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Xanthorrhoea- The Story of the Black Boy Plant

The Xanthorrhoea plant is uniquely Australian. It grows in the South East of Australia thriving in well drained, aerated soils with low nutrient content. It is a plant that can suit most gardens, and being endemic to Australia means it is ideal for our climate and environment.

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Image; Xanthorrhoea_drummondii via Australian Seed

All species of Xanthorrhoea are very slow growing BUT they are also long living; some elderly specimens are among the oldest living plants worldwide. They live for hundreds of years, some have been found to be up to 600 years old. A plant with a metre long trunk for example may already be 100 years old!!!

Xanthorrhoea plants are also known as Balga Grass Plants.  ‘Balga’ is the Aboriginal word for black boy and for many years the plant was fondly known as a “Black Boy”. It is thought that the Aborigines called the plants Balga because after a bush fire had ravaged the land, the blackened trunk of the Xanthorrhoea would be revealed beneath the burned lower leaves, and would resemble a child like black figure. Others believe that the plant, with it’s bush fire blackened trunk and long flower spike resembled an Aboriginal boy wielding a spear. Whatever the case, as the years have passed, it is seen as an extremely racist name, and is thought to be very offensive to the original custodians of the land, so the plants are more commonly known as Grass Tree, because let’s face it Xanthorrhoea is a bit of a mouthful.

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Image; Xanthorrhoea_preissii via Australian Plants

The Xanthorrhoea was invaluable to the Aborigine people. It was a source of food, drink and building material.

Food; Fleshy white parts of leaves and the succulent roots of the plants were frequently eaten. The seeds were collected, ground into a powder and used to make damper. They also collected grubs from the base of the plant.

Drink; The flower of the Xanthorrhoea was soaked in a trough of water extracting a thick sweet nectar which could be enjoyed as is or fermented for  3-5 days in order to produce an alcoholic brew.

Material for tools; The leaves of the Xanthorrhoea produce a hard waterproof resin, which is liquid form when warmed, but sets hard when cooled. The Aboriginals used the resin as a super glue type of material to attach blades to spears and as a waterproofing material for canoes.

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Image; Flower Spike going to seed via Anpsa

There are 28 species of grass trees in Australia. Xanthorrea Johnsonii is just one of these species, but is a popular variety in Australian gardens due to it’s singular trunk which can grow up to 5 metres tall. When you see a grass tree where the trunk changes direction, has major bends or even multiple heads, this is generally caused by new growth after the plant has flowered, or if the tree has been involved in an accident (another tree falling on top, or pushing against the grass tree). So essentially, the survivors turn into architectural masterpieces; each trauma, and struggle spurs them on, making them ever more interesting and beautiful. Each tree is totally unique and proudly displays its history in its shape.

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Image; Xanthorrhoea Australis Flower spike in bloom via Gardens Online

These plants often flower as a direct result of fire, quickly bringing an essential food source to the surrounding birds, insects and other wildlife. It is often the first spurt of colour in an otherwise blackened environment. The flower spike of the Xanthorrhoea is the growth point; after flowering, you will notice that the tree will remain dormant and cease producing new leaves for months or even years. Many people panic, but there is no need. The plant does not require extra water or fertiliser- it just needs your patience. This is the way of nature, and the Xanthorrhoea has survived just like this for hundreds of years; this is a defense mechanism. To encourage continuous growth, you will need to remove the flower spike as soon as it appears.

Fwf x

 

 

 

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Garden Inspirations- Palm Springs

I love conceptualising; Looking at ideas, researching a theme or a design concept and then building on it from there. Currently, I am finding inspiration from the gardens of Palm Springs. These gardens best suit the quint essential mid century modern home, however can be appropriated to work with modern day architecture where garden spaces are sleek, grouped, and focus on the balance between planted and empty spaces.

Obviously it is always important to look at the environmental factors, such as aspect and exposure to the sun within the garden and make appropriate plant choices. What is the soil quality like? Is there good drainage? How often are you prepared to water the garden? These are all factors that need to be considered when designing a garden.

