Posts tagged gardening

Flowers as Gifts: Going Beyond the Bouquet

Just about everybody loves flowers. Flowers are a beautiful gift from nature that smell great, look great and have come to represent love to most of us. They are the most popular gift in the world, given for the many events in our lives, from Mothers Day to birthdays to weddings and even at our funerals. They seem to be everywhere, popping out of the foilage around us, brightening the world whereever they are. We love to give a bit of that beauty to our loved ones when we can. But did you know that flowers are useful in gifts other than bouquets? That you don’t have to put them in vases to give them and there are a lot of ways you can give flowers as inexpensive gifts, even at Christmas. You don’t even have to know anything about flowers to take advantage.

As fall peeks around the corner, we start to see the summer blooms fading and falling in our yards. The grass is littered with slowly wilting bright colors and the last scent of the blooms lingers in the air. Why not capture this now and make gifts you can give later? Homemade food gifts like pickled flowers, flower honey or flower jellies and jams. Homemade beauty gifts like floral perfumes, toners or cleansing creams. Homemade floral soaps, potpourri or candles. Cards and stationary made with pressed flowers. All personalized and special, made by you. And you don’t have to be some creative genius to do these things because I have the recipes, the plans, the step by step instructions. All you need is to round up the dieing blooms you find in your yard and beyond. So get the basket and go picking!

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The Magic of Mullein

From soothing your cough to flavoring your liqueurs, Mullein has a lot of uses, some of them you’ve never heard of. The seeds are cheap and they are easy to grow; simply put in a pot full of soil and water. And if you don’t want to grow Mullein, there are many sources for it online, most of them inexpensive. There are about 250 genuses of Mullein, which is a member of the Figwort family. Mullein is also called by about 30 common names including Velvet Dock, Candlewick Plant, Cow Lungwort, Hags Taper and Aaron’s Rod. These cultivars grow all over Europe, Asia and the Meditteranean. They are also widely cultivated in North America and can sometimes be found growing wild. Very common varieties include Moth Mullein, Dark Mullein, Wooly Mullein and Common Mullein. The cultivar I have used the most and whole heartedly recommend is Verbascum Thapsus or Common Mullein. This particular cultivar has been naturalized all over the US, mostly in Hawaii and also in Australia. So it can be grown almost anywhere. I highly recommend planting Mullein in your garden and using it year round. I have recipes and guidelines for you to use when making use of the plant so bookmark this page for after your plants are growing and blooming. You can use Mullein for many things during every stage of it’s growth so it is well worth the few cents it costs to buy a packet of seeds.

Mullien was considered a magical herb in antiquity and it was given to Ulysses to protect him from the magic of Circe, who had changed his crew into pigs. The soft fine hairs on the leaves and stems of this plant makes a superb tinder and it was used this way throughout history. Hence, the popular name, Velvet Plant. These same soft hairs protect the herb from moisture loss, creeping insects and grazing animals because the down irritates mucus membranes. So this plant has few enemies in the garden, making it even easier to grow. So here are my hints on how to cultivate Mullein and how to use every part of the plant in every stage of it’s growth.

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Making Cool Summer Drinks

Everyone always drinks a lot more in the summer. The heat, the humidity, the activity, all conspire to make us thirsty. Even swimming in the ocean, with all that salt, brings people out to grab a soda pop. So when everyone is around the pool, enjoying the sun and the beautiful blue sky, why not make some cool drinks they will enjoy? How about making some of them from herbs and natural ingredients? How about making some of them alcoholic so people can relax and get into a groove? And how about making some blender drinks or a punch that even the kids can slurp down? I have recipes for all of these so there is no excuse for sitting around the pool or on the beach with a cooler full of boring canned drinks. You can make these up and serve them out of the blender, pitchersor a thermos . If you put your drinks in Stainless steel reusable cooler cans then you are also helping the environment, protecting your children from dangerous plastics and keeping your drinks cool for the long haul! But if you do not have these stainless steel containers then there is nothing wrong with sterilizing some old drink bottles in boiling water and filling them up with one of these potions for the trip to the beach or the park.

For making the blender drinks you will need a blender. Any blender will do; although bartenders use special ones, you can use just about any blender you can find. The thift stores have used ones for really cheap. But if you do not have a blender and do not want to keep one, then you can use a cake mixer

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Easy Spring and Summer Flower Projects

Isn’t it just wonderful that Spring has finally arrived? If you are in a part of the country where Spring is taking it’s time, you will just have to get an early start on the melt! There is nothing more cheery and lovely about Spring and Summer than flowers. April brings the rains and May brings the flowers, or so goes the rhyme. There will be blooms everywhere, if not today then very soon. And those blooms need to be captured and made use of; don’t leave them to rot on the ground! I have great simple and cheap ideas for decorating your home with flowers for Spring and Summer. Bright yellows, blues, greens and whites. Lovely brash, happy colors to make your home just glow with cheery sunlight.

