Monday, May 16, 2016

Gingers in tropical arrangements medicinal spices

Colorful, Exotic Gingers Bring Tropics to Every Arrangement: Medicine, Spices, and Beauty in the Zingiberaceae Family

Fiery flowers blossom on thick stems.  These exotic flowers look like torches, maracas, bee hives, tropical snow, lemon lights … other-worldly whose names match their beauty. Their spicy scent perfumes the room. The Zingiberacaea Family are exquisite tropical flowers used in ornamental decorations, gardens, for medicinal purposes, and commonly as spices in Asian foods (turmeric, ginger and cardamom). 

The Zingiberaceae are the healers of the plant world – bringing health through the spices we extract from them. Ginger is well-known for its anti-nausea effects. More studies have shown it can help with arthritis and joint pain, as it works as an anti-inflammatory. More recent studies have shown ginger to have anti-cancer benefits, in particular the battle of prostate cancer.

One of our favorite plants is a member of the ginger family – the curcuma. (Many don’t realize that domestic curcuma is used to make turmeric and orange dye!)Turmeric is the symbol of protection and purity and its properties are used to treat everything from arthritis (it’s an anti-inflammatory) to rheumatism and coughs. Cardamom is used to improve digestion, gas, and stomach cramps.

White, violet, red, orange, or blush, the Zingiberaceae family comes in every color, shape and size. Zingiberaceae can grow big, but not as big as their cousins, the heliconia.  And because of the vast variety of this flower species (over 1300 species and 52 genera), their popularity has started to grow, not only in spices and to extract medicinal properties, but also in gardens and tropical flower arrangements.

Tropicals add fire, color, and a touch of the exotic to any arrangement. And because of how spectacular they are, they’re appropriate for any occasion. Dainty orchids are perfect to congratulate a new mom. 

Torches of gingers with colorful flowers are a perfect thank you. Bring Maui to your mom with a Mother’s Day arrangement. Exotic flower arrangements are unexpected and welcomed. Add the fact that an exotic flower arrangement doesn’t get lost in the room, blend in with the surroundings. In fact, a tropical arrangement becomes the center piece.

Many hotels and restaurants are opting for tropicals because of how memorable they are. They work in branding, so that guests and diners remember the feeling of the Caribbean, an island paradise, or the shock of colorful shapes and spires that welcome them when they walk into the lobby. A tropical arrangement, then, becomes an escape into something that’s not part of the mundane. It transports, inspires, and surprises.

The Zingiberaceae Family is an integral part of this new trend in tropical arrangements. Add the spicy scent of the flowers – the strongest of our senses – and these flowers have the capability of bringing the tropics wherever we are. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Magical Realism of Colombian Orchids: Give the Gift of the Tropics

Colombia’s magical realism begins with its phenomenal flora. The national flower, the cattleya trianae (the Christmas Orchid), with its vibrant purple colors and sensual form is a superb representation a country that hums with life, music, and color.  With over 1500 known orchid species in Colombia alone – a new orchid was discovered just in 2014 in the Valle de Cauca – Colombia leads the world in orchids and orchid exportation.  Orchids are the real jewels of Colombia.

Orchids have been around since, literally, the beginning of time, as there’s evidence they’ve existed approximately 100 million years.  But this is no accident, as there’s a highly specialized relationship between orchids and their pollinators to insure their survival.  They are masters of disguise, looking like butterflies, owls, birds and bees to insure they get pollinated. This means if an insect goes extinct, so, too, will the orchid. The symbiosis of nature and all its elements is phenomenal, adding to the magic of what orchids are and their special meaning to the world and our existence here as well.

Orchids get their rather sensual name from the Greek, orchis, meaning testicle. And Greeks believed orchids were a symbol of fertility and virility. In Victorian England, orchids were a sign of wealth and elegance, most likely due to their exotic nature. In ancient China, orchids symbolized innocence and the forthcoming of many children (which is a bit contradictory however we’ll take it.) The Azteks believed orchids gave them strength and power. And in the Japanese Samurai culture, a Samurai who brought back the gift of the orchid to the royal court was considered brave and fortunate. Today, though, no one doubts the rare, delicate, sensual beauty of the orchid and what this gift imparts.

