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Know Your Roots: The Rose

The rose was first grown and cultivated in China over 5,000 years ago, but it didn’t garner attention until much later. It was actually the ancient Greeks and Romans that popularized the thorny flower. They used it’s petals in perfumes, medicine and even shredded them for use in confetti. The rose is closely related to the goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, and it’s a reoccurring symbol in many works of literature. In the Iliad, Aphrodite protects Hector with the “oil of the rose”. Furthermore, in the story of Adonis it’s said that the rose was stained red from Aphrodite’s blood. After the Christianization of the Roman Empire the rose became synonymous with the Virgin Mary. A “rosary” unsurprisingly gets its name from the rose. But the flower wasn’t exclusive to the Greeks and Romans.

image from Business Insider.

Roses were also grown extensively in the Middle East region. The name “rose” is derived from the Latin “rosa”, but was first translated from a few extinct Iranian languages; most notably from the word “war” in the Parthian language. Ironically enough the rose went on to become a symbol of war in England during the fifteenth century. As factions fought against each other to control the throne, roses were used to show an individual’s allegiance; white roses were displayed for the York’s and red roses for the Lancaster’s. The conflict even went on to become known as the “War of the Roses” and eventually eliminated the male lines of both families.

The war lasted over thirty years and inadvertently made the rose one of the most sought after flowers on the planet. Roses were in such high demand that they were considered legal tender throughout the sixteenth century. Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, was so in love with the flower that she curated her own collection of the most exotic and sought after breeds. Even with interest sky-high, people were interested in growing the rose not gifting it. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that the rose really became commonplace as a cut flower. They were bred to be disease-resistant and survive in extreme climates, making them the perfect flower for growers and buyers alike.

Those interested in growing roses should plant them in a sunny spot; roses love the sun, at least 6 hours of it per day. Adding banana peels to the soil supplies the flowers with a much-needed kick of phosphorus to help them grow. Alfalfa is also another nutrient-rich meal for roses, providing nitrogen, calcium, iron, phosphorus, and a fatty acid that specifically promotes healthy growth. Apply a 2-3 inch layer of coarse organic mulch to protect against foliage disease, as it greatly reduces the amount of splashing water onto the roses. And one last piece of advice; roses need to be carefully and regularly pruned.

Know Your Roots: The Weeping Willow

The Weeping Willow originates in Asia and parts of northern China, however, a mistranslation of the bible has led to confusion surrounding its origin story. Psalm 137 states that “Hebrew slaves wept for Zion under willow trees”. Naturally, this must be where the name “weeping willow” comes from, right?

photo by thespruce.com

Wrong. As it turns out, Babylon Willow trees were actually a form of Poplar. So in actuality, the name “Weeping Willow” is nothing more than a derivative of the trees appearance; it appears to “weep” when it’s raining, with “tears” dripping from its drooped branches and leaves.

The willow tree is valued or its numerous implications in modern society. Historically, the weeping willow has been used medicinally to treat fever and aches. Its bark contains salicin, an anti-inflammatory agent and one of the main components of aspirin. Scholars have wrote of the willow providing headache and pain-relief since before 500 B.C.

As we look further back in history, the willow tree has been used to make baskets, fish nets and for basic crafts. Some of the oldest fishing nets discovered date back to 8300 B.C. The branches of the willow are still manufactured today for nets, baskets and numerous other products. The bark of a willow, when not used for its salicin, is crushed and formed into charcoal pencils.

There are many mystical and spiritual properties associated with the willow and the tree is often depicted offering wisdom or protection throughout ancient folklore. In China, for example, it’s still common practice to include willow branches outside of a home or bedroom to ward off evil spirits. In Japan the willow is thought to bring about ghosts wherever one is planted. Ukrainians hold the willow in such high regard that it is their national tree.

In true “live fast, die young” fashion, the willow tree is among the fastest growing plants on the planet; growing up to ten feet each year. However, the lifespan of a willow relative to other trees is fairly short.  A willow tree will live thirty to fifty years before dying, but if they are lucky (or rather in an ideal situation) some have known to live upwards of seventy-five years.

