Tag Archives: therapeutic

Celebrating Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day on April 22, this month, we have been celebrating Mother Nature by getting outdoors and showing our gratitude in a number of ways. We have been admiring nature’s beauty and curiosities, noting our innate desires to connect with nature (biophilia) and the restorative effects nature has on us, brainstorming ideas of what actions we can take on behalf of our environment and other living things, and then taking steps to beautify our environment for ourselves, each other, and hopefully pollinators (if outdoors).

Check out the gallery of activities:

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Cultivating soil can be a sensory engaging and grounding experience.
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The act of nurturing a plant through watering and other gardening tasks can be a therapeutic activity.
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Limited on outdoor growing space? Plant container gardens.
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Or, plant hanging baskets to put on display. (Here, they’re waiting to be hung.)
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Raised beds elevate gardening activities, making them more accessible for gardeners.
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Pot up spring seedlings started from seed during winter.
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Don’t have easy outdoor access? Propagate and transplant easy to grow houseplants that brighten up the indoors.

Guided Imagery: Chasing the Cold Away with Colorful Blossoms

Editor’s note from Susan: My sincere thanks to the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association for giving us the opportunity to share this piece on guided imagery by Lesley Fleming, HTR. The script was originally written and published during the winter, but it can be adapted for a variety of groups and at any time of the year, especially at times when access to the outdoors is limited or in reminiscing or imagining about a visit to a tropical garden.

Text and photos by Lesley Fleming, HTR

Reprint permission granted by the Michigan Horticultural Therapy Association

One of the techniques used by horticultural therapists for a range of populations is guided imagery. The term guided imagery refers to a wide variety of mind/body techniques, including visualization and direct suggestion using imagery, metaphor, and storytelling.

Permission is granted to use the guided imagery script below. Consider having live plants or photos of the plants [to accompany the activity].

So as the cold days continue and shorter daylight hours affect your mood, think of beautiful flowers in every color of the rainbow. Close your eyes and picture yourself walking along a garden path. The birds are singing, and the breeze is deliciously warm. The flowers sway with the wind and bring a smile to your face.

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Confederate jasmine

A lovely fragrance fills the air, not too sweet but enough to make you take notice. Opening your eyes to petite white star-shaped blossoms of Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), the green leafed vine is wrapped up and over the arbor, climbing without tendrils. The mix of white and green is soothing, romantic, and fragrant. Am I remembering this from a wedding or a picture of a wedding?

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Hibiscus

Moving deeper into the garden, a swath of color awaits. Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivars) seems to be everywhere, in this garden and elsewhere. Those unfolding blooms that last but one day offer tropical shades of fuchsia, yellow, orange, and red. The shrub with more than 4,000 varieties seems to relish the warm weather, inviting ladies to wear a blossom in their hair or tempting one to make hibiscus tea for a hot sunny day.

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Bird of Paradise

A taller plant with interesting shaped greenery is but a few steps away now. The orange, yellow, and blue on the blossom appears to be a bird in flight. Is it Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae)? They say the colors emerge from the distinctive green pod and sturdy rigid stem over several days. Is it true that this plant is part of the banana family and some varieties can grow as tall as 20 ft.? (correct) I would like to see this with my own eyes.

What is that orange-yellow flower that looks like a top hat? The blossom is growing from the branch, with no stem. It has a long tube in the center which remains upright, and the petals have released and dropped down to become the brim. I am not as familiar with Chinese Hat plant (Holmskioldia sanguinea), sometimes more commonly refer to as Cup and Saucer or Mandarin Cup.

Have you ever seen a shrub that has several shades of colorful blossoms all at one time? There is a plant sign that reads Kiss-Me-Quick (before I fade), with the botanical name of Brunsfelsia spp. Some know it as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. In the space of a few days, the first opening of the blossom is a lavender color that fades to a lighter purple and eventually to white. Right now the shrub has all of the colors at once. Nature is wonderful.

Gazing the length of the garden is a mass planting of about 20 red, 24-inch-tall weeping green stems. A child calls out Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis).  Looking at one plant more closely, the tiny tubular blooms are attached to the stem. There are few leaves, and the red color is fire engine red.

