas are inviting, whimsical, safe, and inclusive. The garden’s thoughtful design has reduced physical and psychological barriers.

IMG_4273_LFleming_SelbyChildren’s Rainforest Garden entrance

Entering the Children’s Rainforest Garden from the paved path of the main garden, the transom seamlessly joins the children’s garden path, made of composite materials, reducing any potential tripping hazard. It also eases any physical challenge of navigating the slight grade of the elevated 9 ft. wide path that encircles the banyan grove’s aerial roots. Raised toe rails prevent anyone or anything (stroller, wheelchair) from falling off the path.

IMG_4279_LFleming_SelbyRainforest Garden’s tree house with elevator

IMG_4334_LFleming_SelbyTree top level elevator

The Rainforest Garden’s single point entry and exit reassures adult companions that children can explore with some degree of independence, and cannot leave without being seen. The entrance’s sight line reveals a two story tree house, drawing visitors into the tropical oasis. Choices abound. An outdoor elevator is cleverly incorporated into the tree house structure (key available at three locations close by) or alternately a winding graded path with non-slip surface and handrails leads up to the canopy treetop level.

IMG_4328_LFleming_SelbySwinging bridge

Once up top, two swinging bridges afford a bird’s eye view of the surroundings as do adjacent platforms. Safety netting, handrails, and width sufficient for parent and child to move side by side across the bridges provide an exhilarating experience. People in wheelchairs would find this garden feature not as accessible; steps onto the bridge and the bridge’s path surface would be difficult to maneuver. For those with other physical challenges like sight or hearing impairment, autism, balance, or strength issues, these swinging bridges afford challenges that test and reward one’s sense of adventure and willingness to overcome trepidation.

IMG_4298_LFleming_SelbyRound swing

Offered as an alternative to the swinging bridges, a round-shaped swing is available in the grassy play area at ground level. Suitable for those with mobility or sitting challenges, the netted swing can accommodate one or more, in both seated and prone positions, providing the thrill of swinging, motion, and bilateral movement, the latter often a focus of physical therapy.

IMG_4313_LFleming_SelbyResearch camp area with hands-on activities

Nature-based hands-on activities like plant stampings, swinging hammocks in the research camp, and large piece puzzles challenge visitors to think, reason, or have imaginative playtime. Regularly scheduled programmed activities supplement the free play of the garden. For days when temperature and humidity are high, the garden offers a nearby indoor play space stocked with nature-based activities: flower shaped puzzles, building blocks, plant stencils, dress-up clothing, and more. Used throughout the year regardless of temperature, this indoor space extends the playability of the garden and is often a welcome respite for families with multiple children, especially babies.

IMG_4278_LFleming_SelbyMoreton Bay Fig tree

The creative use of sensory stimulation provides a different type of accessibility in the garden — the psychological feeling that there are no barriers — the “I can do this experience.” Hearing the sound of musical instruments (xylophone) or roar of the waterfall, feeling the rough texture of the canyon walls or the fine mist sprayed on visitors, smelling the fragrance of trees and plants, looking at rainforest food plants — bananas, pineapple, papayas, as well as seasonal edibles in raised beds, climbing on the massive buttress roots of the Moreton Bay Fig broaden the garden experience. The mission statement — “To create a Children’s Rainforest Garden at Selby Gardens that is a safe, natural place for young children and their families to develop a life-long appreciation for the living world through outdoor play, discovery, and learning” — incorporates the accessibility strategy alongside the educational/environmental framework.

IMG_4289_LFleming_SelbyMulti-tiered steps that doubles as an outdoor theater

There are a few limitations to accessibility in the Children’s Rainforest Garden.  Some areas are not fully accessible by those with mobility challenges; the swinging bridges, the multi-tiered steps that double as an outdoor theater, and a short ground-level path under the sloped upper path (too low hanging for most adults and the path’s surface is difficult to navigate for wheelchairs, walkers or strollers). Alternate options are adjacent to the tiered step/theater area and the path under the path. Braille signage and audio signals, available at many gardens, are not currently available.

The Children’s Rainforest Garden has been successful in attracting a younger demographic who seem delighted to play, look, and explore in this little part of the larger garden. Selby’s ability to provide an accessible children’s garden space is commendable, particularly using the more current definition of accessibility– “usable by people with the widest possible range of abilities, operating within the widest range of situations for people with or without disabilities”. The genius of the Children’s Rainforest Garden is its ability to offer inclusive experiences to all visitors, blending its accessible features into a beautiful, playful garden setting.

IMG_4269_LFleming_Selby

IMG_4319_LFleming_Selby

References

Cooper Marcus, C. & Sachs, N. (2014). Children’s Hospital Gardens. Therapeutic Landscapes An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley and & Sons.

Kosmos, M., & Bell, M. (2013). Distilling the Essence of Children’s Garden Design. AHTA News Magazine. 41(2).

