22 Mar 2012

Welcome Spring!

Swing, swing, swing - unfettered, unnetted...

New blossoms sprung from what seemed like dead wood
is the ultimate suprise and symbol of versatility.

This spring is going to be all about wish fulfillment and unfettered freedom!

21 Mar 2012

2012 Bouquet de Arts – de Young Museum – San Francisco

As usual, the throngs of people wanting to see details up-close and take pictures made it tough to get through the show without injury or outburst. Some of the galleries are just too dark for viewing or cellphone pictures for that matter.  The image quality isn’t great, but you should get a good idea of the interpretation, materials, and construction.  Wish SFMOMA had a show like this!   Some favorites:

Literal, but so right. Finally, an analogue to one of my favorite paintings

The cat's expression is awkward, but still a stunning construction.

 

Detail of ti leaves - mastery of materials!

 

Lap Dog

Love the wire work and exuberance!

Love the creative use of materials for construction.

 

Near perfection.  Details, scale, colors, and construction were so right!

The long rose branches formed piers of support for the leaves.

More to come….

 

08 Mar 2012

Appreciating Nature


Sometimes it doesn’t matter what we’re here for or what it all means
and the best moments of pause are found among the flowers, in the garden.

01 Sep 2010

San Francisco Bouquet de Art – More Photos

Recovered a few pictures taken from the San Francisco 2010 Bouquet de Art show– a phone update went awry and I lost these.  Apologies for the poor phone image quality.  I thought cameras weren’t allowed, so I didn’t bring  my camera that day.  For other pictures of the show, visit: http://floraphilia.net/?p=294 and here:  http://floraphilia.net/?p=306.

bouquet de art design

Tucked away in a very dark gallery, this dramatic design vibrated with movement and color.  It was an expansive 3-foot wide, exuberant design for a dim, subdued chamber.  I think perhaps the vessel was the art piece.

bouquet de art

If I recall correctly, the musician’s coat was made from layers of hand dyed-painted fabric.   Some designers took a more interpretive, complementary approach, while others took a literal approach in which they painted with flowers.

bouquet de art

Interesting interpretation of the dark painting in background, but I didn’t care for the fact that from behind, colored pins were visible, sloppily placed; the piece seemed rushed, unfinished.  It’s a work-in-the-round, did the designers not think we wouldn’t view it from all sides?

bouquet de art

Nice abstraction of the painting.  Several designers had used an unfinished grid in the form of a wave.

bouquet de art design

This piece, with lots of air and asymmetrical mass, is balanced in a very natural way. You don’t feel it’s contrived.  Also-nice textures and color restraint.

Texture detail of above.

bouquet de art

Inventive block forms!  Red floral tape creates an interesting line and color element that incorporates the block platform into the design.

bouquet de art design

Here you can see the sculpture correlate, the human scale, and the red line.  Love these kind of minimalist constructions.  Perfect complement for the sculpture.

30 Aug 2010

Weeding – Field Bindweed – Non Chemical Methods of Weeding

bindweed - Convolvulus arvensis

[One person's weed is another's flower?- Bindweed flower, Convolvulus arvensis]

Bindweed can be  a pretty and probably harmless flower in fallow fields.  But, in my yard, it’s ugly, aggressive, out-of-place, detrimental; and, therefore a weed.

A weed is any plant that is growing in a place you don’t want.  To me, weeding is not about fighting mother nature (which is useless).  It’s more about opening space and resources for the plants you want to flourish.  You’re working with mother nature, not fighting her.

Little can flourish amidst too much competition and bindweed is the most competitive weeds I’ve encountered, so it must go.  It snakes through weed fabric, through inches of mulch.  It strangles small bushes and trees (why are there white trumpet flowers in the canopy of those evergreens?!).

If you’re not familiar with this weed, consider yourself fortunate.  It has dark green leaves the shape of arrow heads, and a small white or pink flower that resembles a morning glory.  It grows in heat, full sun, good soil, bad soil– even hard pan.  Why it’s tough: the roots can run deep (studies have found viable roots at 10-14 feet deep); and, the roots run both vertically and horizontally.  Because of this extensive root system it can persist and lie dormant for many years (some report up to 60 years).