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Chenille plant

This garden is full of color and scent. Reach out…can you touch that plant?  It looks like a pipecleaner, those soft pliable craft items. The long, soft, red bloom is actually a spike covered in hundreds of (male) flowers. It is the red stamens of these—not petals that are the velvety delight in my hands. Nowhere to be seen are the female flowers of this Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida), but the green leaves make a lovely counterpoint to the red softness.  

Resources

Bresler, D. (2005). What Every Pain Therapist Should Know About Guided Imagery. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2015, from http://acadgi.com/publications/whateverypaintherapist/index.html

Cleveland Clinic (nd). Guided Imagery. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2015, from http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/wellness/integrative-medicine/treatments-services/guided-imagery

MacCubbin, T. & Tasker, G. (2002). Florida Gardener’s Guide. Nashville, Tenn.: Cool Springs Press.

WebMD (2014). Guided Imagery: Topic Overview. Retrieved Dec. 22, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/tc/guided-imagery-topic-overview

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The Guelph Enabling Garden – Something for Everyone

By Lesley Fleming, HTR
Photos by Trisha Muldoon and L. Fleming

Enabling gardens originated as barrier-free space for people with physical disabilities. The more current understanding—one that is less restrictive and more inclusive—is one where all visitors are engaged in the garden through programming, garden features, and plant selection (Diehl, 2013; Cooper Marcus, 2014). Enabling people of all ages and abilities to garden with fewer barriers reflects the evolution of this type of healing garden.

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Workshop attendees enjoyed a garden tour showcasing key elements of the Guelph Enabling Garden. Photo credit: Trisha Muldoon

The Guelph Enabling Garden (GEG) is an excellent example of this newer trend. While hosting an educational forum in June 2015, with a program titled Horticultural Therapy Programs that Excite, Excel and Engage, the garden welcomed community members, horticultural therapy (HT) practitioners, and health service providers. The workshop included an informational session on nature-based recreational and therapeutic programming targeted to improving health, as well as a tour of the enabling garden, led by GEG’s registered horticultural therapist Heidi Torreiter. Demonstrating how effective a therapeutic garden can be for activities and programming of all kinds, Torreiter and co-presenter Lesley Fleming, HTR, delivered three hands-on activities used in HT programming, including the making of small flower bouquets, an active game to increase physical activity, and a meditation session.

Programs geared to a broad spectrum of groups and individuals are offered throughout the year at the garden. Horticultural therapy, along with recreational programs like Staying Well in the Winter, Soil Compost Water, and Sense Based Activity, appeal to wellness groups and people with visible and invisible health challenges. Delivered by professionally credentialed staff, the programs in this beautiful garden setting with its abundant natural materials contribute to the popularity of the programs.

Set in a public park and adjacent to several senior citizen facilities, the physical location of the Guelph Enabling Garden further increases access, particularly for neighboring elders. Collaborative relationships with organizations, including the seniors’ facilities, provide for designated planting areas, specific programmed activities, and a volunteer base from those who have participated in garden activities.

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Raised beds at various heights help to minimize physical barriers to gardening. Photo credit: L. Fleming

The physical features of the Guelph Enabling Garden define it as one that reduces barriers to gardening. For home gardeners and program participants, raised beds at several different heights, hanging baskets, container gardens, wide and smooth paths, signage, and plant selection like lavender, spirea, and soft wormwort provide ideas for minimizing physical barriers.

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The Spiral Garden at the Guelph Enabling Garden. Photo credit: L. Fleming

Designed as a circle that overlooks the nearby Speed River, the Spiral Garden  offers a venue for special events. Small enough for intimate poetry readings and large enough for wedding vows, it has been used for gatherings and group activities of all kinds. The beauty of the garden set beside the river offers an added layer of nature within the city limits.

Observing the visitors to the garden—children delighted by the fairy garden, people with mobility impairments moving effortlessly along accessible paths, seniors from next door digging in the dirt, a cyclist slowly pedaling past the mass floral display, a group of young adults with intellectual disabilities planting herbs with the horticultural therapist, tourists looking for zone 5 plant specimens to consider for their own gardens in Michigan or Nova Scotia—there is something for everyone at the Guelph Enabling Garden. It is where beauty and function merge for passive and active plant and human interactions.

