Friday, June 24, 2011


Also known as hedge clippers or trimmers, hedge shears are devices that are used to trim decorative shrubbery and other types of plants. Designed for residential and commercial use, the shears make it possible to manicure the landscape around a home, commercial building, or other type of edifice. Hedge shears come in several sizes and with different options for a power source. The choice of the make and model for the hedge shear equipment often depends on the intended purpose the shears will serve, and the personal preferences of the user.
Basic hedge shears are simple devices composed of two sharp blades and a set of handles that make it possible to open and close the blades at will. The basic shears rely on the strength of the user to manage the task of trimming hedge bushes or cutting through other types of plants, such as thin tree limbs. Operating shears of this kind normally requires a fair amount of strength in the upper body, especially, the forearms and wrists. In terms of care, the blades are cleaned and honed regularly in order to maintain the tool in proper working order.
Electric hedge shears are also a popular option today among both commercial and residential users. Shears of this type make use of electrical current supplied by a cord that connects the tool with a power outlet. Models developed in the latter part of the 20th century include the presence of a battery that can be charged at an outlet, allowing the shears to operate continually for anywhere from a half-hour to two hours. Professional hedgeshears are often electric models that are capable of running with battery power.
Another popular option with cordless hedge shears are the gasoline powered hedge clippers. Devices of this type make use of a small tank of gasoline, roughly the same size as the tank found on a standard push mower. While slightly heavier than the electric shears, many homeowners prefer the gasoline powered versions, simply because it is not necessary to wait for the battery to charge before use
Of the three main types of hedge shears, the manually powered shears are easily the most environmental friendly. Users who prefer these shears also tend to note that they provide an excellent cardiovascular and upper body workout. In addition, the lack of a gas tank or a power cord makes it somewhat easier to operate the shears in tight spots. However, many homeowners as well as professional landscapers prefer the speed and efficiency that electric and gasoline powered hedge shears provide.

Aloe Vera

Medicinal aloe is a clump forming succulent whose fleshy gray-green leaves are arranged in a vase shaped rosette atop a very short stem. The leaves are up to 18 in (45.7 cm) long and 2 in (5.1 cm) wide at the base, slightly grooved on top, and terminating in a sharp point. The leaves have small grayish teeth on the margins. The main rosette gets up to about 2 ft (0.6 m) high, and the plant continually produces little offset rosettes. In winter and spring, medicinal aloe bears small tubular yellow flowers on branched stalks up to 3 ft (0.9 cm) tall.

Medicinal aloe is believed to have originated in northern Africa, the Canary Islands and the Cape Verde Islands. It has escaped cultivation and established in the Florida Keys, throughout the Caribbean, and in tropical areas worldwide. It is grown commercially, especially in the Netherlands Antilles, for the sap which is used medicinally.
Medicinal aloe is easy to grow in sandy or gravelly, well-drained soil.
Light: Full sun to partial shade.
Moisture: Drought tolerant. 
 Propagate medicinal aloe by separating the offset "pups."


Medicinal aloe is a very popular potted plant, and will thrive for years with little attention. It is used in subtropical cactus and rock gardens and makes an excellent ground cover under palms or large agaves or cacti. This aloe is very salt tolerant and an excellent choice for seaside gardens.
The clear gel-like sap that oozes from cut aloe leaves has been shown to help burns and wounds heal faster and to reduce the risk of infection. Aloe gel is a soothing and effective first aid remedy for minor burns and scrapes and for sunburn. It is available commercially in a wide variety of preparations including first aid creams, shampoos, and soaps. The dried sap is known as "bitter aloes" (as is that of a related species, Aloe ferox). Whichever the source species bitter aloes is a very potent laxative.
There are about 300 species of Aloe, mostly from Africa. The aloes are sometimes confused with the agaves, but the latter (in the family Agavaceae) have fibrous leaves whereas the leaves of aloes are juicy and not at all fibrous.

Bismarckia Palm

This massive tropical palm commands attention and inspires awe wherever it is grown. The Bismarck palm's stout trunk and symmetry of the huge crown lends a formal note while the startling blue green foliage amplifies the visual impact of this big beauty. It grows a single trunk that is smooth on mature specimens but young individuals retain old leaf bases. This palm may reach an ultimate height of 50-60 ft (15-18m) with a spread of 20 ft (6m) or more. Even young specimens that have yet to form a trunk sport full crowns of about 25 leaves with the maximum spread! The huge palmate leaves are bright light blue, waxy and are up to 10 ft (3m) across. They are supported on 6 ft (1.8 m) stems that can be 10 in (25cm) in diameter. The leaf bases split where they attach to the trunk (like those of Sabal palmetto) and the leaf stems are armed with small sharp teeth.

