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Floral Beginnings

Name: Botanical name Rosa
Origin: China and now cultivated from America to Africa and from Eastern Europe to the Far East.
Colour: Available in every colour except blue and true black.
Availability: All year round and probably the best known and best-loved flower in the world.
Varieties: For extra scented roses, look for 'Sterling Star' (lilac), 'Jacaranda' (blue-pink), 'Osiana' (peach-cream), 'Sterling Silver' (lilac) and 'Extase' (deep red).
Care Tips: Limp roses can be revived by standing up to their necks in lukewarm water in a cool room. Do not bash the stems as this prevents them taking up water effectively. Don't remove thorns unless for a hand-held posy, as these can cause wounds where bacteria can enter. They have a vase life of around a week but can last even longer.
Trivia:
Facts: In the 19th century old scented roses were used to make jelly. The red rose is the symbol of England and is worn on St George's Day. It is also the symbol of love and is hugely popular on St Valentine's Day, when roses make up the largest proportion of the £22 million spent on flowers in the UK on this day.
Medicinal: The crusaders when defeated by Saladin in Jerusalem returned to the west with rose plants which were then cultivated by monks in their monastery gardens for their medicinal properties. Rose water was successfully used to cure all kinds of ailments, such as trembling, constipation, drunkenness, skin and throat infections and insomnia. There is some truth in this as we now know Rosa rugosa hips contain high levels of Vitamin C. Indeed, rosehip tea is often recommended in pregnancy. Rose oil can reduce high cholesterol levels. Roses are used in face toners and perfume and are one of the most effective anti-ageing ingredients.
History: Not surprisingly the Rose has always featured strongly throughout history.

Roses in History: Clay tablets excavated in the temples of Ur in Iraq speak of the delivery of rose water intended for the sultan of Bagdad. The sultan used no fewer than 30,000 jars of rose water a year, to make his rooms smell nice for his extensive harem.

The Saracen general Saladin sent camel caravans loaded with rose water through his empire to cleanse the mosques after 'impure' crusaders had occupied the prayer rooms.

Until the early 19th century dried rose petals were believed to have mysterious powers. Napoleon gave his officers bags of rose petals to boil in white wine, to cure lead poisoning from bullet wounds, Even today, rose water is still used to refresh the hands before a feast or festive greeting, from the Middle East to northern India.

Cleopatra covered the floors of her palace with a thick layer of rose petals every day. The mattresses and pillows of her bed were stuffed with rose petals.

There is a special rose language invented as a secret means of communication between lovers who were not allowed to express their love for one another openly in the harems of the Middle East. In the mid 18th century Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the wife of the British ambassador in Constantinople, described this in her letters, which were published after her death. These letters inspired many books on the language of flowers, each describing the secret message hidden in each flower. A red rose bud stands for budding desire, while an open white rose asks "WIll you love me?". An open red rose means "I'm full of love and desire", while an open yellow rose asks "Don't you love me any more?".



Name: The Chinese name for peony is "sho yu" which means "most beautiful"
Colour: Colours range from pure white through baby pinks and palest peaches to clear deep pink and darkest rich maroon. There is also a pale yellow but it is rare.
Availabilty: Peonies are only available between late May and early July, so get them while you can!
Care Tips: Peonies are very thirsty flowers, so make sure you top up the vase or bowl.
Trivia:
Medicinal: The Greeks believed they could cure over 20 ailments, and every monastery garden boasted a peony bush.
History: Peonies have been cultivated for over 2,000 years, more for their medicinal qualities than for ornament. The Japanese protect the earliest peony blooms from the snow by protecting them with individual small thatched shelters. Some geishas used to wear special peony colours.
The Chinese also idolised this flower. Peony motifs, particularly bright red ones, can be found on Chinese silks and in their exuberant wood carvings. The common thread is that the flower always denotes luxury and indulgence.



Name: Pronounced ran-UN-kew-lus. The Latin name ranunculus means "little frog".
Origin: The Middle East, hence their alternative name "Turban Buttercup". They have tuberous roots and hollow stems.
Colour: A wonderful array of colours, yellow, white, red, pink, orange, and and copper, either peony flowered or open flowered, with dark or yellow centres.
Availability: Winter and spring.
Family: Ranunculus belong to the Buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and is the cultured cousin of the Marsh Marigold.
Care Tips: Remove all foliage, recut stems and change water regularly. The stems are inclined to buckle. If you don't want them curvy, insert a flower wire to keep them upright.
Trivia:
Mythology: In fairy tales frogs are apt to change into princes and it was an Asian prince in just such a story who gave his name to this flower, which grows naturally in swampy ground. The prince was so good-looking that he was loved by everyone. He also had a beautiful voice but this was his undoing. He loved the open country and sang delightful songs in the presence of nymphs. He did not have the courage to declare his love to them and this haunted him so much that he died. After his death he was changed into the flower with delicate tissuey petals which bears his name.
Language of Flowers: Meant "you are rich in attractions" to the Victorians.