Gardens that take inspiration from the South West of America focus on the intricate differences in colour, shape, size and most importantly texture. These gardens are often defined by the absence of grassy areas, and with the inclusion of rock beds, large feature rocks, stone pavers or gravel. These are appropriate options that have been considered, and make sense for the original environment; a hot, desert climate.

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Australia’s natural environment is often compared to California, and so many of the choices would be appropriate for our climate also. Instead of using mulch, or bark to retain water within the garden beds, a rock layer is a popular choice.

Get the look;  Cactus, Prickly Pear, Agaves and other geometric Succulents, Palms, Vertical plants like Mother in Laws Tongue, Shapely feature plants such as the Joshua Tree. There are hundreds of Palms available, and it all comes down to personal choice, but the Ponytail Palm will give you that special Palm Springs inspired look. It has a bulbous trunk and crazy head of leaves. You could also consider including a Australian Grass Plant, Xanthorrhoea- which for many years was known as the Black Boy. These plants often last for hundreds of years, require little water, and are striking in their appearance.

Joshua Tree, California Desert, Desert flora, desert cactus, desert plants, desert landscape, photography by Jim Caldwell Redondo Beach
Joshua Tree, California Desert, Desert flora, desert cactus, desert plants, desert landscape, photography by Jim Caldwell Redondo Beach
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Xanthorrhoea Grass plant via Trek Nature
Southwest Garden Designs | Great Southwest Landscape Design Ideas
Via Pinterest
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Amazing bulbous Ponytail Palm via Gardenia
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Besser blocks and feature rocks finish this garden design Via Kelly Go Lightly

Accessories; Gravel, Stone Pavers, Besser Block feature walls, Large feature rocks.

Colours; The gardens within this style tend to feature green, grey and white. Often the buildings are stark white, with strong coloured features (walls, entry doors, lounge/pool furniture etc). You can also include orange, red and chocolate coloured foliage plants for extra colour.

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Rock features and stone pavers in a neutral colour palette
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Pavers and rocks complete with a linear design of cactus= awesome Palm Springs garden via Kelly go Lightly

The Palm Springs inspired garden is not for everyone, but if you like low maintenance gardens, it could be a good fit. The rock layer reduces the watering, and as the plant choices tend to be hardy specimens which favour a more arid environment, they do not require daily watering. This garden style will complement formal settings, and sleek, modern architecture as well as vintage styling.

One thing to note is that many of the plant varieties that feature in this garden style are costly. Golden Barrel Cactus for example are hard to come by, and are slow growers, so even small plants will set you back a bit. You also need to consider that for the cluster plantings and linear plant work in this design style, you will require substantial numbers in many plant varieties. On the upside, choose wisely and this garden design will be low manintence and have great longevity.

Fwf x

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FLORIST COVER

Life of a Florist; A life of Danger

Many people think floristry is the dream job. The idea of being in a small shop and playing with flowers appeals to many people. I have always joked that people don’t understand just how ‘dangerous’ life as a florist can be, and how it can quite literally be risky business!

You think about it, many florist businesses are small owner operator set ups, where you usually find someone is working alone the vast majority of the time. What does that mean? Well, you are opening and closing up a shop, each and every day where the work is laborious; heavy, hard, repetitive and back breaking. Add to that the fact that florists are usually at work long before anyone else is awake, starting the market run around 4 am and they are still around once the other businesses have closed their doors. This leaves them in the most vulnerable position; at risk to armed robbery, fatigue, OH&S incidents/accidents and more.

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Image; Jonny Weeks for the Guardian

Just last week a small florist business at busy Sydney Central Station was the scene of a very sad, and disturbing series of events that unfortunately saw a 30 year old man shot dead. NSW Police were called to the Eddy Avenue Florist at approximately 6:45pm on Wednesday 26th July following reports of an armed robbery.

The florist, who was working alone at the time has said that he was attacked by a man wielding a broken bottle however that the man did NOT attempt to rob the store at any time. Instead, Emmanuel Theoharas explained that he was attacked from behind, and threatened with the bottle before the man demanded that he call the police.