If you wish to incorporate a willow tree into your own landscape, placement is key. The weeping willow needs an excessive amount of water to support its fast paced (fast growing) lifestyle, so often they are planted beside ponds or areas prone to flooding. Its roots are thick and they spread out under the ground searching for nutrients so avoid planting the willow tree near sidewalks or close to sewer pipes. But, don’t be too worried, the roots aren’t always destructive. Strategically planting willow trees can help stop erosion and is an adequate drainage solution for areas experiencing higher volumes of water.

Know Your Roots: The Venus Flytrap

The Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) has been the subject of fascination for centuries, and for good reason. The carnivorous plant is indeed a trap; a scientific marvel in every right. An unsuspecting insect or spider perched on the flytrap’s bright pink leaves will rarely escape. The key to this intricate trap? Tiny hairs protruding from the leaves.

The hairs act as a trigger mechanism for those unfortunate enough to make contact. If potential prey touch a hair, a timer is set. The Venus flytrap gives the visitor twenty seconds to flee and live to see another day. However, if one of the hairs is touched a second time within the twenty seconds then the “jaws” of the trap spring closed, trapping prey inside.

Jagged “teeth” line the edge of the leaves, snapping shut like a bear trap and offering little chance of escape. The teeth don’t completely close, however, allowing smaller prey a second lease on life. It’s a calculated move by the Venus flytrap; anything small enough to pass through its teeth wouldn’t be worth digesting. If this is the case, the trap will open up again within twelve hours, its sweet nectar ready for the next unfortunate guest.

The Venus flytrap has mastered the art of conserving energy, it’s even smart enough to distinguish between a potential meal and non-beneficial stimuli such as raindrops. It can also gauge the size of its prey by using its tiny hairs. Once the trap is closed these sensitive hairs feel for any movement or signs of a struggle. If the hairs are touched five times in quick succession, the flytrap’s grip tightens and the digestion process begins.

It’s an ingenious trap, and one of nature’s most interesting creations. Most think of the Venus flytrap as this exotic plant, exclusive to rainforests and foreign lands, but the flytrap is actually native to our region. The plant was first discovered and documented by North Carolina’s governor in the late 18th century; a plant he named the flytrap. Growing a Venus flytrap has its challenges, but nonetheless it can be achieved. If you want to grow some flytraps of your own try reading this guide here.

Know Your Roots: The Tulip

The tulip was synonymous with wealth and power among Sultans and became interwoven in middle-eastern folklore. According to legend, there once was a prince who rode his horse off a cliff after learning his lover had died. He, of course, died as well and it’s said that a scarlet tulip grew from each drop of blood (I imagine there were lots of tulips). This is why, historically, the tulip has been depicted as a symbol of true and perfect love. Scholars speculate that the name “tulip” is derived from the Persian word for “turban”, which the flower broadly resembles.

photo by J. Parkers

The tulip is the national flower of Turkey, the country from which the flower is said to originate, however its true origin is much harder to pinpoint. Records suggest botanists from the Ottoman Empire were the first to grow tulips and their influence was much greater than modern-day Turkey. The Ottomans occupied stretches along the Black Sea, Russia and even Asia; where the flower was cultivated before even the tenth century. The tulip would remain exclusive to this far-reaching empire for centuries, until western diplomats observed their beauty in the 1500’s. After successful trading, the flower was introduced to Europe where it was met with frenzied acclaim.

Europeans were dazzled by the tulip’s beauty, but none more enthralled than those from the Netherlands. Carolus Clusius, the recently appointed head botanist of Western Europe’s first botanical garden, was determined to get his tenure off to a good start. After seeing beautiful drawings of the exotic flower, Clusius became obsessed with bringing the tulip to his fellow Dutchmen. Through a connection in Asia he was able to obtain some bulbs and began testing the flower for any medicinal properties. However, when the flower produced little to no hope in the medical field, he decided that it would be best used as an ornamental. Little did Clusius know, others had also seen the drawings and the tulip was about to soar in popularity.

