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5 things you should know about caring for annual plants

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So you bought annual plants in a container at your local florist, garden center or home-improvement store.
Annual plants – such as petunias, geraniums and begonias that complete their life cycles in one year – pose perennial challenges once you bring them home.
Here are five things you should know about caring for your annuals:
1. You have to add nutrients: Your plant didn’t come in nutrient-rich soil. Rather, it’s a potting mix that includes peat moss. This mixture is inert, meaning that it doesn’t contain the nutrients found in soil. So you have to add the nutrients by applying fertilizer on a regular basis.
2. Fertilizer is soluble, so you have to keep adding it: Regular watering of your annual plants will wash out the added nutrients if the container has drainage holes on the bottom.
3. Don’t add too much fertilizer: One of the ingredients in fertilizer is salt. Too much fertilizer – and with it, too much salt – can damage plant roots. The salt in the fertilizer will remove whatever moisture is left in the roots and burn them.
4. Cut the amount in half: Whatever dosage the fertilizer manufacturer recommends, consider cutting the amount in half and fertilizing every time you water. This way you have less of a chance of burning the roots, and your plant gets a continual supply of nutrients rather than peaks and valleys.
5. Give them a pinch: Remove the old blooms and pinch a plant’s tips, which will force out new growth. An occasional light trim will keep a plant bushy and blooming.
With proper care, your annual plants will bloom beautifully for you this summer.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

15 houseplants that will improve your indoor air quality

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Spider plant

For all of its exploration of the galaxy, the space program has accrued many benefits right here on earth. Thanks to NASA, we know that houseplants can purify the air in our homes and workplaces.
NASA originally focused on finding ways to purify the air in orbiting space stations. A 1973 space mission identified 107 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that were emitted by the synthetic materials inside the spacecraft. It was clear that tightly sealed buildings, whether orbiting in space or on the ground, could cause health problems.

Sick building syndrome

Back on earth, spurred by the energy crisis of the 1970s, the building industry focused on making old and new structures more energy efficient. Without intending to, they also paved the way for trapping pollutants – or what is often called “sick building syndrome.”
Three of the pollutants found in spacecraft – benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene – also are present in homes and offices, emitted by everything from building materials to furnishings to office equipment. Air-tight buildings conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs, but they also trap these pollutants.

NASA found that certain houseplants, because they are good at absorbing gases, could remove indoor pollutants. Researchers suggested using one potted plant per 100 square feet of home or office space to improve indoor air quality. One study found that philodendron, spider plant and golden pothos removed 80 percent of the formaldehyde that was introduced into a sealed chamber.

If you want to improve the air quality of your space, you might consider bringing home some of these commonly recommended plants:
1. Heartleaf philodendron
2. Elephant ear philodendron
3. Cornstalk dracaena
4. English ivy
5. Spider plant
6. Janet Craig dracaena
7.Warneckii dracaena
8.Weeping fig
9. Golden pothos
10. Peace lily
11. Selloum philodendron
12. Chinese evergreen
13. Bamboo or reed palm
14. Snake plant
15. Red-edged dracaena
Sources: sunsethillsfoliage.com, coopext.colostate.edu
 

Annual plants add beauty: 3 simple tips for taking care of them


 
Colorful flowering annual baskets and pots provide an easy and inexpensive way to increase the beauty and enjoyment of outside living areas.
Annual plants are available in a wide range of colors and varieties, offering something for everyone.
Care is simple. Just keep these things in mind:
• Choose plants suited to the light levels they’re growing in:

  • Sunny spots require plants that thrive in the sun, such as geraniums, petunias, marigolds, salvia, ageratum, alyssum and portulaca.
  • Plants that do better with partial shade are begonias, impatiens, fuchsia and coleus.

• Container plants drink lots of water. Check them daily.
• To keep the blooms coming all season, add a water-soluble fertilizer a couple of times each week when watering. Plants also can be encouraged to bloom and stay “bushy” by pinching off the spent blooms.