From many reports it seems that the man, since identified at 30 Year old Danukul Mokmool, may have been a drug user with some mental health issues and it is a sad end to his story. But my heart goes out to poor Emmanuel Theoharas who has been running the florist for some 46 years. I’m sure that this was not what he thought his day was going to look like, but he turned up to open the store again Thursday morning and will do each and every day that follows. That would have been some scary stuff and I’m not so sure that everyone could bounce back so quickly.

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For operations that are bigger, yes there will be others there to share the workload and have your back, but maybe you will work off site in an unfamiliar situation. You may be up a ladder hanging things from a ceiling, or lifting large pieces up into the centre of a a table, repetitively straingin your lower back. Long hours, particularly in event work will see you existing as if you are constantly jet lagged, making your response time slower. And remember we work with scissors and knives all day every day (with the occasional hammer, saw, pliers and power tools thrown in too)- sounds like a recipe for success doesn’t it?

The retail world has changed dramatically over the past decade. As a whole, we are a society that relies less on cash, and more on credit.  In years gone by, a florist basically survived on cash transactions, but like any legitimate business, as time has passed, technological advances and society’s demand for conveniences has seen us adapt. In some ways it probably lured us into a false sense of security. I mean, anyone who works within our industry knows, it wouldn’t be worth the risk to rob what cash you would find in the till these days! In some ways we probably don’t feel as though we need to be as wary or hyper vigilant as we once did, and I guess in some ways, because there is less cash, the risk has lessened.

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But back in those days, the cash florist was selling posies and box arrangements…..These days we are in the business of construction with no formal certification; creating huge wall hanging arrangements, working through the night on little or no sleep, a concoction of caffeine, chocolate, lollies or cigarettes (depending on your preference).

Let’s think about that for a second….a Jet lagged Construction worker, operating machinery at heights while wielding scissors or a knife…..

Told you floristry was a dangerous job!

Fwf x

 

 

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The Whole Big Banana

I’m pretty excited. This week, after a whole year of suggesting, asking, pleading….I have finally managed to get myself a banana plant for the backyard. It is no secret that we are a family that are pretty fond of growing as much produce as we can manage to eat, and at the moment I can see a huge discrepancy between the amount of bananas we eat (approximately 5 kilos a week) and the amount we produce (a big fat ZERO). What’s more, I have discovered that bananas have plenty of health benefits not just from the yellow fruit, but from the stem, the leaf and the flowers as well. The banana plant produces large pinkish/purple buds from the heart which develop into tubular, white flowers. The blossom hangs at the end of the cluster of bananas. On occasion I have seen fresh banana flowers (complete with cluster of bananas) in the Sydney Flower Market, but it is a rare treat.

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Image; Secretly Healthy
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Image;Dr Srevathi

Banana flowers are often used in Asian and South East Asian cuisines, almost in place of a vegetable in curries, soups and salads. The banana flower is sometimes compared to an artichoke in terms of its texture and taste, and like the artichoke,  both the fleshy bracts and the heart are edible.

Banana flowers are a rich source of Antioxidants, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin E, Potassium, Magnesium and Fibre, making them an excellent food choice. Antioxidants are essential for health because they reduce stress on cells throughout the body and therefore help slow down the ageing process. Magnesium is said to help reduce anxiety and boost your mood, so for those of you who like to eat your way to health, they are a natural anti depressant. Magnesium also helps promote restful sleep. Potassium is fuel for the brain, so helps with concentration, making you more receptive to learning. It has been shown to be an effective remedy to high blood pressure, and has been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. Fibre is an important addition to any diet (both soluble fiber and insoluble) as it helps make digestion more efficient and reduces the instances of constipation.

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Image; Miss News

Banana are pretty much a super-food for women throughout various stages of life.  Cooked banana flower combined with yoghurt or curd is said to be one of the most effective home remedies for treating excessive (and painful) bleeding throughout menstruation. The unique combination increases the level of progesterone in the body which has been shown to help reduce bleeding. The Banana fruit is also rich in folic acid (required for making blood) making them a great choice for pregnant women who have increased requirements.  On top of that, the bananas high iron content assists in preventing anemia keeping both mum and bubs healthy throughout pregnancy.