Diehl, L. (2013). A Framework for Categorizing Healing Gardens. American Horticultural Therapy Association News Magazine 41(2) 4-6.

Cooper Marcus, C. & Sachs, N. (2014). Therapeutic Landscapes: An Evidence-Based Approach to Designing Healing Gardens and Restorative Outdoor Spaces.

Hanami – Celebrating the Ephemeral Beauty of the Cherry Blossom

The Yoshino cherry trees are blooming here in North Texas – celebrating the start of spring right along with us. Now is the time to get outdoors and enjoy their beautiful white and blush pink floral displays. And quick – check them out before their striking beauty fades, or you’ll have to wait another year before they bloom again.

eatbreathegarden_cherrytree_HanamiCherry blossoms represent the ephemeral beauty of nature, a time of renewal and rejuvenation, and, more largely, the fleeting nature of life itself. Also known as sakura, cherry blossoms are treasured in Japanese culture, depicted in ancient and modern Japanese art, and celebrated each year during the Hanami festival. Hanami is a time when people in Japan celebrate the bloom time of this magnificent harbinger of spring. Translated as “flower viewing,” Hanami is when plantings of various Prunus are viewed and enjoyed all over the country. This practice dates back to the 8th century and has grown in interest over the years. In Japan, cherry trees bloom first in the southern part of the country in March and last through May when the last of the cherries bloom in the north. Just like meteorologists predict the weather patterns, so-called blooming forecasters study the weather in order to predict the bloom time of the cherry trees across the country. (Check out a cherry bloomtime map of Japan here.)

eatbreathegarden_springflowers_cherrytrees“We Japanese can’t miss Hanami,” says Japanese culture consultant Motoko Ishihara Evans. “Hanami is just like a picnic under cherry blossoms. It’s a long tradition to appreciate beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. Even [in the] 16th century they enjoyed Hanami.” Families celebrate Hanami by picnicking, socializing, and playing games under the blooming cherry trees. Motoko talks about the eager anticipation and festivities of this time of year. “We eat lunch, under the trees. At night there are lanterns, and [we] eat and drink sake or beer. In Japan it’s not illegal to drink in public places. Some people sing. It’s like a party. Even children go to Hanami with snacks and drinks. We go out for Hanami with friends, family, and coworkers. All over Japan we wait for cherry blossoms in bloom.”

eatbreathegarden_springflowersHanami and the application for horticultural therapy practitioners

Horticultural therapy clients can derive personal meaning from this message about honoring the ephemeral yet beautiful nature of life through the metaphor of the cherry blossoms, especially through the example of Hanami. Though the cherries bloom for a short time, the Japanese people celebrate this time with their loved ones, enjoying quality time with one another. “Celebrating special moments, like cherry blossom time, can mark the cycle of life by using tangible plant material as a symbol for the annual passage of time or to evoke special, pleasant memories where the client recalls happy or poignant experiences and occasions,” wrote Margaret Shillingford, BS, MEd, and Lesley Fleming, MA, HTR, in their article “Cherry Blossoms, Symbolism and HT,” originally published in The American Horticultural Therapy Association News Magazine, volume 40, number 2.

eatbreathegarden_springflowers_cherrytreesIn working with clients, share photos of cherry blossoms and Hanami celebrations depicted in Asian art, day and night time celebrations of Hanami in Japan, and even the blooming Yoshino cherry trees around the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C. (The 3,000-plus Washington trees were a gift from Japan to the United States, as a goodwill gesture, in the 1912, and celebrated during the Cherry Blossom Festival each spring. Read more about it here. You can even watch the cherry trees in bloom with the “Cherry Blossom Cam” in Washington here.) Pass around cherry branches and examine the buds and blossoms. Reminisce about favorite seasonal family gatherings and celebrations. Create individual or group floral arrangements using cherry branches and other spring flowers.

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Client-created floral arrangements with cherry blossoms, daffodils, and tulips

Celebrating National Horticultural Therapy Week!

Happy First Day of Spring! We are celebrating National Horticultural Therapy Week during this first week of spring. As we enjoy the ephemeral beauty of the new season, check back all this week for new posts in honor of the use of horticulture as a therapeutic modality. Learn more about the practice of horticultural therapy through the American Horticultural Therapy Association.