Carolus Clusius was the only person in the country who had access to the flower and only sold them away to the highest of bidders; mainly royalty and those well connected. It wasn’t long before bulbs were stolen from the botanist’s home and the rest is, well, history.  Bulbs from the newly imported flower made their way around the country with demand sky-high and a price-point to match. It was “Tulip Mania”; a term still used today to describe an economic bubble. The Netherlands love affair with the tulip never ended, however, and they are now the largest producers of commercially grown tulips in the world; cultivating nearly 10 billion flowers each year.

The petals of a tulip most commonly form in shades of red, pink, yellow or white. The bottom of the petals will usually have some variation in color on the interior side. The bulbs should be planted 4-8 inches below the ground and 4-6 inches apart. The tulip is a perennial so plant it in late summer or fall and expect to see blooms in the spring. Join in on the mania and plant some tulips today!

Know Your Roots: The Lotus

First appearing in India and East-Asia, the Lotus flower has been intertwined with eastern culture and religion for thousands of years. It’s a sacred symbol of purity and rebirth in Buddhism and Hinduism. The aquatic perennial, not to be mistaken for a waterlily, is also the national flower of both India and Vietnam.

 

Like most plants, the Lotus flower was originally grown as a source of food and also used medicinally. The Indians would make tea from the leaves and pedals, and Asians would eat the seeds and rhizomes. The Lotus was cultivated from special water gardens and provided beauty and a meal to those farming the crop. It also provided them with something else; mystery. The farmers were mystified by the Lotus’s nightly routine. Every night the flower would submerge underneath the murky waters and breach the surface with the next day’s rising sun. The Lotus would emerge just as beautiful as the day before, its petals clean and unfazed by a night in muddy water. It was this daily “rebirth” that made the flower so sacred throughout eastern culture and religion.

A beautiful flower born and reborn from the mud each day, it’s not hard to see why the Lotus was associated with purity, divinity and the Gods. In Buddhism it’s said that the Buddha himself (Siddhartha Gautama) first appeared on a floating Lotus and that the flower grew wherever he stepped. Hindus associate the divine flower with many of their Gods, such as Vishnu and Lakshmi, and the Lotus is frequently depicted alongside them in paintings and statues.

It’s not just the Lotus’s daily “rebirth” that associates the flower with divinity. The Lotus can actually live for over a thousand years; an unnatural longevity that draws parallels with the immortality of a God. The seeds are even still viable after a thousand years, which was proven in the 90’s when a Lotus bloomed from a 1300 year old seed. As if living for a millennium wasn’t cool enough, researchers from Australia’s University of Adelaide discovered something else remarkable. They found that the Lotus has the ability to regulate its temperature within a very narrow range, much like humans or other warm-blooded animals. They suspect that the flower maintains a warmer temperature to attract cold-blooded pollinators.

Planting the Lotus flower is quite easy if you already have a water source, and if not you can create your own water garden. The water should be at least one foot deep and no more than 8 feet. If you plant them in too shallow of water they won’t be able to perform their nightly “rebirth” ritual. Plant them deeper than 8 feet and they aren’t able to reach the surface. Lotus love the mud so make sure your soil is nutrient-rich and made up of sand, silt and clay. Three months after planting you will have beautiful flowers ready to be harvested. After 4-8 months you can eat the seeds, just make sure they have turned black. After 6-9 months the rhizomes will be mature enough to consume. However, if you are like me, I won’t be harvesting the Lotus at all, I’ll be admiring its beauty.

Know Your Roots: The Dahlia

The summer months seem to produce the most beautiful flowers, however, there are plenty of late bloomers just as eye-catching; namely the Dahlia. Typically planted in August, the Dahlia offers gorgeous blooms that stay full until first frost. The flower has long been a favorite among gardeners for its seemingly endless varieties and for how quickly it grows.

