Winter Tropics Breeze

Winter Tropics Breeze

Country:

Costa Rica

Featured Flower Species:

Black Ti Leaves, Large Red Anthuriums, Medium Purple Anthuriums, Red Torch Parakeet Heliconias, Song of India

Allow this month’s bouquet to tantalize your senses. The visual aesthetics of the bouquet will lead to imaginations of the caressing tropical sun, gesticulating ocean, and a crisp, sweet smelling air with a mosaic of flamboyant birds singing in the background. We challenged our florists and arrangers to provide at least one winter time bouquet that will warm the spirit and transport our members to the warm-weathered tropics. They have come through with an ensemble that is as suggestive of a tropical landscape as the balmy sun-drenched Hawaiian coastline.

A collection of graceful Costa Rican Red Torch Parakeet Heliconias; striking large red and supple medium purple Anthuriums from the Hawaiian Islands; tri color tropical Hala leaves; animated Song of India; and stalwart Black Ti leaves come together beautifully as a little bastion of the tropics. Its bold lines and deep tropical colors bond together for a beautiful composition. With an emphasis upon form flow and visual harmony, this collection offers many options for creating your own unique presentation. This bouquet is guaranteed fun for the individual arranger, not to mention a joy for the privileged onlooker.

Let's face it, the winter months can be tough and often leave us longing for a warmer time of the year. With this tropical beauty before you, it should be easy to envision crackling Tiki Torches, firing up the grill, and tossing on the chicken and steaks while preparing for a spring barbecue. We invite you to bask in this bit of floral radiance as the temperatures drop this winter, for this gorgeous ensemble can last for up to three weeks when properly cared for. What are you waiting for? Get started on creating your own work of art when arranging this terrific collection of tropical beauties!

The name Heliconia (hell-ee-cone-ee-uh) is derived from the Greek word helikos (meaning spiral), but does not seem to fairly apply to the form of these attractive plants' bracts; instead, the name reflects a more monumental, albeit botanist assigned, heritage. Mt. Helicon, a 5,738 foot high mountain located in Boeotia, a region of Greece, was the house of the Muses—the nine goddesses of the arts and sciences—in Greek Mythology. One look and you'll appreciate the inspirational quality these unique flowers possess.

There are between 250 and 400 species of this graceful flower, with 98 percent being native to the tropical Americas. Heliconias range in size from three-foot dwarves (citicorums) to thirty-foot giants (mariara). The colorful, seemingly sculptured bracts are what give the flower their most exotic and tropical appearance. Some Heliconia varieties have whimsical names such as "lobster claw" and "parrot flower", a reflection of their beak-like shape. Within their 'beaks' exist very delicate tiny flowers; some less-common species actually have furry beaks. The flower’s bracts come in a rainbow of colors including orange, pink and yellow. The Red Torch Parakeet Heliconias we have sent you resemble Birds of Paradise, minus the thick, bulky "perch" from which the flower springs forth.

While many Heliconia varieties lack any such "perch", they do play an important role in the plant and animal worlds. Birds such as the Purple Throated Mountain Gem Hummingbird help pollinate the plant with their long curved bills. Heliconias rely on various pollinators that have similar features as their long tubular, curved bracts. Probing the base of a flower, hummingbirds find a trove of nectar waiting just for them. Heliconias are also hosts to a variety of other species such as invertebrate communities like flower fly larvae and mites. The species with erect inflorescences (the "flowery" part we admire), store water within the bracts, forming small fishbowl sanctuaries in which the larvae of insects and, amazingly, frogs develop. Even tent bats reside on the undersides of the leaves, creating umbrellas by chewing the veins on either side of the midrib (central vein of the leaf) until the leaf collapses. Here the bats are safe from sun, rain and predators. But don't worry—the Heliconias we've sent you are guaranteed mite, larvae, tadpole and bat free!

Anthurium is a genus of more than 800 species found in the New World tropics from Mexico to northern Argentina and Uruguay; species are also native to the West Indies. Even though the genus is not native to the Hawaiian Islands, in the minds of many people, Anthurium andreanum is the Hawaiian flower. Often referred to as "the heart of Hawaii", this species is actually native to the wet forests on the western slopes of the Andes in southern Colombia and northern Ecuador, where it grows as an epiphyte. An epiphyte is a non-parasitic plant that grows in the wild not rooted in soil, but on the body of another plant or on rocks. These plants cling to their support with aerial roots and gain nourishment from the atmosphere or from the moisture-capturing crevices in which it lodges.