Bismarckia nobilis is native to the island of Madagascar which is off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar is home to hundreds of unique and fascinating plant species including many of our favorite palms like the bottle palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) and the traveler's palm (Ravenala madagascariensis), a palmlike plant related to the bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae).

This palm is adaptable to many kinds of soil.
Light: Prefers full sun but is tolerant of some shade.
Moisture: Once established this palm is drought tolerant.
Hardiness:  Bismarck palm can be grown in the warmer parts , where it is occasionally damaged by freezing temperatures from which it can recover in a season.
Propagation: Seeds germinate easily in 6 to 8 weeks.


Because of its huge ultimate size and mass, the Bismarck palm is not recommended for small yards as it dominates its space, dwarfing and obscuring adjacent structures. This palm is best planted where it can serve as a focal point. Planted against a dark backdrop of foliage, it serves as living sculpture adding drama and interest to the landscape.
Bismarckia nobilis is the only species in the genus. It was a relatively recent introduction to American landscapes (and other warm zone regions of the world). Bismarck palm is rapidly gaining popularity as it is a spectacular species that is drought tolerant and not as subject to disease and nutritional deficiencies as many other landscape palm species. If you have the space to accommodate its impressive bulk, try this handsome brute in your garden.

How to Care for Roses


  1. Spring Rose Care

    • 1-Prune roses in early spring once the rose starts to show signs of new growth, usually in the form of tiny red buds swelling. These buds will become new branches.
    • 2-Cut out any obviously dead or damaged branches first. Then cut out all but four or five healthy stems, each ideally about as thick as a pencil.
    • 3-Cut the rose bush back by 1/3 to 1/2, depending on how tall you want it to be. Make these cuts right above an outward facing bud - that is, a red bud that's on the outside of the rose bush. This directs the bud to grow up and out, leaving the center of the rose bush open for a prettier shape and better air circulation.
    • 4-Fertilize roses regularly during the growing season. Roses are hungry plants, demanding lots of nutrients for best growth and flowering. Each rose grower has his or her own favorite method. One of the easiest is to buy a slow-release granular rose food and work it into the soil so it can feed the plant all season long. Otherwise, you'll want to fertilize the rose with a liquid fertilizer every three to four weeks during the growing season (stop in early autumn) or according to package directions.
    • 5-Water diligently. Roses need a steady source of water during the growing season, about 1 inch a week from rain or watering. In arid regions of the country, if you have several roses, consider installing a do-it-yourself drip irrigation system.

    Summer Rose Care

    • 1-Mulch. Roses need less weeding and watering and have fewer diseases if you mulch. Lay down 1 to 2 inches of organic mulch, such as wood chips, pine needles, grass clippings or other biodegradable material.
    • 2-Deadhead. This simply means trimming spent roses off the shrub to encourage it to produce more. While some roses bloom only in one big flush in June, others are bred to keep producing off and on all season long.
    • 3-Spray. If your rose becomes diseased or has an insect infestation, you may want to deal with it by spraying. (However, first try simply trimming off the diseased portion of the plant and giving the plant a good strong blast from a hose.) If you choose to spray, first identify the problem by trimming off the diseased part and taking it to a reliable garden center, where the staff can prescribe the correct pesticide or herbicide.

    Fall and Winter Rose Care

    • 1-Stop fertilizing roses in early autumn, at least one month before your region's first annual frost date. Fertilizing too long into autumn encourages roses to produce tender new growth that will get nipped by cold.
    • 2-Protect roses as needed in late autumn, after your region's first hard freeze. In regions where temperatures don't fall below 20 degrees F , no additional winter protection is needed. In cooler regions where temperatures don't fall below 10 degrees below zero , a simple mounding of several inches of soil over the base of the rose should suffice. In cold-winter regions where temperatures get colder than 10 degrees below zero , mound to about a foot about a month after your region's last average frost date; additionally, two weeks later, the entire plant should be wrapped in burlap to protect the upper parts.

Calla Lilies

A member of the Arum family, the calla lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) is an herbaceous, tuberous rooted plant characterized by lush, waxy, green leaves and crisp, funnel-shaped flowers that may be white or burgundy depending on the cultivar. Commonly grown both indoors and outdoors, calla lilies are low-maintenance plants that thrive with a little care.