Name: Pronounced DAY-lee-a
Description: The native forms are quite simple and daisy-like, but breeding has resulted in some wonderful flower forms, including complete globes full of petals (pompoms), spiky and spidery forms (cactuses), and ones with curled tubes of petals like sea anemones.
Origin: Dahlias are native to Mexico and South America, and have the vibrant intense colours associated with that part of the world.
Availability: Main season June - October.
Varieties: Dahlias and chrysanthemums with many-petalled flowers are closely related and often hard to tell apart. Dahlias have hollow stems, with raised joints where the leaves attach. Their leaves are smooth, usually with points, whereas chrysanthemum leaves are soft, with rounded edges.
Care Tips: Dahlias are thirsty flowers, so check water levels regularly and remove leaves to reduce transpiration.
Trivia:
Facts: The National Collection of dahlias is held at Varfell Farm, Long Rock, Penzance, Cornwall. For a few days each September the collection is open to the public, when over 10,000 dahlias can be seen in full flower, against the stunning backdrop of St. Michael's Mount. For more information please visit their website at www.wgltd.co.uk
History: Dahlias were first recorded by Westerners in 1615, when they were called by their Mexican name, acoctli. They disappeared from record until 1787 when a botanical expedition 'rediscovered' them, and sent seeds back to their headquarters in Europe. Their existence was kept secret for another ten years however.


Name: From the Greek "orchis" meaning testicle, because of the shape of the bulbous roots.
Origin: Indigenous to tropical and semi-tropical regions of the world such as Asia, South and Central America. Some are native to the UK.
Colour: Everything except blue - there are even black and green orchids.
Family: Orchids are the largest family of the plant kingdom with over 25,000 naturally occurring species in the world, as well as all the specially-developed hybrids! Most houseplant orchids are either Phalaenopsis (fa-le-NOP-sis) (moth orchid), dendrobium, vanda, paphiopedilum (paff-eeo-PEDDY-lum) (slipper orchid) or cymbidium (sim-BIDDY-um).
Care Tips: Orchids can last 2 or 3 weeks cut and over a month on the plant. They like regular misting. Some, like Phalaenopsis adapt to central heating better than others.
Trivia:
Facts: The world's largest orchid can grow to 20 metres long.
History: Confucius acknowledged orchids saying, "the association with a superior person is like entering a hall of orchids". In 1595 a Chinese flower-arranging book "A Treatise of Vase Flowers" by Chang Ch'ien -te said orchids were in the top ranking of desirability.
Popularity: Currently the most popular houseplant in the UK according to F&PA surveys (Tying with peace lily).


Name: From the Latin "gladius", meaning "sword", relating to their leaf shape.
Origin: South African, like many other bulb flowers (see Freesia).
Colour: White and soft pastels, pinks, oranges, peach, yellow, red and purple.
Availability: May to October.
Family: The daintily-patterned smaller Nanus forms of gladioli are less well-known but delightful cut-flowers.
Care Tips: Remove faded flowers to encourage others to open. Snipping off the top two or three green buds straightens the stem and helps flowers open below. Gladioli like a lot of water, and will suffer seriously if not given enough water.
Trivia:
Facts: Used extensively throughout Mediterranean countries in festivals and saints' days.
Dame Edna Everage hurls "gladdies" into the audience at the end of every performance.



VERNAL EQUINOX.....(SPRING) MAR 20 2005 734 AM EST - 1234 UTC


The Vernal Equinox is a time of renewal, both in Nature and in the Home. More than just physical activity, “spring cleaning” removes any negative energy accumulated over the dark winter months and prepares the home for the positive growing energy of spring and summer.


SUMMER SOLSTICE....(SUMMER) JUN 21 2005 146 AM EST - 0646 UTC


Falling on or about June 22nd, the Summer Solstice is a time of light and of fire. It is a time to reflect upon the growth of the season: the seeds that were planted in the earth and the seeds planted in our souls. It is a time of cleansing and renewal. It is a time of love and growth as well.


AUTUMNAL EQUINOX...(FALL) SEP 22 2005 523 PM EST - 2223 UTC


The Autumnal Equinox marks the beginning of shorter days and longer nights. We gather with friends to strengthen our spirits in preparation for the passage into Winter. But it is a time of thanksgiving, for on the other side of that dark Winter is Spring.


WINTER SOLSTICE....(WINTER) DEC 21 2005 135 PM EST - 1835 UTC


The Winter Solstice marks a crucial part of the natural cycle. In a real sense, the sun begins anew its journey toward longer days, times of new growth and renewal of the world once again. In a spiritual sense, it is a reminder that in order for a new path to begin, the old one must end and that spring will come again.



The Earth's seasons are not caused by the differences in the distance from the Sun throughout the year (these differences are extremely small). The seasons are the result of the tilt of the Earth's axis. The Earth's axis is tilted from perpendicular to the plane of the ecliptic by 23.45°. This tilting is what gives us the four seasons of the year - spring, summer, autumn (fall) and winter. Since the axis is tilted, different parts of the globe are oriented towards the Sun at different times of the year. Summer is warmer than winter (in each hemisphere) because the Sun's rays hit the Earth at a more direct angle during summer than during winter and also because the days are much longer than the nights during the summer. During the winter, the Sun's rays hit the Earth at an extreme angle, and the days are very short. These effects are due to the tilt of the Earth's axis.

Solstices
The solstices are days when the
Sun reaches its farthest northern and southern declinations. The winter solstice occurs on December 21 or 22 and marks the beginning of winter (this is the shortest day of the year). The summer solstice occurs on June 21 and marks the beginning of summer (this is the longest day of the year).

Equinoxes
Equinoxes are days in which day and night are of equal duration. The two yearly equinoxes occur when the Sun crosses the celestial equator. The vernal equinox occurs in late March (this is the beginning of spring in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of fall in the Southern Hemisphere); the autumnal equinox occurs in late September (this is the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere and the beginning of spring in the Southern Hemisphere).



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