A tropical flower to be sure, Anthuria have eccentric petal-like bracts that are red, pink, white or green, and often take the form of heart (another very tangible reason they've earned the nickname "the heart of Hawaii"). The blooms are glossy like patent leather, and provide another dimension to this bouquet's barrage of visual textures by showcasing their waxy, seemingly wet appearance. As a cut flower, Anthuria live two to three weeks, making them one of the longest lasting tropical flowers in arrangements, and a florist's favorite!

We have a few folks to thank for the Anthuria introduction to North America, as it took a roundabout course in getting here! Anthurium andreanum was actually discovered in Columbia, South America, back in 1876 by Edouard André, a French botanist, landscape-architect and publicist. André later sent it to the famed nurseries of Jean Linden, an important botanist, explorer, traveler and collector for the Belgian government between 1835 and 1845. From there, it made its way to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, England.

So, we see how it made its way to various parts of Western Europe, but what about its journey to Hawaii? According to Marie Neal, Anthurium andreanum was introduced into the Hawaiian Islands in 1889 by Samuel Mills Damon, the minister of finance for the Republic of Hawaii. These plants were imported from London and had shell pink spathes. Since plants in the wild have spathes that are scarlet orange, this would suggest that some hybridization and selection had already taken place. The plants were grown on Damon's estate on Oahu where they were vegetatively propagated and ultimately distributed to other growers.

The sexual propagation of Anthuria was not understood until the early 1940s, but once this form of propagation was added to the grower's knowledge, the number of plants and degree of variation increased tremendously. The beautiful inflorescences were introduced to the floral shops of Hawaii in the 1940s, while the cut flower industry started in backyards where the plants were grown under tangerine trees, orange trees and tree ferns. Some of the early cultivars include 'Ozaki' (1936), 'Kozohara' (1946), and 'Nitta' (1946). These and many other early cultivars were primarily composed of reds and oranges.

In 1951, Monroe Roberts Birdsey proposed that the cultivated Anthurium be referred to as Anthurium cultorum. The reasoning for this nomenclatural distinction was the fact that the cultivated Anthurium bears little resemblance to the original wild species. The differences between the cultivated plants and those found in the wild populations are the result of widely practiced hybridization breeding. While this proposal has merit, the suggested name is rarely used.

Also found thriving in island locales is the Song of India (Pleomele reflexa). This brightly colored plant, a member of the Dracaena family, is found in many places, but unlike the Anthurium, which was imported to the islands of Hawaii, it is actually native to island regions. However, the Song of India, while making a home in Hawaii these days, did not originate there. Indigenous to Madagascar and the Solomon Islands, these plants can be found as columnar woody bushes that are over 4 feet high and 5 feet wide. Now that's a lot of song!

These plants are not large water consumers and are quite hardy, making them a favorite of many florists in their arrangements. The purpose of the Song of India used in this bouquet is not simply to add further tropical influence to this bouquet (which they certainly do), but rather to bridge the visual gap in forms between the rounded Anthuriums and pointed Heliconias that surround it. Notice the manner in which the slightly wavy pattern of Song of India leaves serves to bend this arrangement's sharp lines—without breaking the overall form of the bouquet—thus acting as a unifying influence and providing additional aesthetic harmony to the presentation.

While the supporting background of your bouquet is dominated by the Song of India bushels, the tri-colored Hala leaves (Pandanus tectorius) from the sun-drenched state of Hawaii also play an important supporting role. Provided for additional texture, the Hala leaves also bring in yet another tropical element to this bouquet. Notice how the Song of India and tri color Hala leaves are of very similar color composition, but their distinct forms provide for a wonderfully subtle diversification of textures and lines. The Hala leaves also give the arranger an opportunity to add unique twists and turns in the composition of the ensemble—they may be woven together or turned and knotted upon themselves to create an additional focal point to the observer. This technique momentarily draws the observer's eye out of the body of the bouquet and off of the Heliconias and Anthuria, to which attention soon returns. In this way, you can help to animate your arrangement—after all, there's much more to a beautiful bouquet than the vibrancy of its colors. Form and focus are tremendously important to consider.