Nursing mothers can sometimes struggle with milk supply and Banana flowers have been found to boost milk supply 😄 Any new mother knows making time to eat properly when you are tending to a new baby can be challenging. Bananas are the original ‘100 calorie snack food’; the perfect food on the go! With only 100 calories and high fibre, they will keep you feeling fuller longer.

Now, I’m under no illusions, one banana plant for my hungry tribe is probably not going to be enough, but it’s a start anyhow! And while this list is not exhaustive it’s clear to me, that bananas are certainly a good choice for the garden or your shopping trolley. Bananas are of course readily available, and Banana flowers can sometimes be found in Asian supermarkets. If you are ready to experiment check out this Banana Blossom Salad recipe.

Fwf x

Featured Image; New Vision

 

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Florist Bucket List; The Corpse Flower

When you think of a flower blossoming and coming into full bloom, you conjour up images of soft layers of petals and a sweet fragrances that dance through the air.

But the so called ‘corpse flower’ is quite a different specimen of flower. The Titan arum (Amorphophallus titanum), is a rare bloom that only flowers approximately every 3-5 years with a pungent odour likened to the smell of rotting flesh. Delightful.

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Image; Plants of the World Online

Amorphophallus titanum, a plant native to the rainforests of Sumatra, is a member of the Arum family. It is listed on the IUCN Red list of Threatened plants, noted as being ‘Vulnerable’. The plant produces the world’s largest unbranched inflorescence in the world, with the flowers measuring up to 3 metres high and 3 metres in circumference! The bloom appears green, however has a richly coloured flesh inside, with ribbed sides and a frilly edge.

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Right now, there are a few of these blooms expected to open at some prominent gardens around the world. In the Greater Des Moines Botanical Center, Iowa, an approximately 4 foot flower is about to bloom. This bloom is expected to open on or around July 22. For those who are unable to make the trip or perhaps are curious to see it open, but not endure the accompanying odour, the Botanical Centre has opened up a live feed that you can check out here.

The Paignton Zoo, Devon, UK, has just endured (errr….enjoyed) one of two resident Titan Arum plants opening. The second plant is expected to bloom just a few weeks behind. When the second plant was recently repotted, it weighed in at a whopping 56kgs, leaving the first plant to be dubbed ‘Tiny Tim’ in comparison to this giant at the Zoological and Botanical Garden.

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Image; The Mirror, The Paighton Zoo Titan Arum photographed with a staff member.

‘Carrion’ is defined as; ‘the decaying flesh of dead animals’. So Carrion flowers are flowers that emit an odor that smells like rotting flesh. The flowers ‘scent’ wafts through the air (particularly at night) attracting flies and other pollinators.

There are several Carrion flowers, the Titan Arum lily has a few smelly mates within this category, but the blooms are not necessarily related species. The Rock Island Quad City Botanical Centre has a Voodoo lily in residence which also omits a foul scent, and this blooms in late January.

 

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Image; Another Carrion Flower, ‘Voodoo Lily’ from Smart Seeds Store

What do they say ….”Live fast, die young, and leave a good-looking corpse.” I’m not sure that any of these Carrion flowers are the most attractive blooms on offer, but when something blooms so spectacularly (size- wise), so infrequently (every 3-5 years) and so fleetingly (living only 24 hours) is certainly still gets on my bucket list.

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Image; Spent flower, Australian Geographic

Have you ever seen a Titan Arum?

Fwf x

 

 

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Foraging for Home

To forage; is to search widely for, hunt or search for provisions.

It’s not a new idea by any means, but foraging is back in vogue.  Often the concept centres around collecting food supplies, but what I am referring to here is foraging for unique materials that can be utilised when arranging florals.

Wholesalers throughout the Sydney and Interstate markets provide us with a wonderful array of flowers and foliage, as do our local growers BUT sometimes there are reasons for us to look elsewhere. You may need several different texture elements in an arrangement and it simply doesn’t make financial sense to outlay the expense of buying a whole bunch of each. Plus you have to remember that growers provide what the market is asking for; DEMAND drives SUPPLY. Therefore, if something is simply not popular (as opposed to being ‘unpopular’),  fewer people (if any) will choose to grow it.