Don’t let ‘DOGs’ take a bite out of your Mother’s Day order

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Our Google search for “flowers, columbus, ohio” returned a couple of sponsored links from what appear to be local florists.
On one website, there’s this message: “Columbus, Ohio Flower Delivery by our local florist to Columbus TODAY!”
What might not be clear is that the owner of that website is in Michigan.

‘Deceptive order gatherer’

The company is what is known in the floral industry as an “order gatherer,” or sometimes derided as a “deceptive order gatherer,” or DOG, as described in a recent story in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

They take orders and then broker them to local florists or even ship the flowers (unarranged, of course) via UPS or FedEx. These DOGs, which operate year-round, are hunting for your Mother’s Day order. And if they get it, they’ll likely take a bite out of your wallet that will exceed what you would have paid by working with your local florist to place the order.

An order gatherer will entice you with deals that look great but, upon closer inspection, probably aren’t.
In almost all cases, order gatherers present their flowers at discounted prices. A tulip bouquet valued at $81.99 is shown as marked down to $44.99, for instance. They also tend to upsell, so that when you select a standard or regular arrangement it defaults to a “deluxe” (read: more expensive) version.

Costly commissions and fees

On one order gather’s website, the home page featured a “best seller” arrangement of lilies, roses and alstroemeria valued at $34.99 but discounted to $27.99. When we clicked on it, our selection instead chose the deluxe version: valued at $44.99 but with a “Google discount” of $9 that put the total at $35.99.
At checkout, there was a $2.99 charge for same-day delivery – and a service/handling fee of $14.99. Our total was $53.97 even with the so-called Google discount.
Order gatherers typically deduct a 20 percent commission and other fees from orders, according to the Inquirer article. So if a flower order is valued at $44.99, that leaves less than $36 for the local florist, who then must deduct his delivery fee. Pretty soon, that $44.99 worth of flowers is maybe only a $28 value or less to the customer.
“It’s a no-win situation,” the Inquirer noted of this practice. The florist “can either fill the full order and lose money, or substitute a cheaper arrangement and risk consumer outrage.”

Let your local florist help

Either way, it might not be a risk worth taking when it comes to the impression you wish to make on the recipient. If you have a strong and trusting relationship with your local florist, then why not let them help you with an out-of-town flower delivery?
Reputable florists will make sure you get the value and quality that you deserve on your long-distance orders. After all, they want to be treated fairly when they are on the receiving end of orders.
The deceptive order gatherers, on the other hand, extract high service and delivery fees – only to hand off the order to someone else.
Another one of the order gatherers we examined offered same-day delivery of a gerbera arrangement valued at $49.99 but discounted to $29.99. Then another offer appeared, lowering the price to $9.99. But a service charge of $19.99 and a handling charge of $10.50 brought the total to $40.48.
The order gatherer won’t earn those fees, and you won’t get what you paid for.
When it comes to flowers, these DOGs aren’t man’s best friend.
 
 

Flowers help stem the morning blahs: Harvard study

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Maybe it’s the long winter or the still-cold mornings, or just too much work and not enough sleep. There are any number of reasons why it can be tough to get at ’em in the morning.
When it comes to a pick-me-up, caffeine isn’t for all tastes. But everyone can start their days with flowers — and with good reason.
People are happier and more energetic after looking at flowers first thing in the morning, according to a behavioral study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and Massachusetts General Hospital.

“The morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods — happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example — manifesting much later in the day,” said lead researcher Dr. Nancy Etcoff. “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”

The final study results demonstrated that flowers affect people emotionally at home, causing them to feel less anxious and more compassionate. They even reported a boost of energy that lasted all day.
“What I find interesting is that by starting the day in a more positive mood, you are likely to transfer those happier feelings to others — it’s what is called mood contagion,” Etcoff said. “And, the kitchen is the place where families tend to gather in the morning — imagine how big a difference a better morning mood can make.”
To learn more about this study and ways to incorporate flowers into your kitchen, click here.
 