Originating in ancient times, this plant is not only known for the stripes of color and pattern it lends to bouquet flowers; it has been employed for centuries in Hawaii as fiber and dye, used in traditional crafts and customs. Blankets, or "kapas," were woven out of the Hala leaves and were decorated with the dye from the fruit of the tree. Leis were also fashioned from the leaves, although one of the meanings of hala is "death," so the leis were only used to adorn the self and not given to others.

The Hala tree is small to medium-sized with a distinctive growth form due to its dichotomous branching pattern. Dichotomous branching involves forking at the tip so that two branches always result. Most of this tree's trunk is bare—the large leaves cluster at the stem tips. The stems produce many "prop roots" which support the stems as they grow upwards. Without them, these brittle stems would break. The fruit of the Hala tree very closely resembles the pineapple and was commonly enjoyed by the ancient Hawaiians.

In New Zealand, the Maoris have used Hala for centuries in rope, baskets and clothing. The nectar-filled flowers produced by some varieties have always been an important source of food for New Zealand native birds. For more interesting facts about flower history please visit www.flowermonthclub.com/history.htm. While you're there, feel free to look over our other exclusive monthly clubs—from gourmet cheese and chocolate to premium cigars and fine wines, our monthly subscribers receive the finest epicurean and luxury items available. Visit www.monthlyclubs.com and click on any of our various clubs for more information. And remember, all of our clubs make great gift ideas—even for you! While visiting our sites, you may want to send an e-mail "hint" to someone as a way of telling them about a great gift you'd like to receive.

Tropical flowers should be arranged using simple lines, since each flower is so exotic. Here are a few ideas based on tried and true flower arranging 'rules' to give you some inspiration… But first, follow the directions on the Flower Care insert.

Let the black Ti leaves stand tall to create a stately yet tropical backdrop to the primary players of the bouquet. Cut the Red Torch Parakeet Heliconias so that each one is two to three inches taller than the next and place them close to the Song of India stems, which should sit lower in the arrangement. Allow the Song of India to reside between the Heliconias and Anthuriums where they will provide color contrast while simultaneously creating a visual conduit that will soften the edges of the Heliconia while sharpening the curvature of the Anthuriums. Cut the two varieties of Anthuria so they vary in length and place the reds toward the center of the ensemble, with the delicate purples appearing in the periphery. The Tri Colored Hala leaves have striking red stripes that pick up the red hues in your Anthuriums and Parakeet Heliconias, so place them just behind or to the sides. You may even want to layer your Hala leaves on top of the black Ti leaves, running down their centers—this will maximize contrast by amplifying the hues of the Hala against the dark backdrop of the Ti leaves. The possibilities are truly endless in this stunning arrangement—get creative, and above all, enjoy!

Your flowers were harvested in the cool of morning, put into water, and moved to shade ASAP. The lower leaves were then removed from the sturdy stems, and they were placed in a clean bucket with floral preservative. In order to replenish them from the ordeal of being harvested, these thirsty flowers are then whisked to the cooler (40-42°F with a humidity of 90 to 95 percent), where they are allowed to drink the acidic water and soak up the humidity before being shipped.

Now that you have custody of these island beauties, give them some TLC to be sure your Hawaiian and Costa Rican tropicals have a long vase life. Do re-cut the stems one-inch. It is a lot easier to use a sharp knife rather than scissors. You'll get a cleaner cut that will not crush the water pathways. Also, it is recommended that you cut the stems under water so there won't be any air blockages that could considerably shorten the life of your flowers.

Place your flowers loosely in a clean bucket in about four inches of water containing the appropriate amount of flower food that is packaged with them. Be sure to measure it out—too much food isn't good for many flowers. Later, you may add this nutritious water to your vase. Remember to keep all the leaves above the water line—you don't want to drown them.

Keep your tropical selections in a well-lit area for 1 to 2 hours, allowing them recover from the shock of being harvested and the ordeal of traveling. Once they've had time to relax and acclimate, you can make an awe inspiring arrangement or two. Use the fresh flower food as directed. Although these flowers like light 24 hours a day, remember to keep them out of direct sunlight, and they will maintain their fresh look much longer.

If the water gets slightly cloudy at any time, this means bacteria are destroying your flowers! Immediately discard and replace the water. Wash off the bacteria from the stems under running water and repeat the stem cutting process. Again, these tropicals should last quite a while, so make sure you add water as needed, bearing in mind that a complete changing of water will be in order every 4 to 5 days.

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