What Florists Know [And What We Wished We Knew] About Spring Flowering Bulbs

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat

Bursting with new life, spring flowering bulbs herald in the season of renewal. Recognizing beauty in each stage of growth, florists maximize the versatility of bulbs and use them creatively in a variety of ways.

Bare bulbs are architectural. Stacked as a mass or as a singular specimen, a bulb’s color, shape, and roots intrigue, particularly when presented in glass vessels. Bulbs can be purchased in soil or soil-less. Rinsing off the soil will offer the cleanest presentation and will not hinder sprouting. (Read more about bulbs here).

For dramatic style, place bulbs at the base of a flower arrangement. Juxtaposing blossom with bulb, soft with hard, adds depth and layers of dimension.

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Emerging daffodil flower

The crack of the bulb, when the greenery starts to emerge, is one of nature’s wonders. Whether it is a forced bloom or seasonal cycle, observing the bulb’s daily growth is life affirming and beautiful. (Read more about forcing bulbs indoors and forcing paperwhite bulbs.)

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Alliums

Blossoms from spring flowering bulbs — alliums, tulips, daffodils, muscari — are beautiful as cut flowers meticulously arranged or placed simply in a vase.

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Fragrant hyacinths

The fragrance of lily of the valley, freesia, or hyacinths provide immediate pleasure and memories of springtimes past.

The many lives of bulbs…once they’ve finished their show in vases, bulbs can be planted in the ground for another chance at nature’s cycle, in growing zones where hardy. The carbon footprint of a bulb’s journey can be positive and renewable. Note: Bulbs used at the base of an arrangement are less likely to be viable.

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Client-made floral arrangement using freesia and California iris (alternative for Dutch iris).

For your own spring awakening, try bulbs in any of these renditions. Or consider inspiration from international bulb showcases: Dallas Arboretum in Texas, Canadian Tulip Festival in Ottawa,  Floralia Brussels at Chateau de Grand-Bigard in Belgium, or the Netherlands’ Keukenhof.

Bulbs planted in fall produce spring flowers. Bulbs planted in spring bring summer blossoms.

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

This is the third in a series of four articles sharing tips on spring bulbs. The fourth article will offer tips for floral arrangements.

Scintillating Tidbits About Orchids

By Lesley Fleming, HTR, and Jeanne Willis, with Susan Morgan
Photos by L. Fleming

When a man falls in love with orchids, he’ll do anything to possess the one he wants. It’s like chasing a green-eyed woman or taking cocaine…it’s sort of madness…

Norman Mac Donald, The Orchid Hunter, 1939

Orchids attract passion and mystery. What is it that stirs the hysteria for these intriguing plants? Check out this interesting list of orchid facts.

Paphiopedilum spicerianum eatbreathegarden
Paphiopedilum spicerianum

There are more than 25,000 documented species of orchids, making the Orchidaceae family one of the largest families of flowering plants (Kramer, 2013). (Learn how to pronounce Orchidaceae here.)

The word orchis is derived from the Greek word meaning “testicle,” referring to the shape of bulbous roots found in some orchid genera (Flowerweb).

The term orchid, as a shortened version of Orchidaceae, was not introduced until 1845 (Flowerweb).

Many scientists suspect that hybridized orchids would not occur in nature and that there are more species yet undiscovered, especially in tropical areas (Kramer, 2013).

The smallest orchid is believed to be Platystele jungermannioides at 2mm in size (Flowerweb). (Read more about the world’s smallest orchid here.)

Some orchid species can survive up to 100 years (Flowerweb).

Brassocattleya Tangerine Jewel x Bc. Richard Mueller eatbreathegarden
Brassocattleya Tangerine Jewel x Bc. Richard Mueller

Botanists studied “one thousand wild orchids for fifteen years and during that time only twenty-three were pollinated.” Some orchid seedpods are filled with millions of tiny dust-sized seeds (Orlean, 1998).

The world’s first orchid book Orchid Guide for Kuei-men and Chang-chou, written by Chao Shih-ken, was published in 1228 in China (Orlean, 1998).

During the Ming dynasty, orchids were used to treat a range of health issues, including diarrhea, venereal diseases, neuralgia, and sick elephants (Orlean, 1998).