Pull the Top Growth Every 2 Weeks

You will probably never completely get rid of it, but you can try to suppress it by vigilantly plucking the top growth.  This weed is tough to pull roots out with your hands because the top growth usually breaks away from the thin roots.  If you remove the leaves each time they re-sprout (about every couple of weeks), the plant will exhaust its energy  and eventually die; however, this process could take years.  This approach requires you to be consistent and vigilant– never let the weed develop more than five leaves, flower, or go to seed.

Cultivate

Because I don’t use herbicides, I have few options but to remove the weed by digging it up.  Although it may have hellishly long roots, the bulk of the root system resides within the first two feet of soil.  Depending on the situation, generally, I dig out the roots until there are no more.  Since even fragments of roots are capable of generating regrowth, I go as deep and wide as possible without disturbing the roots of any nearby plants.  After removing as much roots as possible, I turn the soil, repair the weed fabric and apply a thick layer of mulch.  Several university studies conclude that vigilant, deep (16-18 inches) cultivation is the best approach.

Out-weed It (Out-compete it)

This is one of the least labor intensive methods.  The idea is to plant something with aggressive early spring growth– this will deprive the bindweed of light and water.  I planted Erigeron (“Fleabane”) and Lantana.  Be careful, these plants can be very invasive.  (It’s a compromise. )  Both have worked very well to keep bindweed at bay as long as they were not stressed and were healthy.  In places where water was insufficient, the bindweed won.

Soil Solarization

If you need to prepare raised beds where bindweed is or was growing, you could try solarizing, but most university studies have shown that this method is only marginally effective on bindweed because of its extensive dormant root system and hard seed coat.  Within weeks, the bindweed returns.  If the idea is to start with a clean slate of soil before starting a new planting bed, I think this is a good way to go.  This method involves preparing the soil in the hottest months of summer by removing all the weeds, by tilling, by amending, by leveling the soil and by thoroughly watering.  You then cover the area with 1-2 mil thick clear (not black) plastic.   You should leave the plastic in place, depriving the area of water and air, for at least 6 weeks.  Clear plastic and the moisture from the watering allows the soil to reach temperatures hot enough to kill off diseases, and the top growth of the bindweed, but it won’t necessarily challenge dormant seeds or deep roots. Be sure to choose the hottest part of the season and weigh down all the edges where wind or air might infiltrate.

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25 Aug 2010

Over and Under Watering

apple blossom

[Apple blossoms - "Red Delicious"]

As I grasped the full vision of blight I thought: once again, my inattentiveness has made me pay.  Distracted with the mammoth task of cutting back the overgrown yard and weeding, I neglected to check on the water drip system.  This resulted in dehydrating a potted apple tree to the point of total defoliation and fruit drop.

Over and under watering is a recurring theme for me– my self-caused, peskiest problem.  Drainage issues, broken sprinkler heads, drip line leaks, forgotten pots, impatient hand-watering, all lead to an over/under watered state that stresses plants and creates vulnerabilities to pests, disease.  Most times, I’m punished with the sad results of a domino effect started by water mismanagement.  This time, after about two months of recovery, the tree has sprung new leaves and flowers.  (!)  I must have caught the problem in time.

Sure, the plant is doing only as it is programmed to do; its seemingly miraculous renewal is really just a response to attentiveness and care– but, I’d rather view it as giving in kind as having received.  For certain, gardening is one of life’s endeavors that rewards attentiveness, effort.

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23 Aug 2010

Places to Find Economical Landscape Plants, Vegetables, Perennials

columbine flower

[Columbine - Aquilegia - plant purchased at a college plant sale for $4.00 ]

While waiting in line for coffee this morning, I chatted with a woman lamenting about how she got a great deal on her new house, but badly needed to fix-up the front and back yard at minimal cost. I told her that a great place to purchase inexpensive, yet healthy landscaping plants is at local universities and community colleges that have horticultural courses.  They usually have plant sales during each semester or quarter and they always have great prices.  You will find natives, perennials, shrubs, trees, sometimes vegetables, and sometimes unusual plants.  Compared to retail nurseries and big box stores, you will save up to 50% off for 1-gallon and 5-gallon potted plants.  When redoing a landscape–that’s significant savings. Also, not only are you saving a lot of money, your purchases usually help the students raise funds for their horticulture program.  Try checking-out local arboretums and public gardens too– some fund-raise with seasonal plant sales.