Kwon, M., Seo, C., Kim, J., Kim, M., Pak, C., & Lee, W. (2015). Current Status of Children’s Gardens Within Public Gardens in the United States. Electronic version retrieved April 27, 2016, from http://horttech.ashspublications.org/content/25/5/671.abstract

 

This article has been published collaboratively with Eatbreathegarden.com and Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association’s People-Plant Interactions. Authors Lesley Fleming, HTR and Kathy Carroll, HTR have previously written articles together, sharing a common philosophy of the power of plants and the role of horticultural therapy in health and wellness.

Save

Save

Summertime Herbal Recipes

I recently made some herbal recipes that celebrate summer, in spite of the 100+ degree temps. Inspired by the herbs that are thriving in my garden right now, I went online and researched recipes. I found these awesome recipes and tweaked a couple to enhance the flavors with my herbs. Consider these easy recipes for your summer celebrations.

apricot-goat-cheese_eatbreathegardenJennifer’s Apricot Basil Goat Cheese Spread

I recently attended a wine tasting at my friend Jennifer’s house, and she served up this delicious fruity cheese spread with crackers. And oh my, though I typically am not a fan of goat cheese, this fruity treatment made this appetizer so YUMMY.

Goat cheese
Chopped dried apricots
Apricot preserves
Chopped almonds
Finely chopped basil

Top goat cheese with dried apricots, apricot preserves, and almonds to taste. Sprinkle with basil. Serve with butter crackers.

Strawberry-basil-lemonade_eatbreathegarden
Strawberries and basil leaves steep in simple syrup – preparing to be made into Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

In the summertime, it can be refreshing to drink a tall glass of sweet lemonade. Or, add mint to ice water or tea for a nice cool drink. But here’s a different twist on lemonade. You might be thinking – basil in lemonade? Though the flavors may not seem to complement each other, this recipe has a subtle undertone of basil with the strawberries and lemon juice balancing out the flavors. Quite yummy.

Make a simple syrup on the stovetop. (Note: when making the simple syrup, I cut the two cups down to 1.5 cups and thought it tasted just lovely.) Then steep the strawberries and basil leaves in the warm simple syrup for about 30 minutes or until cooled. Strain out the strawberry and basil pulp. Add lemon juice, cold water, and ice. Serve chilled with lemon slices.

Check out the complete strawberry basil lemonade recipe from Paula Deen at FoodNetwork.com.

Strawberry-mint-sorbet_eatbreathegardenStrawberry Mint Sorbet

Any form of ice cream, popsicle, or sorbet makes for a cool summer treat. I love this sorbet recipe that features mint and strawberries, with a twist of lime. Puree strawberries and a handful of mint leaves in a blender or food processor. Make a simple syrup of lemon juice, juice of one lime, sugar, vanilla, and water on the stovetop. Combine the puree and simple syrup together and chill in the fridge for several hours. Then add the mixture to your favorite ice cream machine and stir until it is a frozen or semi-solid consistency. (I used my electric ice cream machine according to manufacturer instructions.) Transfer to a separate container and put in the freezer. Serve frozen. Enjoy!

Recipe adapted from the strawberry sorbet recipe at Eating Well.

berries-and-mint_eatbreathegardenBerries and Mint

Prepare your favorite berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc – in a bowl. Add chopped mint leaves and the juice of one lime. Stir together and serve.

rosemary-crackers_eatbreathegardenRosemary Crackers

When using rosemary in any recipe, a little goes a looooonnnnngggg way. And this cheesy crispy cracker recipe incorporates rosemary just right. Ingredients include parmesan cheese, flour, butter, cream (I subbed milk), pepper, cayenne, salt blended together in a food processor. Roll out the dough and cut crackers to size. Bake them on a cookie sheet and eat them hot right out of the oven. Easy peasy!

Check out this rosemary and pepper crackers recipe by Valerie Bertinelli at FoodNetwork.com.

Rosemary-skewers_eatbreathegardenGrape Tomatoes and Fresh Mozzarella on Rosemary Skewers

Cut rosemary stems six- to eight-inches long off the plant. Strip the the leaves off most of the stem, leaving one end with one- to two-inches of leaves intact. Skewer tomatoes and fresh mozzarella bites (I like the mozzarella pearls for ease of use) onto the rosemary stems. Then top tomatoes and mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and serve. Easy way to add pizzazz to your serving table.

lemon-thyme-vinaigrette_eatbreathegardenLemon Thyme Vinaigrette

My favorite little reliable herb, lemon thyme is planted along the edge of retaining wall and has slowly filled in the crevices of the wall over time. The little leaves are fun to use in adding a zest to this vinaigrette recipe. Shake together lemon thyme leaves, honey, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a mason jar, and then add olive oil and shake well. Serve on your favorite greens.

Check out this lemon thyme vinaigrette recipe at Little B Cooks.

Save

Save

Save

Save

What Florists Know [And What We Wished We Knew] About Floral Arrangements

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat
Photos: Floris Flowers Co.

