Surprise! It’s Spring here in Maryland!
This lovely season brings so many gifts of renewal and I am ecstatic.
Tristan and I decided to plant sunflowers, carnations, and dahlias as seedlings to celebrate the season. I love fresh bouquets of flowers but it’s not always the most environmentally friendly option because the flowers go through a lot of transportation and they tend to be wrapped in plastic. So, if all goes well, this summer I may be able to make most of my own bouquets from flowers right out my front door!
To celebrate, I decided to do a little research about the history and care for each flower. Read below to see what I found.
“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. It’s what sunflowers do.”Helen Keller
The sunflower’s scientific name is “helianthus annus”. The Greek word “helios” means sun!
The helianthus annus has a variety of uses:
- The seeds can be eaten by humans and a variety of birds and rodents
- They can be made into an oil for
- medicinal purposes
- Leaves can feed cattle
- The stem can be made into paper
- Can remove toxins from the soil through phytoremediation
Phytoremediation, defined by Merrium Webster is, “The treatment of pollutants or waste (as in contaminated soil or groundwater) by the use of green plants that remove, degrade, or stabilize the undesirable substances (such as toxic metals)”.
Sunflowers were used in 1986 to help the cleanup from the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine. They were also used after the nuclear meltdown in Fukushima, Japan. Unfortunately, it was not nearly as successful as it was at Chernobyl. Scientists involved believe the sunflowers phytoremediation effectiveness depends on the genotype traits.
Phytoremediation can even be used right in your backyard! Soil can sometimes have levels of toxic metals that make it unsafe or at least worrisome to grow any food crops. Homeowners that experience this have started planting sunflowers to “clean” their soil.
After letting the sunflowers mature, you just test the soil again for any toxic metals; if all is well then the sunflowers should be dug up and disposed as hazardous waste. If you dig up your sunflowers that were used for phytoremediation and compost them in your yard, unfortunately all the toxic metals the sunflowers removed will return to the soil through the breakdown.
Sunflowers can grow in almost any soil but dislike being waterlogged. They grow best with full sun and once established they are drought tolerant.
Scientifically known as dianthus caryophyllus, the carnation is a flower of the gods. Originally named by Greek botanist, Theophastus, the carnation translates to “dios” which means Zeus or gods and “anthos” which means flower.
Being Easter weekend for Christians, it feels natural to talk about the Christian legend behind Carnations. As the flower of gods, it is said that the flowers appeared on the Earth around Jesus’ feet as he carried his cross. At Jesus’ death, pink carnations sprung from the Earth where Mother Mary’s tears fell.
Pink carnations are now a symbol for a mother’s love and a large reason for why they are given on Mother’s Day.
Caring for carnations is not an easy task. There are several different types of dianthus caryophyllus and each one has their own care requirements.
Most prefer well-drained soil that’s light and fertile. Heavy clay soil is a literal death sentence for the plant which I found out the hard way last summer :/.
Watering carnations is a delicate task because the flower (mostly the traditional long stemmed version) is susceptible to molds and diseases caused from too much water on the foliage of the plant. Therefore, it is best to water the plants by drip irrigation or soaker hoses directly on the soil. They are NOT drought tolerant plants, they enjoy being kept moist.
When planting from seed (this is what I did this year), the plant will most likely not bloom for another year.
Many professional growers start carnations from cuttings taken from side shoots of already established plants.
When your plant is blooming, spent flowers should be removed to encourage more blooms to develop.
Although carnations are a finnicky flower, they are absolutely one of my favorites. I’m very excited to make lots of bouquets out of our plants…as long as everything goes to plan and I don’t mess them up :).
Dahlias are originally native to Mexico. Unfortunately, there is not much public knowledge about the importance of the flower to the Aztec people. The most generally known is that they were used for medicinal properties and a representation of the sun gods.
Because of the Spanish Inquisition and lack of records, most modern day information about the flower was developed by botanists from Spain.
The first Spanish botanist to study “Dahlias” was Francisco Hernandez; he sketched and studied the large blooms; however, his work did not gain attention until after his death. Antonio Jose Cavinilles brought seeds from wild Dahlias to grow in Madrid, Spain. He named the plants “Dahlias” after the respected botanist Andreas Dahl.
Dahlias quickly became very popular and were soon grown all over Europe. When searching for Dahlias in European countries, keep your eye out for “Georginas”. When Dahlias reached Germany, German botanists rejected the Spanish name and called the flower Georginas.
By the 20th century Dahlias made it to the U.S. and became extremely popular. San Francisco even started the first Dahlia Society in 1917.
Today, there are over 50,000 varieties of Dahlias, all originating from the first three types taken by Antonio Jose Cavinilles. There is every color in Dahlias, except for blue, and botanists are working on developing a blue type!
Plant your Dahlias after the Spring frost because they like warmer soil. They enjoy full sun and prefer morning sun the best. Lastly, they enjoy well draining soil. Follow the link HERE for more detailed information.
I hope you all enjoyed these little fun facts as much as I did and maybe you learned something new. I'm going to keep on cultivating my lil seedlings and hopefully I will be able to update the blog in a month or two with bouquets made from the plants that were my "lil seedlings". Keep discovering new things! If you have a green thumb, feel free to drop some growing tips in the comments below and if you're looking to try gardening for the first time this year, ask questions in the comments! Happy gardening! D Peep some of my favorite flower photos I took during my trip to the UK a few years ago.