  1. Location

    • Calla lilies grow naturally throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, thriving in wetlands and alongside lakes. Calla lilies do best when grown outdoors in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 8 to 10. Plant the flower in a bright, sunny location in cooler climates and in an area with light or shifting shade in hotter climates. Plants grown in partially shaded or shaded locations produce fewer or no flowers. Indoor plants prefer a windowsill with bright sun.


    • Calla lilies thrive in moist conditions, with some species even preferring shallow water. Grow calla lilies in a rich, deep soil consistently moist to the touch. Enhance the soil with organic matter, such as leaf mold, rotted manure or humus. Fertilize the plant annually in the spring after planting with a using 5-10-5 or 5-10-10 fertilizer. Water the soil before applying fertilizer to keep from burning the tuber.


    • Dig up and store calla lilies through the winter, for replanting the following spring. After the first frosts have killed the plant's foliage, dig up the plant's tubers and place them in a ventilated bag or box with peat moss, vermiculite or perlite. Store in a dry, well-ventilated place and check to ensure the tubers have not shriveled or dried up. Reduce watering for indoor plants.


    • Calla lilies are mostly pest and disease free. Use caution when handling the plant, as contact with the plant's sticky sap causes skin irritation. The plant is poisonous if ingested and should be kept away from children and pets. Swiftly treat aphid infestations, as aphids may carry untreatable viruses. Remove aphids with pesticides or a strong stream of water

Taking Care of Ficus Benjamina

Quick Tips:

1-Avoid over watering your ficus! The most common mistake people make is to add more water once the leaves begin to turn yellow. This is the opposite of what you should do. Always feel the surface of the soil with your finger tip. If it feels dry to the touch one inch below the surface, it is time to water. If the soil still feels moist, withhold water for a day or two.

2-Provide ample humidity, especially for new plants. Mist ficus plants at least twice daily.

3-Make a humidity tray by filling the plant saucer with gravel. Runoff water will collect in the saucer, which has two benefits: the roots will not sit in standing water - the most common cause of root rot; and the surplus water will evaporate through the plant, providing additional humidity.

4-Select a site with bright, filtered light. To determine if the light is bright enough for a ficus, you should be able to see your shadow on the wall behind the area you select. Early-morning or late-afternoon sun is fine, but avoid an area that gets direct sun all day.

5-Find a location free from drafts. Place your ficus benjamina away from opening doors or heater vents. Also avoid large windows that change temperature throughout the day.

6-Fertilize your ficus monthly throughout the growing season with half-strength liquid fertilizer or slow-release fertilizer according to label directions. Withhold fertilizer in the winter months.

Tips & Warnings:

  • Ficus will use less water during the winter months, so be sure to check the soil prior to watering.
  • If leaves start to yellow and drop, decrease water and increase humidity. Use no fertilizer until the leaf drop stops.
  • Use a water meter if you are unable to determine the moisture content in the soil with your finger. This ingenious device measures the amount of moisture present in the soil and provides a reading of dry, wet, and time to water

Iris Flowers

Irises are wonderful garden plants. The word Iris means rainbow. Irises come many colors: blue and purple, white and yellow, pink and orange, brown and red, and even black.
The genus Iris has about 200 species and is native of North Temperate regions of the world. The habitat of iris also varies a lot. Some irises grow in deserts, some in swamps, some in the cold far north, and many in temperate climates. Bearded Iris and Siberian Iris are two of the most common types of iris grown.
Since Iris is the Greek goddess for the Messenger of Love, her sacred flower is considered the symbol of communication and messages. Therefore the flower iris in the language of flowers symbolizes eloquence. Based on their color, iris conveys varied messages. Purple iris is symbolic of wisdom and compliments. Blue iris symbolizes faith and hope. Yellow iris symbolizes passion while white iris symbolizes purity. A gift of iris can be used to convey many emotions.

Some Interesting Facts about Iris

  • Irises come in many forms, shapes, colors and sizes and the sword-like foliage is attractive when the plant is not in bloom.
  • The Iris was named after the Greek Goddess who is considered the messenger Love and uses the rainbow to travel. Iris was probably named after the goddess because of the numerous colors it is available in.
  • Iris are among the best-known and loved among garden plants. Iris are hardy herbaceous perennials.
  • The genus Iris is a large genus of bulbous and rhizomatous perennials.
  • The Iris was named after the Goddess of the rainbow because of it's many colours.
  • A flower on the Sphinx is considered to be an Iris, and another appears on a bas-relief of the time of the 18th Egyptian dynasty.
  • Pliny also knew the Iris and praised its medicinal virtues.
  • The Iris was also a favourite flower of the Moslems, who took it to Spain after their conquest in the 8th century.

