Friday, October 30, 2009

The Allure of Black Roses for Halloween

Happy Halloween! Many of us are getting our pumpkins carved and the candy ready for trick-or-treaters. And perhaps some of you will be getting or giving a bouquet of black roses. For anyone who is wondering about the history of these mythical roses I found a wonderful article for you by one of my fellow authors on eZineArticles:

The Black Rose - A Magical, Mythical Beauty By Matt Murren

The mythical allure of black flowers has fascinated our attention for centuries. Black tulips and black roses appear to originate from a make believe fairytale world. A pure black flower is the Holy Grail of plant breeders worldwide. Their unnatural color inspires a powerful feeling of mystical expectation. If you were to receive a black rose bouquet, it could mean a variety of things. Possibly you had become a widower recently and you received the flowers as a token of bereavement, or perhaps it was a tell tale sign that you had offended someone and the dark bouquet was sent as a sign of revenge of retaliation.

In the time of the Edwardians at the cutting edge of fashion in the 19th century used to collect them, going to exceptional extent to track down these exotic species of flowers. Will this mysterious flower once more, at the dawn of a new century and a new millennium, become a source of artistic and philosophical inspiration? The black rose bouquet is also the beloved flower of Art Nouveau designers at the previous turn of the century.

The reality of the black rose is that it does not really, naturally exist. The so-called black tulip is actually very dark purple and the black rose is, in fact, very dark red. These flowers are quite popularly used in "Gothic type" environments or as a black rose bouquet in a wedding where the color palette is of a darker form. There are other less common cut flowers which occasionally occur in "black" forms - they all ooze decadence, mystery, fascination.

With their very unusual velvety soft petals, looking at a black rose bouquet will make you think of the comfy soft cushions of a luxurious and exquisitely decorated winter room. The scent of this mysterious black rose makes you float away to your favorite imaginary exotic place that is filled with the lovely aroma of these gorgeous black beauties. You can imagine, laying on a bed of black rose petals being fed by a gorgeous harem of worshippers fanning you with a big feather plume.

Creating a black rose bouquet is not simple, nor is it impossible either. To keep up with the dark, mystical feeling of the black, one of the greatest groupings is black roses mixed with ivy berries. They are available at the florists throughout the winter. The red-black color of the rose, with the blue-green black of the very creates a perfect harmony. Ask your florist of the darkest roses they have. See if they have "Black Magic", "Barkarole", "Black Beauty" or "Baccara" black roses. A completely black bouquet is very dark but impressive. It does, however, set off an air of somberness. Adding in glowers or greens with a red or brown tint can enrich the black color and give the bouquet a little more pizzazz and depth. You can also add some hypernicum or chili pods to give the bouquet a firey red tone. If it is around the holidays try putting a little sparkle into your bouquet by adding silver spray painted leaves. It will really jazz up your dark black rose arrangement.

Matt D Murren owns and operates Black Rose Bouquets. Article Source:,-Mythical-Beauty&id=1581623

Happy Halloween and Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Planting Tips: 3 Flowering Herbs to Plant Now In Southern California Gardens

It is a lucky cook who is able to pluck a few fresh sprouts from a nearby herb plant to spice up a dish on the stove. Here are a few fabulous herbs that do well in drought tolerant gardens. Fall is a perfect time to plant them, so get out there already!

Here are a few posts you may have missed featuring herbs for Southern California or other arid gardens. All three are perennial natives of the Mediterranean, so they match our western climate well. All grow in part shade to full sun either in the ground or in containers.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

Height: Up to 6 feet, but usually shorter, varieties are either upright or trailing.

Flowers: Winter and early spring, usually blue, but white and pink varieties can be found.

Rosemary has deep green, fragrant, leaves like pine needles. Mature rosemary branches have an interesting thin papery covering that looks like peeling bark.

In Victorian times, rosemary was used as a symbol of remembrance and carried by brides on their wedding day.

Cooking with Rosemary: Rosemary tastes good with meat, in soups or stews or with vegetables either fresh or dried.

Cut whole branches for stuffing into chickens or turkey. Save a few branches to put around your finished bird on the carving plate.

Bruise a few springs of rosemary and place them in olive oil or melted butter for dipping with French bread.

Layer slices of bread with fresh rosemary, wrap in foil then warm slightly. The essential oils will seep into the bread and the springs can be eaten raw.

Rosemary can be used to decorate your dishes; drop a fresh sprig on mashed potatoes, sliced meat dishes or soups and stews.

Read more about rosemary here…

Common or English Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)

Height: 12 inches tall and up to two feet around.

Flowers: In late spring to early summer, in white or pale pink.

English Thyme is a low-growing small shrub with 1/4 inch long leaves. They make nice groundcovers and also look dramatic spilling over the edge of garden urns.