Those who love orchids and collect them will pay nearly any price for them. The Rothschild’s Orchid costs approximately $5000.00 per plant and Shenzhen Nongke orchid a whopping $202,000.00 per plant. But don’t shy away from delving into the world of orchids, as surreal and beautiful as they are, they are affordable and pretty easy to care for.
This past year, Colombia showed record exports for Valentine’s Day, as over half a billion flowers were shipped from Colombia to the United States this past February. 

A significant chunk of that is the blossoming orchid market. These exotic, colorful stems are growing in popularity around the world, and it’s no wonder. These perennials are not so difficult to care for, and with just a few steps, your orchids will bloom, and re-bloom, giving your home, office, or classroom the luxurious smells and looks of the tropics. Each orchid will have specific care instructions, so make sure you ask about your particular orchid. Nevertheless, here are some basic indoor orchid care instructions.

  1. Orchids need very moist, well-draining conditions.
  2. Don’t over-water your orchids, or you’ll kill the roots. Most orchids need watering every 8 – 12 days, depending on the conditions. But they need to dry out between watering. Check for moisture by touching the medium.
  3. Humidity is key! A great place for an orchid is a sunny bathroom (because of the shower!). Or, place it in a dish with water and pebbles.
  4. Don’t water the leaves or petals.
  5. Use specific orchid fertilizers on your plant. Follow the directions carefully and fertilize approximately once/month (after the orchid is in bloom). You might require more fertilizing while the plant is growing.
  6. Orchids need strong, indirect light. Many orchids don’t bloom for lack of light. (But make sure it doesn’t get sun burned!)
  7. Change the pot every year or two.

Orchids are an exquisite, classy gift for any occasion. There’s something phenomenal about giving life … exuberant, colorful, fragrant life.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The History of the Musaceae Family: From Bananas to Ornamental Plants

The Musa genus (the “banana plant”) has two genera (musa and ensete) and about 50 species (depending on who you ask!), most known and celebrated for its delicious fruits – the banana and plantain. A cousin of well-known tropical flowers like the Bird of Paradise, Heliconia, Canna Lily and Ginger, flowers in the Musaceae family have made their way into the ornamental plant market, adorning tropical bouquets with their exotic fiery colors, leathery textures, and curious forms.
Recognized as being native to Asia and Africa, evidence suggests that there were banana trees in North America 40 million years ago. Though it’s been cultivated for food for as far back as 10,000 years in tropical areas, Europeans didn’t get a taste of this delicacy until the 1500s. And edible bananas weren’t brought to The United States until 1876 during the Philadelphia World Exposition. Soon after, the world was hooked on their flavor and health properties. Now grown in 132 countries, the banana is the 4th most important fruit crop in the world.

Studies have shown that flowers in the hotel industry are a way for the customer to connect with the hotel and its brand. In fact, new trends have bouquets as an intrinsic part of a hotel branding strategy so that, based on bouquets alone, customers know which hotels they’re in. With so much focus being placed on the importance of the experience, hotels are finding ways to create experiences with their arrangements, taking customers on a journey through their walls with the main wow moment in the entrance.

With over 50 species, and not all of them edible, tropical flower farmers saw an opportunity to cultivate the musa ornate and musa coccinea among others. Resistant, rustic and exotic, growing Musaceae was a natural choice. With a growing tropical bouquet market, introducing new, exotic flowers into the market helps diversify as well as celebrate the jewels of the earth.
The Musaceae family brings an exotic, unforgettable experience to any arrangement, providing us all with that wow moment.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Six Tips to Care For Your Heliconia Flower Arrangement: Bring the Tropics Home

Bracts cascade in fountains of color – from shimmery red with midnight tips to blush pink and candy corn orange. Shaped like lobster claws, parrots beaks, and torches with a waxy sheen or fuzzy exterior, heliconias are some of nature’s most fantastic creations
When we fall in love with the flower, we’re not actually in love with the flower of the heliconia, instead its bracts. These bracts steal the show from the tiny flowers that are tucked within them. But they serve their purpose, as they protect the flower and its nectar from most animals, reserving the sweet honey for the heliconia’s greatest pollinator – the hummingbird. And, like bromeliads, the bracts in heliconias house many beetles, mosquito larvae, and other tropical insects.

