Monthly Archives: August 2017

Flowering Cherries

While the briefness of their glory has to be acknowledged, cherries really are the hardy spring-flowering trees for temperate climate gardens. I can think of no others, apart from their close Prunus relatives and some of the magnolias that even come close to rivalling flowering cherries for sheer weight of bloom and vibrance of colour. The genus Prunus is widely recognised as being divided into 5 or 6 subgenera, though some botanists prefer to recognise these as distinct genera. The subgenus cerasus is the one to which the cherries belong. This group includes a wide variety of species, many of which are not highly ornamental. The species which are of most interest to gardeners are the Chinese and Japanese cherries, not only because they tend to be the most attractive, but also because they tend to be reasonably compact, often have attractive autumn foliage as well as spring flowers and because centuries of development in oriental gardens have produced countless beautiful cultivars.

The Japanese recognise two main groups of flowering cherries: the mountain cherries or yamazakura and the temple or garden cherries, the satozakura. The mountain cherries, which tend to have simple flowers, are largely derived from the original Mountain Cherry (Prunus serrulata var. spontanea), Prunus subhirtella and Prunus incisa. They are mainly cultivated for their early-blooming habit, which is just as well because their rather delicate display would be overwhelmed by the flamboyance of the garden cherries.

The garden cherries are the result of much hybridisation, mostly unrecorded, so we can’t be exactly sure of their origins. Prunus serrulata (in its lowland form) and Prunus subhirtella also feature largely in their background. The other major influences are Prunus sargentii, Prunus speciosa, Prunus apetala and possibly the widespread Bird Cherries (Prunus avium and Prunus padus). The result of these old hybrids and modern developments is the wealth of forms that burst into bloom in our gardens every spring.

Regretfully, that complex parentage and those centuries of development and countless cultivars combined with Western misunderstandings of Japanese names and multiple introductions of the same plants under different names has led to considerable confusion with the names of flowering cherries.

Most of the popular garden plants are lumped together under three general headings:

1. Prunus subhirtella cultivars and hybrids;

2. Sato-zakura hybrids;

But however you view them, flowering cherries have so much to offer that a little confusion over naming and identification shouldn’t stand in the way of your including them in your garden. And now that many of them are available as container-grown plants that can be bought in flower, it’s really just a matter of choosing the flowers you like. Nevertheless, it’s nice to know exactly which plant you’re dealing with, so that you can be sure of its performance and size. While most of the larger nurseries and garden centres take care to supply plants that are true to type, make sure on first flowering that your cherries match their label descriptions. Misidentification, or perhaps misrepresentation, is common.

Prunus subhirtella cultivars and hybrids

Although the flowers of Prunus subhirtella are usually small and fairly simple, they appear from early winter well into spring, depending on the cultivar. Not only that, the cultivars themselves are long-flowering, often being in bloom for three weeks to a month. There are many cultivars, but most are similar to, or forms of the two main types listed below.

  • Autumnalis

This is the most reliable winter-flowering form. It often starts to bloom in late April to early May and can carry flowers right through until mid September. It seldom produces a massive burst of bloom, rather sporadic clusters of flowers. This is just as well because the flowers are damaged by heavy frosts. The flowers of Autumnalis are white to pale pink opening from pink buds; those of ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ are the same but with a deep pink centre.

  • Pendula

Prunus autumnalis tends to have weeping branches and ‘Pendula’ is a cultivar that emphasises this feature. Its flowers are usually pale pink and open in late winter to early spring. ‘Falling Snow’ is a cultivar with pure white flowers, while those of ‘Rosea’ are deep pink.

Sato-zakura hybrids

  • Fugenzo

Fugenzo was one of the first, if not the first, Japanese cherry to be grown in European gardens. It ‘s origins can be traced back to at least the 15th century. Its flowers are white to very pale pink, opening from pink buds, and when fully open how two conspicuous green leaf-like pistils in the centre of the flower.

  • Taihaku

Taihaku , also known as the great white cherry, has white flowers up to 5cm across. It grows to at least 8m tall with a wider spread and its flowers open at the same time as its bronze foliage expands, making a pleasant contrast. Thought to have been lost to cultivation, this cultivar was identified in Sussex garden from an old Japanese print.