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18 Aug 2010

Butterfly Bush – Buddleja davidii – Growing and Flower Harvest Tips

Buddleja Bicolor

[Buddleja x weyeriana 'Bicolor' - Butterfly bush hybrid]

Awhile back, I planted the Buddleja above to attract hummers and butterflies, and after I found out that this particular cultivar posesses the heavenly scent of sweet honey, I began to partake in smelling hits and have been cutting them for enjoyment indoors.  For designs, Buddleja flowers create an arching, wistful line and the foliage is similar to salvia with a silvery-gray color and a velvety texture.  While they go well with lisianthus, zinnias, cosmos, allium, iris, agapanthus and grasses, I think they also are good to use for contrast to the waxy textures of  callas and lilies.  They typically don’t last very long, about 4-5 days, but this is plenty of time to enjoy them indoors during a long summer weekend.

Selecting & Harvesting

If you are cutting for a special occasion or for gift giving, it may help to water the bush thoroughly the night before you plan to take flowers.  Cut early in the morning or late in the evening as you would for any other garden flower cutting.  Even though this plant is considered an herbaceous perennial, as a cutting flower, it is treated like a woody plant.  Choose half-open blossom heads and cut at an arm’s-length, into the wood.  (If you want to cut shorter, you’ll have to experiment for yourself on how to handle them.)  After cutting the stem diagonally,  lightly scrape off the brown wood until you see a hint of green (it’s easy to go too deep with these, so scrape lightly) and then vertically split the stem about 2 finger-widths up the middle.  If giving the blossoms to someone, I will condition them in hot water and preservative to ensure sap does not clog the stems (which can cause wilt) and I’ll let the bucket sit overnight  (sometimes outside when nights are cooler than the house) to fully hydrate blooms before using them.  If it’s just for me, I sometimes skip the hot water step.   Always remove any leaves that will be submerged.

Growing

When the bush is in bloom (from July to November here), you can keep it blooming by deadheading.  When I don’t deadhead, I’ve found the plant to bloom for only a couple of months.  When I deadhead, I see blooms for 4 to 5 months.  I usually deadhead by pinching the topmost spent blossom and one emerging blossom to encourage larger flowers.  The emerging blooms, usually just below the terminal (see photo) will open in a week or two.  For the most part, you’ll find that for every one you deadhead, you’ll be rewarded with 2 blossom heads (albeit sometimes smaller).  If you’re going for a larger flower head, pinch out all but one of the emerging blossoms on a branch.  Deadheading early evening is something you’ll probably most enjoy because you’ll have close encounters with all the birds and insects that visit this bush.

For me, this bush couldn’t be more trouble-free or rewarding; my experience with it has been very similar to caring for salvia.  A hard cut back in the winter (down to about 10-12 inches) will keep new growth bushy, and will bring many summer blooms because buddleja blooms on new wood.  Cutting back a 5 foot bush down to a foot can be daunting, but don’t worry, buddleja will quadruple in size during one summer.  More pros: it tolerates heat, drought, and alkaline soil.

Do choose a sunny site (preferably somewhere you can enjoy it from indoors), and this plant won’t disappoint.  One summer I had placed a large market umbrella in the yard and left the umbrella out all season.  The cast shade caused the bush to become leggy and it didn’t bloom much.  This plant definitely looks and performs best when growing in full sun.   Site it well and you’ll be rewarded with sweet honey scented  blooms, butterflies, hummingbirds and all sorts of winged things.

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16 Aug 2010

In Between Times

Weeping Cherry Blossom

[Cherry blossoms from a potted tree that will one day have a home by a pond.]

Amidst nature, as an emotive observer, I sometimes think the plant world is the most completely vulnerable group of living things.

As an objective observer, I sometimes think the plant world is the most completely adaptable and hardened group of living things that will persist until the earth is no more.

The in-between times are mostly filled with carefree marvel and wonder.

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11 Aug 2010

Appreciating Nature

Agapanthus close up

[Agapanthus blooms]

Appreciating nature isn’t wasteful daydreaming.  It’s one of the easiest ways to step outside of your head, to flush and refill the senses.  If  you consider (intuit, imagine) other forms of existence, other forms of consciousness that are far removed from your life experience, you may find a non-judgmental, objective, and neutral way of existing that informs, freshens your own state of being.  It’s there, waiting for you.