Photo by RHS.

Native to Mexico, the Dahlia was originally used as a food crop; its roots harvested and consumed by indigenous people of the region. Aztecs used the flower’s hollow stem as water pipes and makeshift vials for medicine. The Dahlia would remain exclusive to Mexico for hundreds of years before being introduced to Europe in the late eighteenth century. Vicente Cervantes, the Botanical Gardens Director of Mexico City, wanted to play his part in the global effort to name and catalog our planets plants. It was common practice to send plants between countries, not only for research but to preserve the different species, so Cervantes sent Dahlia specimens to the Royal Gardens Director of Madrid, Antonio Jose Cavanilles.  Antonio was able to successfully grow the flower in Spanish soil, naming it “Dahlia” after Ander Dahl, a Swedish botanist who studied under the “father of modern taxonomy” Carolus Linnaeus.

From Spain, the flower traveled all over Europe; seeds were sent to Italy, France, the Netherlands, England, Germany, Switzerland, etc. The Dahlia went on to become one of the most cultivated flowers of all time, spreading its roots all over Europe and eventually to gardens around the world. To date, there are over 40 different species of the Dahlia and over 50,000 registered varieties in a plethora of shapes and colors. Oddly enough, you won’t ever find a blue Dahlia. Breeders have tried to produce the blue hue for centuries, only achieving variations of purple, mauve and lilac. To this day, a blue Dahlia has never been created.

Even though many people refer to them as bulbs, the Dahlia’s roots are actually potato-like tubers. These thick tubers sponge up nutrients, prompting the Dahlia’s hollow stems to sprout directly from the root. When planting Dahlias be sure to dig your holes deep and work in a nice mix of fertilizer and compost. They don’t need much time to grow, but they do need space so be aware of which variety you’re planting and space accordingly. Most Dahlias have to be staked and tied off as they grow, otherwise the weight of the quick growing flowers will be too much for the hollow stems to bear. Enjoy your beautiful Dahlias until the first frost when the flower dies out; leaving behind its nutrient packed tubers to be collected and planted the following year. Cut the stems a few inches above the tuber, wash the dirt off, and let them dry out in the sun. Note: Be sure to label your tubers if you have multiple varieties. After your tubers are dry put them in a paper bag (not plastic) with peat moss or sawdust and store them in a cool spot.

The Dahlia offers an abundance of different shapes, colors, and sizes to choose from; ranging from a few inches tall to the “Dinnerplate” variety which produces a flower that’s 10-12 inches in diameter. It’s a no-brainer this versatile flower has been celebrated all around the world, leading to many Dahlia shows and organizations. The American Dahlia Society has been working to provide information and promote interest in the Dahlia for over a hundred years. They are made up of over 70 local societies across the United States and Canada, each having their own shows and events. The ADS also holds a national Dahlia show each year, where gardeners can showcase their best flowers. If you also share a passion for the amazing Dahlia, or want to attend a local show, click the link here.

The Automower: Never Mow Your Lawn Again

Technological advances and autonomous machines have paved the way for a society of infinite possibilities. Medical breakthroughs are now normal, driver-less vehicles are on the rise, and we’re edging closer to a manned mission to Mars. In many ways we have blurred the lines between science fiction and reality. Technology makes our lives easier and some of our favorite tech happens to revolve around everyone’s least favorite thing; household chores. Not only do we have machines that wash our clothes and clean our dishes, we now have robots that vacuum our house. I don’t know if that’s a “work smarter not harder” innovation or just the product of laziness, but either way I can’t complain. As time goes on household automation will only increase, and now even yard work is being automated. Yes, mowing your lawn is a thing of the past thanks to the Automower by Husqvarna.

 

 

It operates much like a Roomba (robotic vacuum); continuously cutting your grass and returning to a charging base whenever its batteries are low. Husqvarna boasts that the autonomous mower silently navigates around your yard, cutting your grass evenly and to whatever length that you prefer. Thanks to its quiet operation, the Automower is able to mow your grass throughout the night without waking the neighbors. It’s weatherproof, as is the charging station, and works to cut your grass rain or shine.