Gorgeous Wedding Flowers Tips

1. Choose Flowers in Season

This is a critical money-saver. It is also important to keep in mind that flowers look and smell best when they are fresh and in season. This is especially true for roses. But if you have your heart set on a particular flower that holds sentimental value for you, it would be wise to plan your ceremony around the time period it will be in seasonal bloom.  Although flowers in season will give you a beautifully scented bouquet, use caution with the flowers you choose to include in any centerpieces at your reception. The fragrances that come from flowers as gardenia, jasmine or freesia can be overwhelming and may not be the best choice for dining tables. Overpowering flowers might also stir up any allergies that your guests may have.

2. Do it yourself

Keep in mind, however, that even if opting for the “budget bridal bouquet”, remember that it is a very key aspect of the wedding and should be an expression of the bride’s personality. Try to keep a sense of balance between the wedding gown, the bridesmaid’s gowns, the ceremony flowers and decorations and the bouquet. If you are getting married in the spring/summer time, visit the farmer’s market and talk with the flowers vendors. Find out if they grow the flowers that you are looking for and don’t be shy to ask if they have ever done weddings. Always be sure to ask them what they do with the flowers that they don’t sell. You might be able to grab large amounts of them for a steal!

Tip: Try using masses of one flower to showcase the flower’s individual beauty.

3. Use a school

Most high schools and colleges have horticulture classes that specialize in caring for and arranging flowers and plants. For a small fee, you could hire these aspiring florists who would be thrilled to work on your arrangements. The teachers of such a course will act as your safety net and, as an added bonus to you, will have extensive experience and oversee your project.

4. Have a Garden Wedding

Consider having the ceremony and/or the reception in a beautiful garden! Do you know someone that has a beautiful backyard and would be honored to host a wedding there? There will be no need for arrangements if you are already surrounded by lush greenery and blossoming flowers. Be prepared, though! Depending on the regional climate (or the time of year you hold your wedding), you may want to make use of either awnings, patios or sophisticated white open-air tents in case Mother Nature decides to become a wedding guest!

5. Cut down on attendants

By choosing fewer attendants, you will not have to provide as many bouquets and boutonnieres. Since small ceremonies are currently in vogue, it will be a natural progression to balance out the ceremony with a more intimate wedding party. Many couples favor a secluded setting with soft, glowing candles or lights to provide a devastatingly romantic theme. These more intimate, family oriented gatherings are also advantageous because they help the bride and groom to stay within their budget. It is also very elegant to have your bridesmaid carry a single flower tied with a piece of satin ribbon. Choose a flower that matches one of those in the bride’s bouquet, or that signifies a special meaning to you.


Care for Fresh Flowers

Flowers are beautiful and professionally designed bouquets are especially attractive. Flowers can also carry huge sentimental meaning because they are often given as gifts from people close to us. So it’s little wonder that we would want to extend the life of our flowers and enjoy their aesthetic and sentimental beauty for as long as possible. With proper care and attention most flowers will last around 7 days with some varieties lasting for as long as 14 days. Here are some practical steps to help extend the life of your cut flowers.

Get flowers into water

After only a short time out of water flowers will begin to dehydrate. Therefore it is essential to get flowers into a vase or container of water as quickly as possible. When you first get the flowers home use warm water, not cold or hot, as this is the quickest way to rehydrate the flowers. Warm water will also promote opening of the blooms as most flowers are shipped with the blooms in a closed or tight stage. Technically speaking the optimum temperature is 37.5C (99.5F), which is roughly body temperature. At this temperature air bubbles, which may have formed in the stem, tend to breakup. Also water that is warmer than the surrounding air is more readily taken up by the flowers.

Change the water regularly

Try to change the water every two days. The flowers should be well hydrated by now so you can use cold water instead of warm. This helps keep the flowers cool which is a key part of keeping flowers in good condition.