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09 Aug 2010

UC Davis Arboretum – Ruth Risdon Storer Garden Visit – A Few Summer Blooms

Sea Holly Eryngium planum and honey bee

[Sea Holly -  Eryngium planum and honey bee]

To some, it’s a weed, to others, it’s a stellar performer with many advantages in the yard and in the vase.  With its deep periwinkle color, dramatic form and interesting texture, sea holly can transform an average bouquet into a distinct one!  To punch-up bouquets, add it last so you can avoid the sharp bracts, and place them high so the star shape can crown the design.  You can also remove the bracts to emphasize a globe shape.  As for growing, they are very drought tolerant and attract lots of honey bees.

crinum hybrid

[Crinum hybrid]

Crinum lilies can seem delicate, but really they are sturdy sun lovers.

agaave artichoke bloom

[Artichoke agave - Agave parrasana ]

In bloom, the artichoke agave is like a two in one–  an artichoke and asparagus– artiparagus.   The dramatic five-foot bloom dominated the garden.  Perhaps, less obvious, but so inherent in its form is the spiral.

brazillian plume flower

[Fountain-like plume of Justicia carnea - Brazillian plume flower]

This plant will definitely be added to my yard “collection” as soon as I can get my hands on it!

Unfortunately, while a student at UC Davis, I only experienced about a quarter of the arboretum.  Everything was a blur as I rushed to class. Most exposure I had was cutting through the coastal redwoods, dodging waterfowl around Spafford Lake or stomping across the Mondavi foot bridge.  There’s so much I missed.  Some goals (when you let them) just completely absorb your life that way.

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05 Aug 2010

How to Select Fresh-Cut Gladiolus

Gladiolus

[Gladioli Day 3 after purchase]

gladiola floret closed

[Gladiolus floret bud, day 1, purchase state]

chartreuse gladiola

[Gladioli, day 1, purchase or harvest state]

Gladioli have made a kind of comeback in recent years. They no longer suffer from the widespread stigma of being a dated, old-fashioned funeral flower because of the diversity of colors and forms that hybridization from the last few decades have brought.  Today, you can find them in every color imaginable and in interesting bi-colors.  Although available from florists year round, around here, they are only available from local markets  during summer, July to September.

Selecting Glads from a Vendor

Because I’ve yet to see any of the “Glamini,” compact, or dwarf varieties being sold at the fresh-cut market, this post is for the traditional tall glads.  For selection, look for long, straight spikes with at least one or two florets on the verge of opening.  The majority of florets should be in bud, unopened.   Also, there should be about ten to twelve florets for each spike.  If there are fewer than ten, check to see if any spent flowers at the bottom of the stalk have been picked.  If the stems are short, and you can tell some florets are gone, ask for a discount because it means the stalks are likely past their prime.  Similarly, if more than half of the florets are fully open, it usually indicates the flowers are mature and you shouldn’t expect them to last for longer than a week.  Basically, at a flower vendor you are looking for three-foot long, straight spikes with at least 10 florets that are mostly in bud.  To me, it’s okay if a couple of spikes are not straight the lines can be interesting and Gladiolus is sensitive to the force of gravity, so you may see curvature; if at a vendor, check any curved tips to ensure it is not caused from a break or withering buds.

Garden Harvest

If you are harvesting from your garden and don’t want to worry about the florets not fully opening, pick your glads when they are a quarter to half-open.  Also be sure to condition them with preservative (sugar helps them open) and keep them warm.  Cold will prevent full opening.  Another tip if you want straight stalks for designing is to always keep the stalks straight by using a mesh grid in your bucket while you condition them.  Finally, you can cut off the terminal bud to prevent tropisms.

Generally, fresh-cut gladioli is long lasting.  They can last for about 2 weeks.  What will hasten their demise is ethylene, so keep them away from ripening fruits and vegetables.  While the open flowers are not vulnerable, buds with too much exposure will expire prematurely, which will shorten your enjoyment time.  To ensure the longest life, you should remove any spent, faded buds; change the water about every two days; use a preservative; and, re-cut the stem while under water.  I like to switch to a different container for the second week of display because cutting the stalk down takes away quite a bit of height, plus changing containers helps the flowers stay interesting.  Another tip:  if you want to keep the flowers and your display area clean, you can remove the pollen that creates dust by gently pulling the anthers off.