A record setting two-ton Grammatophyllum speciosum orchid was displayed at the first world’s fair – the 1850-1 Crystal Palace Exhibition in London, England (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about this large orchid here.)

Brassocattleya Maikai 'Mayumi' eatbreathegarden
Brassocattleya Maikai ‘Mayumi’

Orchids have symmetry similar to a human face. Scientists think that the orchid’s symmetry is one of the reasons for human fondness for this plant (Kramer, 2013). (Read more about the bilateral symmetry of orchid flowers here.)

Rhyncholaeliocattleya Donna Kimura 'Paradise Tami' eatbreathegarden
Rhyncholaeliocattleya Donna Kimura ‘Paradise Tami’

Victorian women were forbidden from owning orchids because the flower shapes were considered to be sexually suggestive (Orlean, 1998).

Suffragettes destroyed several orchid specimens at Kew Gardens in London, England, in 1912(3) (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about the Kew Orchid House attack here.)

Vanilla, the popular flavor and fragrance is extracted from the pod of Vanilla planifolia, a species of orchid (Flowerweb). (Read more about the Vanilla orchid here.)

The Florida connection to orchids began in 1874, when it is reported that avid gardener Jane Kenniburgh moved from Carickfergus, Ireland, to Tallahassee, Florida, with her Phaius grandifolius orchid, often referred to as nun’s lily. This orchid was recognized as the first greenhouse-cultivated orchid in Florida (Orlean, 1998).

Some orchids are considered to resemble creatures from the animal kingdom, like the bee orchid (Ophrys apifera). It lures the males of a certain species of bee because of its appearance and enticing smell (Dearringer). (Read more about the fascinating bee orchid here or watch a video about it here.)

The orchid Dendrophylax lindenii, also known as the ghost orchid, grows wild in Florida and is considered to be one of the most sought after specimens (Orlean, 1998). (Read more about the ghost orchid here.)

Orchids in this article were photographed at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida.

Resources

Dearringer, M. (no date). Seven Little Known Orchid Facts. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.orchidplantcare.info/a-few-fun-facts-you-might-not-know-about-orchid-plants/.

Flowerweb (no date). 15 Amazing Facts About Orchids. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.flowerweb.com/en/article/190242/15-Amazing-Facts-About-Orchids.

Kramer, M. (2013). 5 Surprising Facts About Orchids. Retrieved Dec. 4, 2015 from http://www.livescience.com/28547-surprising-orchid-facts.html.

Orlean, S. (1998). The Orchid Thief. New York: Random House.

Horticulture and Health According to Three Wise Men

By Lesley Fleming, HTR

Hippocrates, Roger Ulrich, and E.O. Wilson…their perspectives on how nature impacts human health brought about seismic changes in medicine, research, healthcare facility design and much more.

Hippocrates, 460BC-370 BC, who is considered to be the father of medicine, introduced Vis Medicatrix Naturae — the concept of the healing power of nature. It became a guiding principle across disciplines and is still considered today to be powerful and relevant, linking nature (including horticulture) to human health.

Roger Ulrich, 1984, conducted research which revealed that views of nature influence faster health recovery in hospital patients. Frequently cited for this research and his work on evidence-based healthcare design, Ulrich has had global influence on nature-health connections.

E.O. Wilson, 1986, popularized the hypothesis that humans have an instinctual need to connect with nature. This concept — and Wilson’s book of the same name — Biophilia has come to signify the need to integrate nature into our lives…using it to find balance and understanding of the inter-relatedness of all living things.

Warrior Plants

[Note: This article was originally published in the AHTA News Magazine for the American Horticultural Therapy Association. In honor of the women and men who have served and currently serve our country, and Veterans Day, I am posting it here.]

I like it when a flower or a little tuft of grass grows through a crack in the concrete. It’s so…heroic.

– George Carlin, in Brain Droppings, p. 100

Resilient, strong, tough, hardy, adaptable, vigorous – these are all adjectives used to describe someone who is a warrior…as well as to describe plants as botanical warriors in their own right. Some plants grow fully submerged in water or germinate from a minuscule seed, while others grow perched atop the tree canopy of a tropical rain forest or have thick leaves that help them retain moisture in the most arid growing conditions. Plant characteristics, such as their growth habits and forms, growing requirements, methods of reproduction, and other biological functions, play a major factor in determining how they thrive or fail in an environment.