Use flower preservatives

Each consignment of Affinity Flowers comes with a sachet of flower preservative. Flower preservative contains two main components, carbohydrates and anti-bacterial additives. The carbohydrates act as food which helps to sustain the flowers. The carbohydrates will also stimulate flower heads to open quicker. This is handy when you’re trying to open flowers that usually ship with tight blooms like lilies. The bactericide component inhibits bacteria developing in the water. Bacteria laden water will cause flowers to deteriorate quicker. Bacteria is also a problem because it can block flower stems and hinder the uptake of water. If left long enough the bacteria will also discolour the vase water and produce an unpleasant odour. Simply empty the contents of the flower preservative sachet into the vase water. If you don’t have flower preservative you could add 1-2 drops of bleach to the water instead. The bleach will act as an anti-bacterial just like the additives in commercial flower preservatives.

Remove leaves that will be under water

This is important as leaves that are below the waterline will deteriorate quickly and become a breeding ground for bacteria. If you have a professionally arranged bouquet you’ll find that the leaves have already been removed by the florist. But flowers bought loose or unarranged might still have leaves low on the stem.

Keep flowers cool

Flowers should be kept in cool conditions. Keep them away from direct sunlight, heaters, lamps and other heat sources. Also try not to leave flowers in a hot vehicle when transporting them. This is why specialist flower delivery couriers have chilled storage on-board their vehicles. Each variety has its own optimal holding temperature but the ideal temperature for most flowers is a chilly 4-5C (39-41F), about the temperature inside your refrigerator. Obviously these aren’t ideal temperatures for people but if you really wanted to extend the life of your flowers you could place them in the refrigerator overnight or if you were going to be away for an extended period.

Summer Wedding Flower

Summer is a time of fun. A sunny day simply has an uplifting effect on even the most pessimistic of people. Smiling and laughter seem intuitive, and most people simply enjoy the outdoors. It is probably predictable that most wedding occur in summer, after all it is that time of year when most people are physically warm and comfortable. Sure there are exceptions, but generally clear, warm weather tends to translate into clear, warm temperament. It is not surprisingly that summer brides are spoilt for choice when it comes to summer wedding flowers, not to mention the proliferation of outdoor wedding venues in summer, which also gives the bride additional options. In addition it also enables her to align her wedding flowers to the venue, using tropical flowers in exotic venues, wild flowers in garden venues and even beach flowers at beach venues.

In terms of summer wedding flowers the most popular flowers would definitely include (although not be limited) to the following:

1. Sunflowers

A firm favorite at many a summer wedding. This is a physically large flower that makes an immediate statement. The name sunflower says it all. Unquestionably the best flower ambassador for the bright summer sun, these fiery blooms with a dark or black center are particularly popular in yellow, and interestingly are also available in red, brown, orange, bronze and mahogany. This summer wedding flower acts as a distinct focal point in all arrangements. Generally a summer bride will construct her arrangement around a select few sunflowers.

2. Gazanias

Usually referred to as the Treasure Flower, this is a potentially contentious choice as a summer wedding flower. When using these flowers a bride should plan around a daytime wedding and cut the flowers as late as possible, especially given their tendency to close at night and in overcast weather. Generally these flowers are available in a vast array of dynamic colors, including multi-hued colors which amplifies the effect of the gazanias.

3. Dahlia

If an unconventional and somewhat unstructured floral appeals to you then dahlias would be a serious consideration on your big day. Definitely a somewhat right-brained flower, dahlias work exceptionally well in summer weddings. Big, shaggy and multi-petaled describes this flower well, with a sea anemone resembling its closet relative in a parallel universe. Definitely diverse in appearance, most species have a distinct quant and frothy look to them, in one form or another. Definitely an interesting taking point with your guests.

4. Black Eyed Susan

Just the term black-eyed susan conjures up some interesting images with brides. Of course in reference to a wedding flower, as opposed to a femme fatale. Generally considered to be a wild flower found in open woods and road sides, they make excellent summer wedding flowers and are particularly popular with the more vintage and rustic-type weddings. Similar to daffodils they are particularly well-known for their striking yellow colors and dark centers, and are great friends with bees and butterflies. These daisy-like flowers are also available in orange, brown, red and sometimes in a multi-hued appearance.

5. Poppy

Poppies sometimes just simply get bad rap, in particular with their associations with the narcotics trade. The truth is these flowers make for delightful wedding flowers and remain ever popular with summer weddings. These somewhat tubular-looking blooms grow on a long and thin flexible stem and are available in a variety of colors. Red and white poppies in particular make for a stunning combination in a wedding bouquet.