In an effort to assemble an especially magical arrangement for the holidays, we've imported the peonies featured in this month's bouquet from the lush, rolling hills of New Zealand's South Island; and surrounded them with complementary deep pinkish-red Alstroemeria, and seasonal greens of seeded eucalyptus and Douglas fir pine. This bouquet will surely honor your classic holiday decoration of lush greenery and lighted brilliance. And the earthy and exotic scents of the seeded eucalyptus and Douglas fir pine will give an added sensory experience.
In addition to simply being a stunning bouquet, it seems that nearly each component of your arrangement has numerous medicinal healing qualities as well! Centuries ago, peonies were appreciated not only for their dramatic shape and color, but also for their purported healing powers. Early medical practitioners believed the flower to possess elements that could cure no fewer than twenty different maladies. Other folklore claimed the peony granted its recipient the power to keep secrets. We all know someone we'd like to send a bouquet to, if that were, in fact, true! The flower was also said to have among its many petals the homes of fairies and nymphs. The Chinese chose it as the principal flower in the Imperial Palace Gardens, calling it Sho Yo, meaning most beautiful. In the eighth century, its charm captivated the Japanese, who developed more than 300 cultivars.
Discovered on the steppes of Siberia and Mongolia, it is believed that the peony might have been brought to the British Isles by the Roman legions, where it became a popular flower in monastery gardens. By the early 19th century, European gardens began to feature the peony. Today, gardeners throughout Europe, Asia, and North America regard the peony as one of the easiest, most rewarding plants to grow. With its long-lasting, colorful blooms, the peony is also popular as a cut flower, used in wedding bouquets and large floral arrangements.
Peonies can live for a hundred years or more if undisturbed. Their season as a garden flower is rather short, three to six weeks, which only adds to their allure. When they make their appearance in late May, they are practically irresistible.
- As with most flower varieties, there are several types of peonies.
- Single peonies have five or more broad petals in one or two rows surrounding a center of golden, pollen-bearing stamens.
- Japanese peonies have five or more petals and a center of feathery structures called staminodes.
- Anemone peonies have five or more petals in several rows with broad central petals.
- Semi-double peonies have five or more outer petals and a center of broad petals with pollen-bearing stamens intermixed.
- Bomb peonies have a row of outer guard petals surrounding a pompon tuft of dense petals.
- Double peonies have five or more outer petals with the central stamens.
Shaped like a horn of plenty, the Alstroemeria (pronounced alstro-MARY-ah) is a graceful flower that originates in South America. The flower, sometimes called Ulster Mary, or Peruvian lily, is named after Claus Alstroemer, a pupil of the great botanical classifier Linnaeus, who studied this species extensively in South America. These perennial plants flourish in diverse climates, from high in the Andes Mountains to the deserts of the Pacific coastline, and deep into the tropics of Brazil. Primarily grown in Chile, Peru, and Brazil, the plant's exotic blooms show off delicate anthers and multicolored velvet petals, reminiscent of a spotted leopard.
The main stems of these cut flowers grow up to three feet tall, and branch into four to six short pedicels, each holding two to four flower buds. Its clustered look makes it a perfect complement to larger flowers. This species of flower is rather new to the flower industry, and was considered quite unusual four or five years ago. International interest grows every year because of its easy cultivation, unique beauty, and lasting vase life. Breeders in the UK and Holland have developed a huge range of hybrid varieties, all with quite different colors and markings. You can buy them all year round, in red, pink, orange, white, cream, yellow, peach, and purple!
Care Tips: Alstroemeria leaves often wilt before the flowers do, so it is recommended that you remove all foliage before putting your arrangement together. It will last about two weeks in water. Take care in transporting the flowers, as the stem joints are brittle and easily broken.
If you like to garden, this perennial is a staple. Not only is Alstroemeria a long-lasting and versatile cut flower, but also it blooms from late spring through summer until frost. Alstroemeria prefers cool, moist, deep, well-drained soil, and its winter hardy to zone 7, or zone 6 with protection.
Koalas are indigenous to Australia, and 99% of their food source comes from eucalyptus trees. They are lethargic animals and will stay in one tree for days. They even sleep in eucalyptus trees! Meanwhile, as man is busy cutting the trees down, there may be fewer than 80,000 koalas left in the wild. Each day an adult Australian koala eats about 2.5 pounds of eucalyptus leaves, and a baby koala eats about 1.5 pounds. Koalas are very picky eaters; mostly they eat only the moist, tender tips of eucalyptus leaves. This leafy diet, although a bit boring, gives a koala all of the food and water that it needs!