Six easy ways to get a jump on spring


The days are getting longer, the sun is getting brighter, and everyone is looking to shake off cabin fever. Spring is almost here, but you can get a jump on the season by bringing bright color and natural beauty into your home.
Here are some easy and cost-effective ideas to get you started:
1. Blooms: Nothing says spring quite like flowering plants. Violets, begonia, kalanchoe, cyclamen and Phaleonopsis orchids are all easy care and just need a home near a bright window for cheerful blooms over an extended period.
Bulb plants such as hyacinths, daffodils and tulips offer an added bonus. In the fall, you can plant the bulbs outside so that they deliver a splash of color next spring.
2. Think green: Green foliage plants add oxygen and humidity back into the air that we breathe and remove some impurities. Rejuvenate and dust off your houseplants. Better yet, pick up a new plant to replace one or two that are tired or to fill a bare corner or tabletop. Add a new basket or ceramic pot cover to add color and enhance your décor.
3. Common scents: Candles aren’t just for the fall and winter holiday seasons any more. Vanilla and lavender are two of the most popular scents, but you’ll find plenty of fresh, clean fragrances and styles of candles that have increased in popularity and are perfect for year-round use. Try a fresh linen or spring floral scent.
4. Bring the outdoors in: Trees and shrubs are just starting to bud. Trim a few branches and bring the outdoors inside to force open the blooms in a vase. Some good choices are forsythia, pussy willow and flowering cherry or crabapple stems, each of which produces colorful blooms.
Becoming more popular are curly willow and red twig dogwood branches. Although these branches do not have visible flowers, they look great in a vase and give texture when you add a few fresh-cut flowers. When you’re at the florist, be sure to pick up floral preservative to add to the water.
5. Front and center: Don’t forget about the front door and porch. Hang branches or a nice door piece for instant spring. Bulb plants, pansies and primrose all do well on a porch or patio. You may have to cover them or bring them inside overnight in case of frost or low temperatures. A cheerful front door will put a smile on your face and on those of your neighbors.
6. Treat yourself: Studies show that flowers are a great weapon against the morning blahs, boost energy and workplace productivity, and improve emotional health. So pick up a mixed handful, a weekly special or even just a few loose stems of your favorites.

Feed me, Seymour

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A little while back, a customer purchased cut hydrangeas from one of our stores. A brunch was being held in honor of her mother-in-law, and the customer was making hydrangea centerpieces for the occasion.
We placed a special order for the South America-grown flowers, so we knew they were as fresh as could be. Yet the customer was back in our store within 24 hours, her hydrangeas having wilted.
We replaced them so that her needs were met, but in the meantime we recut the original flowers and put them in water with cut-flower food. Within hours, they looked gorgeous again.
The moral to this story? If you’re going to work with cut hydrangeas – lots and lots of consumers are these days, and with good reasons – then don’t skimp on flower food.
Garden feel
Hydrangea flowers have big heads – a single one can be 4 to 8 inches wide – and make a bold statement with great ease. Just plop them in any kind of water-holding container (canning jars are popular) and they look terrific, bringing a garden feel indoors.
Clearly, hydrangeas are popular these days: You’ll find lots of evidence on Pinterest, the online bulletin board. In fact, we incorporated them into a number of our arrangements and deliver loose hydrangeas to our stores a couple of times each week.
Once you get the flowers home, make certain that they have plenty of water that has been mixed with flower food. You can purchase packets of food from your local florist; mix one packet per quart of water.
Hydrangeas represent a great value because you don’t need many of them to make a big impression and, with proper care, they last a long time.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Mums the word year-round