How does it work? The Automower navigates your yard with the help of boundary wires installed along the outside of your property. Any trees or mulch beds also get wired off in order to create a defined perimeter. Once the mower gets near the buried wires it turns around and heads in another direction, mowing your lawn in a variety of patterns. Simply turn the device on, select your preferred settings and let it go to work; “set it and forget it” says Husqvarna. An app lets you choose which days it operates or you can set it to work around clock.

However, just like most autonomous machines, there are some drawbacks. The main drawback is the cost. Not only are the machines expensive, but boundary wire installation is also expensive. Another expense you’ll notice is a steep electric bill; I imagine operating the self-charging Automower 24/7 won’t come cheap. Also, your yard work isn’t entirely eliminated; the grass around boundary wires, especially those set around flowerbeds and trees, will still need to be trimmed with a weed-eater.

The Automower, with its futuristic design, is an undoubtedly cool concept. I have to admit that never having to mow your lawn is appealing, but the technology is still very new and thus the costs remain high. I wouldn’t recommend the Automower just yet, but there is another solution if you never want to mow again. You guessed it, give Roanoke Landscapes a call at 540-772-0079! We will make sure your property is always looking picture-perfect.

To learn more on the Husqvarna Automower visit their website here.

Curb Appeal: Landscaping Adds Value To Your Home

If you have the time and money then renovating your home is a smart investment. You get a more comfortable space and your home increases in value; it’s a win-win situation. But renovations don’t have to be limited to the interior. When you think of renovating your home what comes to mind? A new kitchen, new bathroom, tearing down the walls? I guess it’s only natural that these come to mind, but sometimes you have to think “outside the box”. Renovating your home’s exterior raises its perceived value by 10 percent or more on average.

photograph from homes.com

Busted pipes, additional costs, unknown problems, we’ve all seen those HGTV shows. If you’re looking to sell your home in the future don’t rely on polishing the inside and staging elegant furniture (although that helps). Instead, rely on good old fashioned curb appeal. They say not to judge a book by its cover, but people will inevitably judge a house by its landscape, even if it’s subconsciously. Potential buyers notice a well-manicured lawn, but homes with sophisticated landscape design and larger plants don’t only get noticed they get sold.

In a 1999 study, survey respondents from seven states were shown a picture of a suburban home with a mowed lawn and concrete walkway. They were then shown 16 other photographs of the same home with varying landscapes. Some included smaller plants, some focused on color and others had a strong emphasis on design. The designs ranged from foundation planting only, foundation planting with a large standalone flower bed or foundation planting with a couple spaced trees in the lawn. A few of the designs even included a colored concrete walkway. The plants in the study were in one of three variations; Evergreen only, Evergreen and deciduous, or Evergreen and deciduous with bright-colored perennials. The plants also varied in size.

After seeing the pictures, survey respondents were asked what they would pay for each home and what influenced their decisions. They attributed design sophistication and plant size to a perceived increase in the home’s value. How much of an increase? If the plants were larger and the design included pops of color, they would shell out an average of 10-12 percent more for the home. So, whether you’re wanting to standout in the neighborhood or you intend on selling your home in the near future, try upgrading your landscape before tearing down those walls.

Alternatives to Traditional Wood Mulch

Mulching provides more than just a tidy look to your landscape. It’s more than aesthetics. The mulch creates an insulated layer above the soil, which helps to regulate soil temperature. This is essential to shielding and protecting the roots of your plants in winter. Mulch slows the evaporation process and retains moisture, leading to healthier plants and less frequent watering. It breaks down over time; introducing nutrients to the soil and improving the soil’s overall texture. A layer of mulch also acts as a safety net to suppress weeds. When people think of mulch they tend to think of shredded wood or bark, but there are actually many alternatives. Let’s take a look at a few below.