Due to their adaptations over time and resilience enduring nature’s elements, plants are often used as symbols of strength, hope, and inspiration. For example, trees are often referred to as symbolic representations of strength and power with their sturdy woody stems, extensive root systems that hold them upright and steadfast, lengthy life spans, ability to provide shelter and food, and other qualities.

When horticultural therapy clients learn about how plants endure tough growing conditions to flourish, these observations can help clients find perspective about situations they are dealing with or give them something to view as a symbol of inspiration. Consider incorporating these plants with strong characteristics or names or that have historical use by mighty people into an inspirational lesson on building personal strength and overcoming obstacles.

GinkgoGinkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

A living fossil with unique fan-shaped leaves, ginkgo is a long lived tree with prehistoric ties. Its length of time on Earth and long life span has made it a symbol of resilience and endurance. In fact, several trees, including at least four ginkgos, survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima, Japan, and are still growing today. Note: Has toxicity if eaten in large quantities. Hardy in USDA Zones 3 to 8.

GladiolusGladiolus (Gladiolus)

In the language of flowers, gladiolus symbolizes strength of character, and legend even has it that gladiolus was the representative flower of the Roman gladiators. With its sword shaped leaves and colorful flower spikes, gladiolus’ name is derived from the Latin word for “sword.” Other plants known to symbolize strength include fennel, thyme, garlic, oak, and bamboo. Note: Has toxicity. Commonly used as a cut flower; hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

Tillandsia xerographica air plantAir Plant (Tillandsia xerographica and others)

Epiphytes, or air plants, are resilient plants that grow on something else, such as on a tree or a rocky ledge, yet are not parasitic. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, they have special adaptations on their leaves and roots that help obtain their water and nutrients from the air, rainfall, leaf litter, and other nearby sources. Epiphytes include several orchids, bromeliads, ferns, and other air plants, such as Tillandsia xerographica. Spanish moss (shown in feature image), which is often seen growing in live oaks in the deep South, is not an actual moss but, rather, is a Tillandsia. Some grown as houseplants; Spanish moss (T. usneoides) is hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 11.

ZZ plantZZ Plant (Zamioculcas zamifolia)

The phrase “ZZ plants are E-Z” is true and makes ZZ plant a candidate for the top of any list of low maintenance houseplants. Though they are slow and steady growers, this tough houseplant has a high tolerance level for neglect. It does well with infrequent watering and in low light conditions when a light stand or sunny window is not available. Note: this plant has toxicity. Grown as a houseplant.

Osage orange Bois d'arcOsage Orange (Maclura pomifera)

Ethnobotanical researchers have described how Native Americans historically used the dense, tough wood of the Osage orange, otherwise called bois d’arc, to fashion bows. (Watch out for the female trees that wield softball-sized green fruit that plummet to the earth.) Red twig dogwood (Cornus sericea) and various species of serviceberry (Amelanchier), juniper (Juniperus), and cedar (Thuja) were also used for making bows, arrows, or totem poles by various Native American tribes. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 9.

LotusLotus (Nelumbo nucifera)

The lotus is an aquatic plant that grows in the muddy margins of ponds and marshes. Its flower is considered sacred in Buddhism and Hinduism and is commonly used in imagery of rebirth and enlightenment in Asian art. Leaves and flowers grow from the rhizomes buried underwater in the mud and rise up tall above the water surface. In addition, its leaves are hydrophobic, meaning that water droplets bead up on leaves like drops of mercury and fall off easily. Hardy in USDA Zones 5 to 10.

Aspidistra Cast Iron PlantCast Iron Plant (Aspidistra)

As its name suggests, cast iron plant is the houseplant that is tough as nails – cast iron nails, at that – as its name suggests. It thrives in low light and with minimal watering. Commonly grown as a houseplant; also hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 11.

 

Over the course of three and a half billion years of environmental fluctuations and catastrophes, organisms of all types have developed tremendous powers of regeneration. Some species, typically referred to by humans as weeds, seem especially adept at not merely surviving severe disturbance, but of actually flourishing in the face of it.