Glads have always been one of my favorites because they offer so much.  They’re dramatic, have a lot of mileage and remind me of orchids and Iris, but cost only a third as much.  Plus, they are very easy to grow and propagate.  I think gardeners who grow glads don’t really have the funerary association.  For me, bright glads swaying in the flowerbed distance sound-off Summertime!

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02 Aug 2010

How to Prepare Your Grocer Bouquet When You Get Home

Purple Calla

[Purple calla from a grocer bouquet]

First thing– before you get home- while you’re at the flower vendor, grab more packets of floral preservative.  See my post “Floral Preservative – Don’t Skip It” (http://floraphilia.net/?p=432) for more info.

With that out of the way, when you get home, cut away (don’t pull) any plastic or paper wrap.  Using a paring knife, re-cut about an inch off of all the stems while they are submerged under warm water.  Try not to use scissors because with tender flower stems you are reducing the ability of the cells to absorb/uptake water by mashing and compacting the stem.  Instead, take a paring knife and cleanly slice the stems at an angle. Cutting under water eliminates the potential for air pockets to form; air pockets will prevent full hydration.   Next, remove only leaves that will be submerged in the container water.  Unless you are working with hydrangeas or lilacs, don’t remove every single leaf because this reduces the flower’s overall ability to rehydrate.  Leaves above water help flowers hydrate.  Tender leaves underwater tend to decay very quickly and will promote flower rot.  Exceptions: for Hydrangeas and lilacs, you need to make sure to remove every leaf to ensure hydration to the blossom and to prevent rapid wilt.

For roses, remove thorns and the guard petals (if still not yet removed). Removing the guard petals, (dull, papery petals) will reveal the velvety, saturated petals of the rose beneath.

Use a sanitized container.  Use a preservative.   As blossoms fade, remove them.  Daily, add water or change it if it is cloudy and add a correct preservative solution.

Most flowers will need a floral preservative, which is mostly a concoction of sugar and an anti-bacterial agent; however, if you are dealing with solely orchids or tropicals, there is no need to use a preservative.  Just make sure you keep the water fresh and your flowers should last carefree for at least a couple of weeks.

Also, be sure to keep your flowers away from any ripening fruit.  See my “Don’t Mix Flowers and Fruit” post (http://floraphilia.net/?p=336) for more info.

To see tips on how to select the best bouquets, see my other post “More Fresh Flower Tips” (http://floraphilia.net/?p=342).

Most of all, enjoy!

First thing– before you get home- at the flower vendor, grab more packets of floral preservative.  One

packet is never enough and will make a weak solution that will actually accelerate flower demise.

Typically, the 1×1 inch preservative packets make a half-quart solution, and your average vase is one quart

in volume.  This means you will probably need at least two bags of the standard 100 gram pack preservative.

Look at the back of your package, it should tell you how much volume of water to use and pick up enough bags

of preservative to accommodate your container.  Using too little preservative is worse than using nothing,

so if you don’t have enough preservative, it’s better to use none at all. If you have extra solution, use it

to top off your water level or for water changes throughout the week.

With that out of the way, when you get home, cutaway, (don’t pull) any plastic or paper wrap.  Using a

paring knife, re-cut about an inch off of all the stems while they are submerged under warm water.  Try not

to use scissors because with tender flower stems you are reducing the ability of the cells to absorb/uptake

water by mashing and compacting the stem.
Instead, take a paring knife and cleanly slice the stems at an angle.
Cutting under water eliminates the potential for air pockets to form; air pockets will prevent full

hydration.   Next, remove only leaves that will be submerged in the container water.  Unless you are working

with hydrangeas or lilacs, don’t remove every single leaf because this reduces the flower’s overall ability

to rehydrate.  Leaves above water help flowers hydrate.  Tender leaves underwater tend to decay very quickly

and will promote flower rot.  Exceptions: for Hydrangeas and lilacs, you need to make sure to remove every

leaf to ensure hydration to blossom and prevent wilt.