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Image; A little Terroir

The problem is that the stock variety on offer at the market declines based on what is profitable, and what is popular, and therefore it is hard to get your hands on quality produce that sits outside of the box! The result? You have to grow it yourself, or find someone, somewhere that does!

For the more bespoke arrangements, unique materials are required. It is the intricacies in that details that makes the design speak so loudly, so going that extra mile to find the perfect material certainly pays dividends. Like the gorgeous bouquet below from Botanica featuring so many different elements, sometimes just single stems, which creates so much interest and movement throughout the arrangement.

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Image; Bespoke bridal bouquet from Botanica

But the concept of foraging is something that you can incorporate at home too- by foraging just for foliage you can save yourself a lot. Tropical leaves are often sold per piece, which can quickly add up. Even bunches of green leaves like camellia, laurel, vibernum or magnolia can be quite costly to add to your vase of flowers, especialy if you have a tree in your backyard where you can get what you need for free.

 

Many plants will love having a good hard prune once a year, so chopping the tops off your Cordyline plants or Dracenas will do them the world of good. You will find that fresh foliage like this will last you several weeks if not months, so purchasing some fresh cut flowers weekly to make your display more colourful and eye-catching is still good value! It might even allow you a little extra $$$ to play with!

I am a massive fan of foraging for foliage. We regularly collect Philodendron and Monsteria leaves locally, and I’ve been enjoying whole heads of cordyline plants from our garden for weeks teamed with spiraling Corksia ginger foliage.

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Image; Foraged supplies from Hej Doll

It’s important to remember that not all plants are ideal for using as cut flowers or foliage. Some simply do not have a long vase life, or are not happy submerged in water. In addition to that, some plants are poisonous, so it is important that when you forage that you are not using the flowers on food items, and that you always wash your hands. Reactions can be mild rashes and itching, but can also be severe nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. If in doubt, cut only what you know is safe to use/touch and seek more information.

It’s a lovely winter activity for the family to go out and collect things together, and is a nice substitute for collecting shells along the beach in summer.

Fwf x

 

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Vegetation Levitation

Everyone these days is on the look for something new, something fresh, something different. We want everyone to want what we want- almost as if their reassurance will tell us we are on the right track. Everything about today is geared towards standing out, and gaining approval- that is the way social media appears to be working right?

So in a world that is forever trying to come up with the next big idea, design concepts like this one, are sure to impress.

A simple vase of fresh cut flowers certainly is beautiful and an attractive pot with a lush green plant will definitely help bring the outdoors inside but we have all seen that before.

Have you seen this innovative design that I stumbled upon? We all know how magnets work; opposites are attracted to one another, and therefore pull most strongly together. And poles of the same origin will repel. Magnets and magnetic force is almost like some special type of magic- stuck together like glue, or repelled. Well, this concept has been utilised to create a unique plant concept, whereby the planter hovers over the decorative base via magnetic levitation. The plant is gently rotated to expose the plant to sunlight, which is essential for the plants survival.

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Image; Spoon Tamago
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Image; Kickstarter
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Image; Spoon Tamago
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Image; Kickstarter

There are a few companies offering variations of the concept which begun crowd funding a few years ago via kickstarter. Bases are available in modern chrome finishes as well as lovely rich oak, or bases covered in pieces of wood that have a more rustic finish. Air plants such as the Tillandsia do particularly well as they are able to absorb the nutrients from the atmosphere. The rotating action allows the plant to be evenly exposed to sunlight.

Bonsai plants are another option on offer, as are some palm varieties. Initially, D.I.Y kits were also available so essentially you could plant whatever you like. The ‘little star’ plant base as it is called, is made of a unique super absorbent sponge like material which holds water so the plant does not dry out. With time the plants roots will fully anchor themselves to this base, making it stable and secure. The decorative base that sits on your table/counter etc does require power.

It’s a pretty futuristic concept, and certainly something that would look out of place in my home- but how cool is it!? It’s a gorgeous idea for minimalist homes, a fantastic house warming gift, or a gift for someone who has just about everything.