Be prepared for some very simple ideas and projects. These could actually cost you very little or even nothing at all if you have old containers in your home that are packed away and flowers growing in the garden outside. Otherwise, you can get containers and other items at the flea market or thrift store and pick flowers in the neighbor’s garden (with permission, of course!). So get out the floral supplies from last year and clear the winter decorations from the table.. you are about to make some great decorations that will help you welcome Spring with open arms.

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Handmade Egg Basket Easter Decoration

Full of spring flowers, bursting with bright colors and stuffed into a beautiful, big handwoven wicker egg basket! This is the consummate table decoration for Easter. It is also a big project so you should get started right away to have it ready for the big Sunday events at your home. The basket decoration is not hard to make in and of itself, it’s the expedition you will embark on first that takes the time and money. You will have to locate the precious flowers and plants that go into making this gorgeous creation. I have not included a picture of the final product because the true product will depend on you. I made one for myself following this recipe and found that it looked nothing like the original I had seen. You should not compare your project with anyone else’s because whatever you come up with will be fine. It will be yours.

The heart of this project are the beautiful flowers you will use in making it. Many can be found in the grocery store or florist and used fresh. Others will have to be used dried and are found at craft stores. Some will grow wild in your area and you can just go out and pick them. Perhaps you have flowers in your garden. If you have trouble finding one specific kind on the list, feel free to substitute to your liking. I have included vivid photos of the flowers that are called for in the ingredients list and a photo of the type of egg basket I used. You are free to use any kind you feel like using. I did not use the same type of basket that the original designer of this arrangement used. If you would like to see the original basket by the designer, you can find it in the book, Nature Crafts and you can see it and buy it HERE.

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Fall Projects for Roses

You have been enjoying the Rose Garden all summer, watching the lovely flowers bloom and smelling their luscious fragrance. Now you are left with the coming of fall and the bloom is off the Rose. You have a house full of fallen petals from those lovely stalks you had in vases. You have a garden covered in pretty red, pink and yellow petals as your plants thin down, preparing for the colder, darker days ahead. You are thinking about raking them up but maybe just let them scatter. DON’T! Get busy and gather them all up. Don’t throw them out and let them fly off in a gust. There are many wonderful things you can make using these Rose petals, leaves and stems! They will make fodder for fascinating fall projects during the boring, indoor days you must now face. The beach and the sun may be fading, but the flowers are about to take over your life.

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Bug Spray, Arthritis and Lupus

You guys are gonna love this… just kidding. But it’s more testimony for the case of going natural and dumping all these chemicals! Especially bug sprays and other deadly poisons. It seems that research that was done in Philadelphia is suggesting a link between women’s exposure to household insecticides (including roach and mosquito killers) and the autoimmune disorders rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Do you realize how many women have these diseases? It’s unnatural. And that previous research hinted at a link between agricultural pesticides and a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. I think it’s time to take this information seriously. Lupus and RA are nothing to take lightly; in general, autoimmune diseases are diseases where the immune system goes haywire and begins to attack the body. And to ice the cake, it was also shown that farmers are a high risk group for these diseases and the reason now seems to be bug killers. Ugh.

Women in the study who reported use of insecticides presented a higher risk of developing the two autoimmune disorders than women who reported no insecticide use, whether or not they had lived on a farm. Those who used the insecticide the most often and most frequently had double the risk! Are you using this stuff? Do you want to develop RA? I know people who have this and, take my word for it, you don’t! But I guess the powers that be just don’t care about any of this; after all, the people who make the bug spray make a lot of the OTC meds that are used to treat the pain. Bayer comes to mind. They make insecticides and herbacides and also make the aspirin you’re taking to treat your arthritis. So many drug companies today have merged with larger corporate interests so that many different product lines are mixed and this mix can cause conflicts of interest. So it’s up to you to investigate and find out who’s who in the zoo.

This involves reading the lables and taking precautions to limit your own exposure to dangerous chemicals. Epidemiologists are saying that this should include products you’ve taken in the past and even those you know are no longer available. Especially if that product has since been implicated in health issues or larger crises. Keep your ear to the ground about whatever chemicals you currently use or feel you cannot give up. If you hear anything at all about possible health risks, have yourself assessed as soon as possible. It is true that more research is needed to nail down the direct link between insecticides and autoimmune disease. In this case, the researchers examined data from a previous study of almost 77,000 postmenopausal women aged 50 to 79. Even if you do not meet this criteria, care should be taken when deciding to use deadly poisons or toxic chemicals. In general, the insecticides implicated in the study include insect killers, such as those designed to eradicate ants, wasps, termites, mosquitoes and roaches. This is the stuff that will actually kill the bugs. The study didn’t include insect repellents or skin rubs for mosquitoes, flies or fleas.

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