For roses, remove thorns and the guard petals (if still not yet removed). Removing the guard petals,

(dullish, papery petals) will reveal the velvety, saturated petals of the rose beneath.

Start with a sanitized container. Use a preservative.   As blossoms fade, remove them.  Daily, add water or

change it if it is cloudy and add a correct preservative solution.

Most flowers will need a floral preservative, which is mostly a concoction of sugar and anti-bacterial

agents; however, if you are dealing with orchids, there is no need to use a preservative.  Just make sure

you keep the water fresh and the orchids should last for at least a couple of weeks.

Also, be sure to keep your flowers away from any ripening fruit.  See my “Don’t Mix Fresh-cut Flowers and

Fruit” post at http://floraphilia.net/?p=336 for more info.

To see tips on how to select the best bouquets, see my other post “More Fresh Flower Tips”

(http://floraphilia.net/?p=342).

Most of all, enjoy!

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28 Jul 2010

More Fresh Flower Tips – How to Select Fresh-cut Flowers

calla abstract

[Calla lilly]

Careful selection is key.  Get the healthiest, freshest bunch possible by taking a peek at the stems.  Consider how clean and fresh the cut is, and the color of the stems near the cut: are the stems black?  If so, pass.  Are the stem bottoms clogged with white gooey stuff?  Pass.  Is the bucket-water cloudy or dark?  If yes, you may want to look for a vendor that takes better care of their merchandise or at least find a bucket with clean water.  While you’re checking your stems, be careful not to drip water on the tops of other bouquets, because this encourages disease.

Now inspect the health and quality of the foliage and flowers.  If you see black or grey slimy spots, pass!!  In fact, I recommend choosing from an entirely different bucket. The black spots are a fungus that spreads like wildfire and is very common problem caused by moisture on the leaves.  (Careless customers or vendors that allow water to fall onto the leaves of the bouquets are usually the culprit.)  Don’t think you can simply remove the offending foilage because the disease has usually spread beyond your sight and you’ll likely find afflicted areas tomorrow that you thought were okay today.  I honestly think this is the most common problem I see at big box stores, and local grocers.

Many tropicals, protea, orchids, chrysanthemum and “Peruvian lilies” or alstromeria are among the longest lasting of cut flowers.  If those are available to choose from, I would go straight for those.  Look for netted socks around the mums (this protects them during shipment) and look for orchid and tropical stems to be individually packaged in water vials.  For tropicals, keep the display area humid by misting your flowers early each morning because too dry of air will hasten senescence.  Most South American roses will be open and spongey and fresh, so looking for only tight hard roses isn’t always necessary, it really depends on the variety and source.  Personally, I pass on roses unless they are grown organically.  Peonies should be tight, almost closed, if you expect to get decent shelf-life from them.  Tulips are easy to pick : if they are squeeky and the bottom stems are clean, they are prime.

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26 Jul 2010

Want a Long Lasting bouquet? Don’t Mix Fruit With Fresh-Cut Flowers – Ethylene Shortens Flower Shelf-life

[One of my constructions using Ti leaves, rocks, bamboo, wheat grass, dendrobium and horsetail.]

Not everyone knows that if you want your cut flowers to last, you should keep them away from ripening fruit, especially apples and bananas.  Artists and grocers love to combine cut flowers and ripe fruit for aesthetics, but if you’re one for practicality, and are trying to get the best value out of your cut flowers, keep them far away from ripening fruit because ethylene, a plant hormone and bi-product from ripening fruit, will radically shorten the shelf-life of flowers.

As with anything there are exceptions, and one exception is if you are using the fruit as an element in the design, such as using a melon for a container, or if you know that a particular flower has been cultivated specifically to resist ethylene (right now, this is rare, but there may be more cultivars in the future).  I would stick to tropical flowers if using a fruit container, since many tropicals are not sensitive to ethylene.

Here are a list of flowers I’ve collected that are not or are minimally affected by ethylene:

  • Anthurium,
  • Aster,
  • Callas,
  • Chrysanthemum,
  • Dendrobium,
  • Gerbera daisy,
  • Ginger,
  • Heliconia (Parrot Flower),
  • Iris,
  • Liatris,
  • Protea,
  • Snapdragon (some cultivars are ethylene resistant, most are not resistant),
  • Strelitzia (Bird of Paradise)

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