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Gifts for Mom

May 10, 2013
By H.I. JEAN?SHIELDS - Garden Club of Cape Coral , Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Flowers are a traditional gift for Mother's Day, weddings, birthdays, a great hostess gift and for funerals and memorials. Flowers and plants are a happy gift for almost any occasion.

I haven't noticed any floral arrangements for a divorce, although there are a good selection of cards nowadays. They are usually celebrating the divorce, or trying to make the event humorous. I suppose once we are able to produce black roses successfully, we will see a trend for that special bouquet also.

We do have dyed blue and green orchids in the market. They seem silly to me. Why would someone want to dye an orchid? The only good thing about that orchid is IF it blooms the next season, it will return to its original white beauty. Maybe that is the fascination, or maybe I am just getting old and critical.

The market, of course, rules. Whatever sells will become the norm. The floral and plant world has always been open to new plant species and is always busy hybridizing something. It can be a lengthy process for breeders to make a plant grow faster, larger or even to become a mini.

We can certainly enjoy a favorite plant coming to the market that is more insect and heat resistant, or blooms more often. A well cared for bush of roses will supply you with many blooms for long time.

However, the easiest way to gift roses is to buy a bouquet or a lovely single bloom. It is amazing the range of pricing available for a bouquet of roses.

Roses have a hard time overcoming the stigma of not being an easy to grow bush. Your nurseryman can help you decide what will do well in your particular space.

You will need a full sun area and a well draining soil. Rose food and fertilizer are easy to find in big box stores and nurseries. Do not be afraid to try.

I have a "Double Delight" bush right by the garage door, full sun and well draining soil and it has grown for me for 10 years. It is on Fortunia rootstock.

I bought it from a big box store and looked on the computer to see how to care for it and it blooms year around. The only time it does not bloom is when I have the Garden Club board meeting at my home. There it sets in full sight as everyone goes up the walkway. It is nice and green, maybe a bud.

I really cannot complain though because it has lasted so long. I do nothing special to it except to make sure it gets enough water during the dry season. It does not get any sprinkler water so I do need to watch the water amount. I only water the soil - not the bush itself. I till around the roots carefully whenever I think it looks compacted. The regular rose bloom fertilizer suits it, and I do not really fertilize it that often. The canes are beginning to look old and I have had to prune some away.

There are much prettier bushes around but you just cannot beat the lovely bi-color bloom of creamy white and crimson bloom tips. The scent is heavenly.

I did try a rose in a large concrete urn a few years ago but I could not keep it going. Too much concrete? Or not enough water? That is gardening. Sometimes you win, sometimes you do not.

You can mix and match some plants yourself to make a beautiful pot as a gift.

At the recent State Garden Club Convention in Fort Myers we were treated one evening in the banquet room to 40 tables set with a centerpiece design of a 12-inch pot of caladiums centered, with two beautiful plants of Episcia on each side

Caladiums are plentiful right now and not expensive. I just put two "Miss Freckles" into two large pots near front door. The 14-inch pots already had ivy trailing along the sides.I just took out the plants that were faded in the center and put in the Caladiums. Cannot ask for anything easier than that. Of course, you get a little soil here and there but it is a great short way to liven up your pots.

At Christmas, I leave in the ivy and put in poinsettias. Yes, you do have to trim the ivy occasionally. You can then tuck the cuttings into a small pot, or somewhere out there and start new ivy plants.

The Episcia may not sound familiar and may be a little hard to find. It is a cousin of the favorite African violet. They are a perennial and are natives of Central and South America.

The Episcia has an African violet look to it. But leaves are lighter and more patterned than the violet. It will have tiny little bright red flowers or more rarely they will be yellow or blue.

The main thing you notice right away is the small secondary stem hanging from the main portion of the plant. It hangs out over the edge and has a tiny cluster of leaves at the end.This piece is called a stolon. This delicate piece can be removed by gently tugging it from the main body of the plant and re planting it. If you do not replant right away, keep the root end in some damp paper towels or a little water. Do not let it dry out. Use some regular liquid plant fertilizer at potting time. Start in a very small pot. Plant in some loose regular potting soil and water it in and keep it moist for three days. It will take the full morning sun. As it grows you will need to re pot it up into a larger pot but not much larger, it likes to be snug in the pot.

As it grows it will like dappled sun or morning sun but not the hot afternoon Florida sun. It will do well in a hanging basket or on a windowsill, or on the lanai in a pot. Make sure the pot has good drainage. Will need to water at least once a week. Just the soil. Fertilize lightly each time you repot, or about once every three months.

These beautiful arrangements were donated to the convention by the Avon Park Correctional Institution. You probably guessed. These plants and hundreds of others are grown at the correctional institute by the inmates who are interested in horticulture as a possible career when they are released.

It is located in Avon Park, about 3 hours north of here. Local garden clubs have been to the institution to purchase the plants and walk the grounds. They have a very nice area with a bridge and a gazebo.

A few years' back local clubs collected the black plastic containers that plants are sold in and donated them to Avon Park for the inmates to use. They are now very generous and donate plants to many of our conventions, as a pay back. Avon Park benefits yearly from donations thru Garden Clubs.

The institution can be contacted to find out when the horticulture area and the greenhouses are open to the public. Just log onto Avon Park Correctional.

I did not mention the miniature rose plants that are delicate and make a very nice gift. I do not have too much luck with mine because I do not keep them moist enough. I always like to receive one though, hoping I will do better each time.

I do not think I will get too many flowers or plants this year. I have put the word out that I need more gardening gloves and a couple of pruning shears. The Garden Club sells a great gardening glove, however besides those I need a couple of inexpensive pairs because mine are always disappearing. I have about four left-handed ones without a matching right-handed one?

The clippers have a habit of disappearing somewhere also. Everyone knows do not buy mom any expensive gardening gear, it will just disappear.

Have a nice Mothers Day, and happy gardening until we meet again.

H.I. Jean Shields is a past president of the Garden Club of Cape Coral.



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