Many of us decorate porches and patios with hardy mums in the fall. But a little bit of loving and some attention to the calendar can help you get the most out of your mums and even keep them blooming in a garden for years to come.
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If you planted mums in the ground back in the fall, then the summer months are important in their growth cycle.
Feeding: From spring through July, nourish your mums twice a month with an all-purpose garden fertilizer mixed in water. Stop feeding in August.
Pinching: By July 15, you should pinch the top growth back 1 to 2 inches. This will ensure that your mums bloom in the fall rather than during the summer.
Controlling pests: Aphids are the most common pests that afflict garden mums. These are small soft-bodied insects about the size of a pinhead. They range in color from green to yellow to black. They make their livings by sucking the sap out of tender new growth. To control them, spray an all-purpose insecticide or insecticidal soap on the plants once a week for a couple of weeks. Take care not to spray plants in direct sun or when the temperature is above 90 degrees.
Now, if you are thinking about planting your potted mum for the first time, here are some steps to take:
• Be sure to water your potted mums daily as warm days will make them thirsty. At the same time, too much water can damage the roots; provide drainage in decorative pots or baskets.
• It’s best to plant the mums in October so their roots have time to grow before cold weather sets in.
• Once the mums are planted, water them thoroughly a couple of times each week through mid-November. This will encourage the roots to grow deeply. The deeper the roots, the stronger the plants will be.
• In late spring, cut the plants down 6 to 8 inches above the ground. This will give you bushy, compact plants with lots of flowers. As spring gives way to summer, follow the instructions above relative to feeding and pinching.

We’ll handle your long-distance Mother’s Day order

Flowers are a time-honored way of letting mom know just how much you love her. But sending flowers long distance can be confusing and sometimes disappointing, especially if you are not familiar with the process and some of the pitfalls.
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The Internet has given rise to thousands of flower-delivery options. But how do you know you’re really getting a good price and high-quality service? And will the flowers arrive on time?
That great price might not be so great
Many websites touting great prices show you a gorgeous arrangement – only to deliver a bunch of flowers in a box that mom still has to put in a vase. In many cases, what is delivered is similar to what you’ll find in a grocery store or at a street vendor. It might be a nice bouquet but not arranged in a container; often, the container costs extra.
After adding extra charges such as service and delivery fees, the great price that first got your attention might not be any better than what a local florist would charge.
Beware of unscrupulous companies
Perhaps you know of a florist where mom lives. But be careful if you use a search engine to find contact information for that florist. Many unscrupulous companies make themselves appear to be local florists – maybe the one that you’re familiar with – by using a similar name or even a local phone number (that ultimately rings to another state).
These companies tend to charge high service and delivery fees, only to hand off the delivery to someone else. They charge you fees that they didn’t earn, and you don’t get what you paid for.
Call early – and call Connells Maple Lee
You can avoid these hassles and ensure the best results by placing your order early – and by calling us when you do.
We’re proud to be your local florist, but we also are one of the largest senders of long-distance orders in the country. Other florists want to keep us happy because they want to continue receiving our business. We also foster our relationships with them through our regular participation in national florist meetings.
In short, we can resolve the rare problem when it occurs. What’s more, we have strong ties to FTD and Teleflora, the two largest wire services that florists use to transmit their orders, and they will step in if necessary to make sure that problems are addressed to our customers’ satisfaction.
Sending flowers long distance can be confusing, but it doesn’t have to be. Just call us, and we’ll make the process easy. We’ll handle your out-of-town order with the same care and attention it would receive if we were delivering it ourselves.

Here’s how to extend the life of your Easter blooms

Even after the Easter Bunny has visited and the last eggs are hunted, Easter plants will bring beauty and color into your home. In fact, you can make the flowers last a lot longer by following some easy steps.
What’s more, after your bulb plants – such as daffodils, hyacinths, tulips, crocus and narcissus – have finished blooming, you can transplant the bulbs into the ground and watch the flowers come up next year.
The key to making the flowers/blooms last longer – perhaps twice as long – is to keep the plants in a cool place, such as at night. This will stall the normal aging process, extending the life of the blooms.
While you’re sleeping, place the plants in your garage or out on your porch (but don’t let them freeze), and then bring them back inside your house in the morning. For smaller plants, such as a single-bloom hyacinth, you might even have room in your refrigerator.
Of course, it’s also important to keep the plants watered.
Once the blooms peak, let the plant die back into itself, nourishing the bulb. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark place. In early fall, separate the bulbs and plant them in your garden in anticipation of their blooming again next spring.