Nothing is more breathtaking or celebratory than a gorgeous flower arrangement. For those of us who love flowers but lack the experience and training of floral designers, there can still be hope. Thinking like a florist may guide our decisions when we arrange flowers, be they from the grocery store, our own garden, or a gift bouquet received from dinner guests.

whiteflorals_SarahBayatReason to celebrate

Flowers are a beautiful bundle of joy. Floral arrangements, elaborate or simple celebrate many moments: the bounty of a garden, an engagement, a friendship, a wedding, and yes, even a funeral honoring a life lived. One important consideration is how the arrangement will be used and the optimal time it needs to last. Special events for example, are often of short duration and can use flowers that evoke transient beauty and fragility, but may not last long. The arrangement pictured below was made with dahlias, clematis, gardenias, and Dusty Miller.

handheldbouquet_SarahBayatOther arrangements, meant to be enjoyed for longer periods of time – days and even weeks – are designed with stems that have staying power. Think of an arrangement sent as an expression of sympathy or gratitude using roses, orchids, mums, and magnolias, pictured below. Hyacinths, tulips, ranunculus, viburnum, and lilies could be other choices; blossoms that wilt can be removed from the arrangement, as needed.

tabletopflorals_SarahBayatSelecting a design style

Years ago florists followed strict rules on design, shape, color, and flower combinations. These principles of floral design – balance, proportion, contrast, focal point – continue to be important, as are the elements of design – line, pattern, size, texture color, and shapes. While fundamentals of floral design continue to play an important role, newer trends tend to be more flexible in their interpretation. Broadening the options, current design styles are described as:

floralarrangement_SarahBayatEnglish garden – typically composed of annuals, arranged to look natural, as if they are still growing in the garden.

bird-of-paradise_eatbreathegarden
Photo: Susan Morgan

Modern or modern exotic – the use of tropical flowers and foliage like bird of paradise, gingers, monstera, and banana leaf, that distinguishes this style; arranged as both linear or bountiful designs.

gerbera-daisy_eatbreathegarden
Photo: Susan Morgan

Whimsical – described as romantic and fun using flowers with pronounced petals like zinnia, gerberas, and dahlias; this style often uses flowers that bloom in late summer.

Clean lines – as the name suggests, the linear design is the dominant and dramatic focus, using  geometric forms, the vertical axis, a binding point, and often with minimal flower variety.

floralarrangements_SarahBayatMatching the component parts

The relationship between component parts – the flowers, vase, and design style – takes talent or practice. Observing arrangements at functions, flower shops, or online can provide ideas for DIY florals. Take notice of how the pieces complement on another.  The Victorian trend, popular with today’s brides, uses antique containers like mint julep cups, china bowls, Limoges vases, and flowers that complement the colors, shape and size of the container. Classic glass cubes, mason jars, and ceramic containers, which offer flexibility for use with a wide array of flowers and foliage, are popular for arrangements for the home as well as weddings any time of year.

Setting the stage

Having the right tools goes a long way in successfully arranging flowers. Have garden cutters, paring knife, water on hand to immediately immerse cut flowers, and containers are the essentials tools. (Scissors can crush some stems preventing them from absorbing water.) Floral foam, either the best or worse tool depending on your perspective, can hold stems securely in place during design and transportation but are laden with chemicals some choose to avoid. Floral tape and chicken wire used as a grid on the container mouth can be effective alternatives. Stems should be conditioned; each stem cut individually and immediately placed in water. Shave bark off branchy stems such as lilac, hydrangeas and viburnum, and make an upward cut in the middle of the stem.

Getting it right 

The most foolproof floral arrangement is the hand-held monochromatic or tone on tone [color] bouquet (same or different flower but in the same color wave).  Hold the stems in your hand shaping them into a uniform height. Cut to all the same length, placing the stems into fresh water, perfectly fitting the stems into the diameter of the container’s mouth so that the hand-held shape is maintained.

For those intending on using flowers from their garden, think ahead. It is critical to plant the types and colors of flowers and greenery (often cut from shrubs) that compliment the preferred style. All of this is personal preference. And experience. Testing, trying, and enjoying different arrangements will lead to what suits your home, occasion, and sensibility.

floralinspiration_SarahBayatInspiring yourself

Gone are the days of only three shapes for floral arrangements—line, line-mass, and mass. Tall, full, minimalist, luxurious, and linear styles – all are acceptable. Unconventional pairings like pastels with saturated colors, larger blooms such as dinnerplate dahlias, hydrangeas, and peonies, juxtaposed with smaller blooms of craspedia, scabiosa, tulips, and ranunculus reflect current trends. So, please yourself. Use the blossoms or foliage that speaks to you, perhaps growing in your own garden (lilac or cherry branches, for example).  Consider foliage a secret weapon. Flush out arrangements with foliage of all shapes and colors. Remove leaves below waterline, which will not last very long due to bacteria. Replace with foliage that has been prepped.

Express yourself with flowers…florists can be your back-up.

References

Hillier, M. Ed. (1990). Flower Arranging. New York: Reader’s Digest Association.

Packer, J. (1998). The Complete Guide to Flower Arranging. New York: DK Publishing.

 

Authors Lesley Fleming and Sarah Bayat combine their talents for this series. Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist who uses flowers for therapeutic activities. Sarah is creative director of Floris Flowers Co.

This is the fourth and final article in a series on tips from florists.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save