Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Not the bee's knees

We are all concerned about the decline in Britain’s bee population but it isn’t only bees that do the pollinating. In fact, plants can be pollinated by birds, bats, butterflies, insects and even lizards and rodents. 80% of pollination is biotic ( by living organisms) with most of the remaining pollination performed by wind. A tiny fraction is performed by water.

Plants adapted to using bats or moths as pollinators usually have white petals and a strong scent, while plants that use birds as pollinators tend to develop red petals and rarely develop a scent (few birds have a sense of smell).

The largest managed pollination event in the world is in Californian almond orchards, where nearly half (about one million hives) of the US honey bees are trucked to the almond orchards each spring. New York's apple crop requires about 30,000 hives.

The Chinese orchid, Cymbidium serratum, is pollinated by the wild mountain mouse Rattus fulvescens and in fact this rodent is the only pollinator of this particular orchid. Another plant pollinated by rodents is the Leucospermum. Some varieties have flowers growing near the ground so that mice attracted to the nectar get covered in pollen and pass it on to the next plant.

The leucospermum, known as the pin-cushion plant, is often used in tropical office flower displays for its appearance and longevity. The picture on the home page of http://www.plantdisplayhire.com/ shows a beautiful combination of leucospermum with protea and tropical ginger.

Lilies from the wholesaler are wrapped in bunches of ten stems. They are stored in cold rooms but packed dry in boxes. The flowers are tight buds at this stage with the colour not yet visible. When placed in water, the flowers open and are then more delicate to handle and bruise easily. With the flower showing, the five long stamens complete with tiny oval anther are visible. The anther contain the pollen and although these from part of the beauty of the flower they will stain clothing or furniture if brushed against and should be removed. Another reason for removing the anther is that they are very poisonous to cats.

The single style in the middle of the stamen carries the stigma at the tip. This is where the pollen from flowers is received. The stigma from a crocus, the Crocus sativa, when dried is called saffron and has been used as a seasoning, fragrance, dye, and medicine for more than 3,000 years.

Saffron is native to Southwest Asia but was first cultivated in Greece. It slowly spread throughout much of Eurasia, later reaching parts of North Africa, North America, and the Pacific islands.

Saffron cultivation came to Britain in the 14th century but only survived in the light, well-drained, and chalk-based soils of the north Essex countryside. Indeed, the Essex town of Saffron Walden got its name as a saffron growing and trading centre. Its name was originally Cheppinge Walden and the name was changed to show the importance of the crop to the local area; and today the town's arms feature crocus blooms.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Cool pool!

I have mentioned illuminated plants containers in an earlier post. You may have seen illuminated garden globes: outdoor lamps in a sperical shape, but have you seen the pool globes? They look the same as the garden globes but are low voltage and swimming pool friendly. Needless to say that on no account should you put the mains voltage garden globes or plant containers in or near the water! See them on the slide show at the bottom of the page at:http://www.plantcontainershop.com/illuminated-plant-containers.html

Friday, 18 September 2009

Not only but also...

Not only do Lechuza plant containers filter and humidify the air ( see previous post), they also light up the world! The lighting is a low energy, mains powered, led installation that can be arranged in any configuration. The illuminated plant containers are based on the Cubico 400x750 and 300x560 models but can be made from other types of Lechuza container and indeed most plant containers that have a flat side.

You can see other illuminated plant containers and even illuminated seats and tables here: http://www.plantcontainershop.com/

Lechuza AirClean planter and humidifier

Lechuza plant containers are made by the people that produce high quality Playmobil toys. Lechuza has just added another excellent product to the range. It’s a combined plant container, air filter and humidifier.

Humidifiers are used to increase the relative humidity in a room. Raising the humidity can relieve irritating symptoms such as a dry throat, nose or skin. With the winter weather looming, the heating indoors can reduce the humidity especially with the use of convector heaters.

The Lechuza AirClean has a water reservoir of around 28 litres and with the aid of a pump, draws air through moist zeolite based granules. Zeolites are medical grade adsorbants and are used to produce pure oxygen by acting as a microporous sieve. The air takes in moisture as it passes though the granulate and releases it in to the room. Fine dust particles are captured within the granules.

The water reservoir only needs refilling every 4-10 days and the high humidification output can be up to 7 litres a day.

One unit is recommended for a room of at least 40 square metres and will need a mains electricity supply. They are for indoor use only.

It is also recommended that hydroponic plants are used or plants that have had all the soil washed from the roots. Hydroponics are not commonly used in the UK but are readily available if required. Very tall plants are not recommended due to stability issues.