Types of Irises

Irises are classified into two major groups: Rhizome Irises and Bulbous Irises. Within those groups are countless species, varieties, cultivars and hybrids, according to the American Iris Society.
Rhizome Irises are thickened stems that grow horizontally, either underground or partially underground. After planting, iris rhizomes produce swordlike leaves that overlap, forming flat fans of green foliage. Three popular irises in this group are Bearded, Beardless and Crested irises.
  • The bearded iris has four distinct parts: Standards, Falls, Stigma flaps, Beard
  • The beardless variety has : Standards, Falls and Stigma flaps, but usually have crests
  • The crested Irises or Evansia Iris: Standards, Falls and Stigma flaps and in addition to a ridge on the falls of the blossom, they have ridges like crests instead of beards
Crested iris are often considered in the same manner as the beardless iris. These plants spread freely by underground stems and produce flat flowers in the shades of blue, violet and white. Often the flowers and leaves are found on bamboo like stems which can vary in height from 5-200 centimeters in height.
Varieties of Bearded IrisVarieties of Beardless Iris
Miniature Dwarf Bearded IrisSiberian Iris
Dwarf Bearded IrisJapanese Iris
Intermediate Bearded IrisLouisiana Iris
Border Bearded IrisDutch Iris
Miniature Tall Bearded IrisYellow Flag Iris
Tall Bearded IrisBlue Flag Iris
Bulbous irises grow from bulbs that require a period of dormancy after they have bloomed. The bulbous irises are typically smaller than rhizome irises and usually produce smaller blossoms.

Growing Iris

Before planting Iris, improve the soil conditions, use a slow release fertilizer. To increase the organic matter content use compost, peat moss or well rotted manure. Fertilizer and organic matter should be worked thoroughly into the top 4 to 6 inches of soil.
  • Wooded areas with good drainage and partial shade are ideal spots for the crested iris.
  • Irises are grown from both seed and root separation.
  • The roots, or Rhizomes, are easily separated and replanted.
  • The Rhizome looks like a long, thin potato with roots underneath.
  • When transplanting, separate the Rhizome. Make sure to have some root and a leaf or two in each section.
  • Plant the Rhizomes near the surface with the roots below.
  • Divide the clumps and plant single rhizomes, spacing them 8 to 18 inches apart according to effect desired.
  • Spade planting hole about 10 inches deep and work 1 tablespoonful of fertilizer into the soil in the bottom of the hole.
  • If the soil is heavy, some drainage material such as gravel or broken pottery should be placed in the hole.
  • Fill the hole with the loose soil and place the root section so that it will not be covered more than 1 inch deep.
  • Most Beardless Irises can also be propagated from seeds.
Iris Plant Care
  • Apply a thin layer of compost around the base of plants each spring, leaving the rhizome exposed.
  • As flowers fade, cut back the flower stalks to the base of the plant.
  • To encourage a second bloom on reblooming varieties, promptly remove faded flowers and maintain consistent watering throughout the summer.
  • In autumn, trim away dead foliage and prune back healthy leaves to a height of 4 to 5 inches.
  • Once the soil has frozen, apply a layer of mulch to help prevent roots from heaving out of the soil during alternate freezing and thawing.
  • If heaving occurs, don't try to force plants back into the soil. Instead, cover rhizomes and exposed roots with soil.
  • Divide bearded iris every 4 to 5 years, preferably in late summer. Each division should have one or two leaf fans. Older rhizomes that have few white feeding roots should be discarded.
Want to learn more about growing Irises and other flowers? 

Other Uses of Iris

  • The juice of the fresh roots of Iris, bruised with wine, has been employed as a strong purge of great efficiency in dropsy.
  • Iris roots are used to treat skin diseases. The juice of Iris is also sometimes used as a cosmetic for the removal of freckles from the skin.
  • The fresh root of Iris germanica is a powerful cathartic, and for this reason its juice has been employed in dropsy. It is chiefly used in the dry state, being said to be good for complaints of the lungs, for coughs and hoarseness, but is now more valued for the pleasantness of its violet-like perfume than for any other use.
  • Iris flowers are used as liver purge.

Purple Iris

  • Purple Iris Flower blooms for two to three weeks in the late spring to early summer.
  • The purple iris is the state flower of Tennessee.
  • Purple Iris can be grown in your home in containers.
  • The majority of Iris flowers are in Purple.