– Peter Del Tredici, Hibaku Trees of Hiroshima

 

References

Del Tredici, P. Hibaku Trees of Hiroshima. Retrieved on 29 October 2013 from http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/892.pdf.

Laufer, G.A. (1993). Tussie-Mussies: The Language of Flowers. Workman Publishing Company, Inc.: Hong Kong.

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens. (2013). What are epiphytes? Retrieved from http://www.selby.org/about/what-are-epiphytes.

Missouri Botanical Garden. (2013). Biology of Plants: Plant Adaptations. Retrieved from http://www.mbgnet.net/bioplants/adapt.html.

University of Michigan – Dearborn. (2013). Native American Ethnobotany Database. Retrieved from http://herb.umd.umich.edu/.

What Florists Know [And What We Wish We Knew] About Cut Flowers

By Lesley Fleming, HTR and Sarah Bayat

Photos by Susan Morgan

There is nothing better than flowers cut from your own garden (or, the next best thing, from your local floral supplier). Keeping flowers looking their best once cut takes talent, know-how, and experience. What do florists know that we wish we knew? Let the following tips on these cut flowers be your primer!

eatbreathegardenAllium

This flower’s lollipop shape is beautiful and appealing…but the smell not so much. Add a few drops of bleach to reduce onion smell. Adding a few drops of bleach to all vases of flowers are a great inhibitor of bacteria and murky vase water.

eatbreathegardenCalla lily

The warmth from your hands can manipulate and curve stems for even more dramatic architectural lines.

eatbreathegardenDelphinium

Blooms open quickly after cutting. This delicate looking flower can last up to two full weeks in a vase.

Gardenia

Handle petals as little as possible. They brown quickly when touched.

eatbreathegardenGeranium

Select these long-lasting blossoms based on color and fragrance (chocolate, nutmeg, apple, coconut, to name a few!). They perform well as cut flowers and potted plants.

eatbreathegardenHellebore

Dip stems of this perennial plant, also known as Christmas rose or Lenten rose, in hot water to cut. Then place stems in cool water right up to blossom to sit overnight.

eatbreathegardenHydrangea

When preparing the flower, make two cuts – one horizontal and one vertical – so that the woody stem can absorb more water. Dip cut ends into alum powder (also known as pickling spice at grocery store).

eatbreathegardenLily

Don’t like how these can leave a stain on hands and clothes? Just as blooms crack, gently and carefully remove stamen inside the lily with a tissue at this stage, before the pollen appears.

eatbreathegardenPeony

Submerge bud & blossom in water to remove ants, sometimes requiring several dunks, which also hastens blossoming.

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Poppy seedpods, shown here

Poppy

Immediately burn the cut end of stems to extend blossom, then place in water.

eatbreathegardenRanunculus

Keep water level low in vase to prevent their hollow stem from rotting. This advice also goes for anenomes, calla lilies, and gerbera daisies.

eatbreathegardenRose

To maximize blossoms for photography or parties, use warm water in vase and blow into their center to open and separate petals. Removing center petals to expose the seeds creates the look of garden roses.

Strawflower

They will dry on their own without additives and are beautiful as cut & dry flowers.  The same applies to thistle and statice.

eatbreathegardenStock

Like ornamental kale, both tend to have smelly stems when submerged. Change water often…they are cousins to cauliflower and broccoli.

eatbreathegardenSucculents

After use in arrangements, place on sandy soil mix to sprout roots and grow.

eatbreathegardenSunflower

Prolong use by incorporating seedheads into arrangements after petals fade.

eatbreathegarden
Sea holly (Eryngium) and hydrangea

Bonus tips:

* Use sharp knives or garden shears to cut stems.

* Select clean vases and place stems in room temperature water as soon as possible.

* To hasten blooming, use lukewarm water.

* Remove greenery below the water line.

* Re-cut stems, especially if they droop.

* Use flower food (preservative) in vase or 1 tsp sugar for every quart of water with a few drops of bleach for both nourishment and bacteria deterrent.

Resource:

The 50 Mile Bouquet Seasonal, Local and Sustainable Flowers, by D. Prinzing and D.E. Perry

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

This is the first in a series of articles sharing tips on seasonal plants.