Other varieties are good for use around paving stones where they can be brushed to perfume the air. Other unique aromatic varieties include; cocoanut, lemon, orange and caraway scented thyme.

Thyme is a classic ingredient in Medieval knot gardens. In ancient Greece it was used to give courage and to say someone "smelled of thyme" was a rich compliment. Thyme was burned to cleanse and purify temples and is said to be a favorite plant of elves and fairies.

Cooking with Thyme: Use thyme either fresh or dried. It goes well with poultry and eggs and adds rich flavor to soups, stews and sauces.

Read more about thyme here…

Culinary Sage (salvia officinalis)

Height: Three feet tall and almost as wide.

Flowers: In summer with blue or light blue flowers.

Culinary Sage is grayish green with square and woody stems. All parts of this plant are aromatic and usually covers with short hairs. Sage grows in full sun to partial, dappled shade, and are hardy to about 20 degrees.

Sage is a beautiful plant in flower, mix a few plants in your flower bed for added color.

Sage has been associated with longevity and wisdom since ancient times. It has also been used for blessing and protection, the Romans called it herba sacra, or Holy Herb.

Cooking with Sage: Try this hearty herb with beef or chicken. Fresh sage is great stuffed into chicken or turkey roasts and you can use the whole branch.

Pineapple sage is a close relative and adds a lighter flavor to food, tasting good with chicken or fish.

Read more about sage here…

The Southern California Chumash used the native white sage in religious ceremonies. Read more about our native Chumash peoples at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History,

Read all my herb posts here…

How To Dry Your Fresh Herbs: Hang them upside down in a cool dry place. Wrap branches with cheesecloth (or paper) or hang branches inside a large paper sack to keep off dust and insects. In a pinch you can just wrap them in paper towels for a few days. Keep dried herbs in airtight containers.

Happy Gardening!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fall Planting Tips: 3 Flowering Succulent Plants For Drought Tolerant Gardens And Containers

Succulents are plants that are able to store water in their stems and leaves, enabling them to live for long periods of time without water. They are similar to cactus but without the thorns (usually). This is a very large grouping of plants with many different colors, leaf shapes and growth habits. Most succulent plants flower during the year too, many during the dead of winter when little else can be coaxed into flowering.

In containers succulent plants will stay smaller and are often used as bonsai. These plants are also easy to propagate with leaf or stem cuttings. Fall is a great time to root cuttings. When the ground is moist after a rain try planting your branches in the ground where you want them to grow. Or try a few new varieties from the nursery. Some dependable plants you should consider for your Fall Planting list are:

Crassula Ovata or Jade Plant

Height: Up to 8 feet, smaller in containers
Flowers: Pale pink flower clusters in winter

Crassula ovata or Jade plants are shrubby plants that make excellent choices for dry gardens and container plants. Jades have thick, deep green leaves sometimes tinged with red on the edges. The leaf shape, like the name ovata implies, are oval from 1 - 2 inches long.

Crassula ovata develop thick, fat trunks that have an aged look and will eventually grow up to 8 feet tall. In late winter jade plants get 3 inch clusters of light pink to pale salmon flowers with five petals.

Depending on container size, Jade plants will stay smaller. They make nice patio plants. Read more posts about crassula ovata here…

Crassula Tetragona or Bonsai Pine

Height: Up to 4 feet, smaller in containers, used for bonsai
Flowers: Tiny creamy white flowers with a flat top on the tips of the branches

Crassula tetragona are drought tolerant succulent plants that look like pine branches with fat needles sticking out the sides, or perhaps a green bottle brush flower. These unique crassula are often used in bonsai containers to look like pine trees.

In the ground, they grow up to 4 feet tall. The plants will branch at the tips and can be used as a low, informal hedge. Crassula tetragona leaves are about an inch long and about 1/4 inch thick. Leaf color varies from green to deep, bluish green. These succulent plants can take full sun to light shade, love heat and are easy to root and grow. Their bristly leaves make a nice contrast to the oval leaves of Jade plants. Read more posts about crassula tetragona here…

Crassula Capitella or Campfire Plant

Height: Spreading mat up to 8 inches tall, good for containers and hanging baskets
Flowers: white on the tips of branches

Crassula capitella is sometimes called crassula erosula and has common names like Red Flames or Campfire Plant. It has bright, lime green leaves with flaming orange red tips. These plants can take full sun to light shade, but they seem to change color depending on the amount of sunlight they get. When grown in shade, they are bright apple green most of the year. Full sun brings out more red on the leaves.

It gets tiny white flowers on upright stalks in early spring. Crassula capitella spreads by runners and will eventually form a mat about 6 – 8 inches tall. They are great for hanging baskets or draping over a sloping garden. Read more posts about crassula capitella here…

Read all my posts about the diverse Crassulaceae family here... Happy gardening!


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