The Heliconiacaea family, cousin of the banana, has over 200 registered species that look like they’ve come straight from a science fiction movie. Once considered weeds because they are so common in the tropical region, these exotic flowers have made their way into the mainstream flower market, as their beauty has captured the hearts and imaginations of florists around the world.
Because the heliconia ranges in size from 1.5 to 15 feet with Jurassic Park leaves that grow as big as ten feet, the possibilities for tropical flower arrangements are endless. Popular for events, weddings, and hotel decorations, heliconias add splashes of color and an exotic feel to every arrangement.

Here are some tips on how to care for and arrange your beautiful tropical flower arrangement of heliconias:

1. Get a heavy vase. These flowers aren’t dainty – usually. So make sure you have a sturdy vase that won’t tip over with their weight.
2. If using floral foam, soak it with warm water in the vase until it sinks to the bottom.
3. When vase water comes to room temperature, add the preservative packet that came with your flowers.
4. Wipe off dusty bracts with a warm washcloth.
5. Cut the stems diagonally approximately one inch from the bottom.
6. Arrange!
7. Replace water every few days until your flowers start to lose their sheen.
8. Dried heliconia flowers are gorgeous. So consider hanging them until they’ve dried to keep them year ‘round.

Heliconias and the flower arrangements made with them can be anything from delicate, using the heliconia family’s smallest species, to bold and audacious. Regardless of how you use them, they’ll captivate the attention of anyone who comes in the door. So, bring a taste of the tropics home today.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colombian Tropical Flowers: A Brief History of How Weeds Became Jewels

Colombia’s magical realism is not only a reflection of its people. It also comes from its unique, lush landscape. The weird animals. The mystical woods, jungles, and spongy alpine tundras. Weather is extreme – from deluges of rain to unbearable dry heat on the plains. Tropical forests drip with humidity and the oddest beings grow there. The colors, shapes, forms, and smells of Colombia’s tropical flowers are where science fiction comes from. They are magical realism.

What started out as a thesis from a horticulture grad student at the University of Colorado became a revolution and changed the economic course of Colombia. Initially flower cultivations were centered in Bogota – because of its location (just three hours from Miami) and unique geographic, climatic and soil conditions. Sun all day long in a temperate climate with cheap labor – these factors added up to an economic boom. Now the second biggest exporter of flowers in the world shipping, annually, more than a billion dollars in flowers, Colombia has flower power.

Roses, carnations, gerbera daisies and alstroemeria lilies were bunched and shipped to, predominantly, the United States. The biggest supplier of flowers in the US were small US farms, complemented by Colombian bunches. The Colombian flower market really got a boost when, in 1991, all duties on Colombian flower imports were lifted to stimulate the flower industry. The US went from importing 100 million blooms each year to two billion each year over the following 12 years.

Ironically, a country that boasts the most tropical varieties of plants and flowers never looked, for years, beyond the traditional blooms for exportation. The hundreds of varieties of Heliconias were considered weeds. In the 1990s, though, that began to change.
Farmers throughout the country started to see possibilities in the tropical flower industry – initially focusing on big bouquets for hotels and decorations. Many uprooted coffee, fruit and other traditional cultivations and started to grow tropical flowers. These farmers formed a network and began to trade species and tips. Flowers need leaves. So foliage cultivations started as well. Add national incentives, consultations, agricultural experts, and a legacy of successful flower exportation, the tropical Colombian flower market is on the rise.

Tropical cut flowers won’t ever compete in numbers with the traditional stems. Though tropical flowers are only 4% of all cut flowers in the world (an estimated 1% in the USA), with a billion blooms per year from Colombia alone, that’s potential for 40 million cut tropical flowers in a year. The US, Japan, Germany and Italy are the biggest importers of tropical flowers. Colombia shares this market space with The Netherlands and Hawaii, but because of its perfect climatic conditions – remember, heliconias were considered weeds – and less expensive labor, Colombian flower farmers are finding a niche market with their tropical jewels.

Sharing the exotic world of Colombian tropical flowers, the colors and fragrances, exuberance and textures, is giving a piece of Colombia to the world, a window to Colombia’s beauty. A bouquet of magical realism.