A selection of available hydroponic plants are as follows: Sanseveria, Rhaphis, Aglaonema, Yucca, Zamioculcas and Dracaena fragrans.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Intensive care

Occasionally I am shown a plant in very poor condition and asked “What can I do with it?” My immediate reaction is to suggest throwing it in the bin but I have realised over the years that people get attached to a plant. Some cases I have seen are terminal. There are other cases that would pull through with some intensive care but hey, why not just go and buy another. Oops, sorry, there’s me being insensitive again. I try to suggest a remedy but I don’t hold much hope.

I suppose it comes from being in the office plant display trade where the customer likes to see plants at their very best. Any plants in an area with poor light will deteriorate over time and before anyone has a chance to say that the plant isn’t looking as good as it used to, it is replaced with a new one. Members of staff will ask whether they can take the old one home but invariably it is left in the office, doesn’t get watered, then dies.

Did I mention that the replacement plant is free of charge? Yes, pay for a maintenance service and the plants are replaced for free. Excluding, that is, those plants that have been accidentally or wilfully damaged or taken for a dance around the office. Yes, a dance. It was such an unusual event that I can still remember from over 20 years ago that it was a large yucca plant. The leading partner probably had his eye poked out by the pointed leaves but didn’t notice because it was a Friday afternoon. At Christmas. Yes, dear readers, he had been drinking alcohol!

Forgetting to water the plant is the most common cause of death. That, followed by a lack of light. The first cause can be remedied with a self watering plant container. The reservoir of water inside the plant container is topped up every couple of weeks and the plant can largely be forgotten. Taking the intensive care theme a bit further, there are designer plant containers with a different type of self watering system. These would be really at home in a hospital reception area as they have a medical type drip feed for the water. This can be adjusted depending on the plant and conditions.

See them on plantcontainershop.com with other designer planters

Thursday, 3 September 2009

It's September, it must be Christmas!

Actually, I meant to write ‘It’s August, it must be Christmas!’ but I am a little late with this blog.

There are groans galore when the first Christmas cards appear in the supermarkets. They are on the shelves before Halloween goodies are in place for 31st October and before fireworks are sold for bonfire night. I’m one of those groaners when I see such products on sale. I just have to mention one thing…

For many years I have associated August with Christmas as that’s when the Christmas goods come in to the wholesalers. The slight difficulty here is that retail customers only decide what Christmas decorations or trees they want in December or at the earliest, November. Most of the trade goods have gone by that time and so choice is more limited. Supplies have to be topped up with some products bought at retail prices. Goodbye profit!

For some deep rooted psychological reasons, Christmas is an unwelcome or unhappy time for a few people. For me, the longer Christmas lasts the better. It goes on for around a whole month in our household. We do, however, limit present giving to the one day. Oh, and the day after.

I can still remember my childhood Christmases when we would wake up before dawn and open up the presents placed in our Christmas stockings. Not the usual pillow case for me and my sister, no, some of my father’s customers had hand made a felt stocking for both of us and attached our initials in a contrasting piece of felt. After opening these presents, we would go downstairs and stare open mouthed at the little piles of presents there. One year one of the presents was a large tent, already assembled in our living room.

In the evening, family members would enjoy the food and drink prepared by my mother. It wasn’t until many years later that I realised that it wasn’t such a lovely time for mum as she was working flat out the whole time! The family would bring presents and there would be another mad unwrapping session. How easy it is to buy a child’s affection with just a few hundred gifts.

Yes, my childhood memories and the joy of watching my own children at Christmas makes this a lovely time of year. Some of my childhood Christmas memories are still crystal clear.

The only drawback of the holiday season is when I am told off for re-arranging some of the Christmas baubles after our children have decorated the tree.

After many years of insisting that we have a real tree, I have recently converted to artificial. The deciding factor came when I bought two trees: one for installation on the 1st December and one to replace this a few days before the 25th so we had a really fresh tree for Christmas day. As I was reinstalling the decorations on tree part two, I thought that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Two installations and two removal and disposals. Hmm.

The artificial Christmas tree we have now is really lifelike and has fooled quite a few people. To improve the ambience, I usually stuff some real Christmas tree branches behind the radiators so there is a hint of pine in the air. Of course, that way there are still the traditional needles to clear up, thus ensuring a more realistic experience!

I have used various pots, tubs and barrels for our trees over the years. I like the appearance of the wooden half barrel although this doesn’t retain water. A plastic version of that is better for topping up with water but in a warm environment, it only gives the trees a few extra days life. This year I am going high tech. I will be using a version of the illuminated plant containers. I will, of course, make them available to anyone else who wants them. The seasonal version can be seen at plantcontainershop.com. Merry Christmas!