 

Rock

Marble chips, river rocks, gravel, and any other type of stone can be applied around trees and in flower beds as an alternative form of mulch. These work to suppress pesky weeds and are an economical choice since they don’t degrade or break down like wood or bark mulch. However, because rock doesn’t break down, nutrients aren’t periodically released back into the soil. Don’t worry, this minor setback is easily remedied by regularly applying fertilizer to the beds. Rocks come in all shapes and sizes so you can achieve just about any look you want. Use them to compliment the stone architectural features of your home or for a contrast in color to the plants in your bed.

 

Rubber

Though often found on playgrounds, rubber mulch is a good alternative to add to your beds. It’s made from 100% recycled rubber and usually comes from shredded discarded tires. Why let them sit in a landfill when you can repurpose them in your beds? Aesthetically they can take on the appearance of bark mulch, but also come in a variety of styles. It’s another economical choice that won’t break down over time, so adding fertilizer is a necessity. Rubber insulates the soil better than traditional wood mulch and works really well when used in colder climates. It’s non-porous as well, allowing water to make its way directly to the soil without being absorbed by the mulch. The only downside to rubber mulch is that some forms of recycled rubber tend to release chemicals into the soil over long periods of time. Too much of these chemicals will harm or kill your plants.

 

Pine Straw

Using pine needles, or pine straw, is another common alternative to traditional mulch. It’s relatively inexpensive and releases nutrients into the soil just like bark mulch, so there’s no need for additional fertilizer. The abundance of needles will insulate while also allowing nutrients and oxygen into the soil better than most mulch. The drawback of pine needles is their high acidity. Turn this negative into a positive by pairing the pine straw with plants that like acidic soil; like tomatoes, roses or holly. To reduce the acidity try drying them out before laying them down.

Nutrient-Rich Edible Weeds In Your Lawn And Garden

Eradicating weeds from your landscape is pretty much a never-ending task. Just when you think they’re all gone, you blink and another appears. We pluck them, toss them, and never think about it again. But what if we’re doing it all wrong? Think about it. Weeds compete with your lawn and garden vegetables for nutrients, absorbing as much as they can get. It’s the reason they grow so quickly. So why let this overload of nutrients go to waste? I’m not talking about composting, I’m talking about making them your next meal. Here are three nutrient-filled edible weeds you’ll find in your garden and yard.

 

 

Dandelion

Dandelions are abundant, versatile and highly nutritious. They grow just about anywhere and you can eat the weed in its entirety. It’s packed with Vitamin A, E, K, B6, B2, B1, and C. The leaves are bitter and will taste even more so now that we’re close to fall. The bitterness helps to curb sugar cravings and is great for digestion. The roots are said to be a natural pick-me-up. Try roasting the root and mixing in a tea with honey. Also try mixing the yellow flowers in with stir-fly, or top your next salad with the chopped leaves.

 

 

Purslane

Purslane is a little-known “superfood” high in heart-healthy Omega-3’s and beta carotene. In fact, Purslane contains more Omega-3 fatty acids than any other green plant. It can be found in the cracks of sidewalks and just about anywhere throughout your landscape. The leaves are moisture-rich and have a tart lemon tang with an almost peppery arugula taste. Mix young Purslane raw with other greens, or eat it with oily/pungent foods like olives.

 

 

Lamb’s Quarter

Lamb’s Quarter is a leafy green that is basically a souped-up version of spinach. For comparison, just one cup of chopped lamb’s quarter gives you 464 mgs of calcium (compared to 30 in spinach), and 66 mgs of vitamin C (8.4 mg in spinach). It’s also rich in iron, protein, and Vitamins A, B1 and B2. The leaves can be sautéed or added to soup and you can cook the seeds like rice to make a hot and whole grain cereal. The seeds can also be used to make multi-grain breads. Note: Like spinach, Lamb’s Quarter contains oxalates and should be consumed in smaller amounts or mixed in with other greens.

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