Eucalyptus leaves are usually leathery in texture, hang obliquely or vertically, and are studded with glands containing a fragrant and volatile oil. The flowers in bud form are covered with a cup-like membrane which is thrown off as a lid when the flower expands. Koalas like to eat the flowers, too.
Eucalyptus trees are quick growers and many species reach a great height. Eucalyptus amygdalin (Labille) is the tallest known tree. Specimens have attained as much as 480 feet, exceeding even the Californian Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea). Many species yield valuable timber, while others yield essential oils. The foliage of some is more odorous than that of others, and the oils from the various species differ widely in character.
The oils may be roughly divided into three classes of commercial importance: medicinal oils, which contain substantial amounts of eucalyptol (also known as cineol); industrial oils, containing terpenes, which are used for flotation purposes in mining operations; and aromatic oils, which are characterized by their aroma.
The medicinal eucalyptus oil is probably the most powerful antiseptic of its class, especially when it is old, since ozone is formed in it when exposed to air. It has a resolute disinfectant action, destroying many lower forms of life. It's known to stimulate circulation and is often used in aromatherapy to clear sinus passages. In general, it's largely beneficial for respiratory infections, colds, flu, fevers, congestion, and other respiratory problems.
Eucalyptus oil is used as a stimulant and antiseptic gargle. Locally applied, it impairs sensibility. An emulsion made by shaking up equal parts of the oil and powdered gum-arabic with water has been used as a urethral injection, and has also been given internally in drachm doses in pulmonary tuberculosis and other microbic diseases of the lungs and bronchitis.
And you thought it was just a great-smelling tree!
Just about everyone I talk to these days is leading a fast-paced life, and all you have to do is look at the magazine covers to see that we are all concerned about the consequences of our complex life styles. Can you remember when we used to think that computers were going to simplify things?
To relieve stress, we are advised to exercise, meditate, listen to music, consume vitamin B, and so on. Well, Endless Flowers has another remedy for you to add to that list! According to recent behavioral research at Rutgers (The State University of NJ), the acts of looking at and smelling flowers generate feelings of life satisfaction, a myriad of happy emotions, and that glorious feeling of connectivity. In fact, the Rutgers scientists found that flowers affect our behavior far beyond what was normally believed.
Dr. Jeannette Haviland-Jones, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at Rutgers, was the lead scientist on this project. She is an internationally recognized authority in the role of emotional development in human behavior, and nonverbal emotional signals and response. The results of her 10-month study show that flowers are a natural and healthful moderator of moods. And let's face it: our moods affect everything we do!
Flowers have an immediate impact on happiness. All participants, no matter what age group, expressed genuine and animated smiles upon receiving flowers, and demonstrated extraordinary delight and gratitude.
Flowers have a long-term positive effect on moods. Participants said they felt less depressed, anxious, and agitated after receiving flowers, and also experienced a higher sense of enjoyment and life satisfaction.
Flowers make personal connections. Receiving flowers leads to increased contact with family, friends, and clients.
"Now, science shows that, not only do flowers make us happier than we know, they have strong positive effects on our emotional well-being," said Dr. Haviland-Jones. The participants chose to place their flowers in foyers, living rooms, and dining rooms, suggesting that flowers are a symbol for sharing and feeling connected. "Flowers bring about positive emotional feelings in those who enter a room," said Dr. Haviland-Jones. "They make the space more welcoming and create a sharing atmosphere."
Now I could have guessed that, but I never realized how much of a difference flowers can make until I started to keep a vase of fresh flowers on my desk. I have also noticed that when I look at them, I feel a relaxing sensation all over my body, and a peaceful smile begins to emerge.
Start with your greens this month, as they'll lend a perfect natural grid that will effectively support and hold your flowers exactly where you want them! Cut the seeded eucalyptus and Douglas fir pine about an inch shorter than your vase height and crisscross them in the vase to create your grid.
Next cut at least 1½ to 2 inches off each Alstroemeria stem at slightly varying heights and place them evenly across your arrangement. Remember that, once they bloom, they'll really fill out and create substantial depth. Size up your Peonies. They'll be slightly different sizes and some will bloom fuller than others. It's natural. Take the one you think is going to be the prize of the bunch and place it on center stage, right up front. Place the others around it and watch this striking bouquet unfold.
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