But if it’s not for you, you can still stick to a gorgeous fresh flower arrangement presented in any vessel you choose, and guess what, it won’t require power either.

Fwf x

Feature image via Wallhaven

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Green Cities for the Future

For a busy, burgeoning country like China; bursting at the seams with people, buildings and vehicles, it comes as no surprise that they struggle with pollution. For the mountainous regional city of Liuzhou, the pollution levels have not yet reached dire straits, but if they do not address this issue pronto, the city’s atmospheric health will of course get worse over time. Liuzhou’s Municipality Urban Planning department has commissioned a design firm to create a 175-hectare Forest City which will run along the Liujiang River in the northern part of Liuzhou. Towers that will be covered in thousands of trees and a million plants; more than 100 different species. The idea has become known as “Vertical ForestING”; a trend that is perhaps set to take over architecture the world over.  The concept is based on giving back to nature, as well as perhaps slowing down climate change and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

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The Forest City vision from Stefano Boeri Architetti

On June 26th it was announced that Italian design firm Stefano Boeri Architetti will create what they call a ‘forest city’ thaty will be able to help address the smog levels. The idea is that the neighbourhood will comprise of plant covered towers to help reduce pollution levels. But we are not talking about a few measly trees. The skyscrapers will hold a whopping 1100 trees and thousands of cascading shrubs on the rooftops and balconies. That means that the plants that will be used in each tower would cover approx 7000 metres squared on flat land! How incredible is that!!??  On top of that, the majority of the buildings energy requirements will be fueled from renewable sources such as solar power. The direct result of the plants within the tower structures will absorb 10000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, as well as 57 tonnes of pollutants each year. This is as effective as taking 2100 cars off the roads.

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Stefano Boeri Artiectetti

The two tower complex, called Nanjing Green Towers is modeled on a similar concept that Boeri designed and completed in Milan in 2014. They also have a similar concept being executed in Switzerland in the coming year. Luizhou’s “forest city” set in China’s mountainous region is set to be a reality by 2020. Whilst the impact that two towers will have on the pollution levels of the city will be minimal, they serve a blueprint for creating whole ‘forest cities’. If the Chinese government is able to change the mindset of growth and progress to include creating green cities, not simply perpetuating the problem of expanding, exceeding limits and putting such immense pressure on the surrounding natural environment, then buildings such as these may help combat the pollution problem in the future.

Boeri writes;  “The diffusion of plants, not only in the parks and gardens or along the streets, but also over building facades, will allow the energy self-sufficient city to contribute to improve the air quality (absorbing both CO2 and fine dust of 57 tons per year), to decrease the average air temperature, to create noise barriers and to improve the biodiversity of living species, generating the habitat for birds, insects and small animals that inhabit the Liuzhou territory.”

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Milan Towers completed in 2014. Image Stefano Boeri Architetti
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Nanjing Towers via Stefano Boeri Architectetti

What do you think- do these forest cities have a place in the world in the future? Or do you feel it is a misguided waste of time and energy?

Fwf x

 

 

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How Do You Take Your Tea?

Have you ever wondered why the Tea Tree was given it’s name? Well, if you have traveled or holidayed at Myall Lakes, Byron Bay or Fraser Island, then perhaps you could guess.  Tea trees are believed to have been named after observing the brown colouration of water caused by the leaching of tannins from the leaves of the tree in both salt and fresh waters. There are over 200 species of tea tree.

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Image; Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) via Australian Seed
Image; Common Tea Tree via ABC

Many people believe that bathing in water that has been leached by the Tea Tree has health benefits. When a water mass has Tea Tree plants growing in close proximity their supernatural oil slowly migrates into the water, creating what some consider to be a ‘medical bath’. The colour of the water resembles a cup of tea, with an oily film on top, which to be honest, is not all that appealing upon first inspection. But think about how the Tea Tree can work on your skin. Tea Tree oil has antibacterial properties, antifungal and antimicrobial properties, so can help keep away the bacteria that can cause spots. After a good ole soak you’ll come out looking refreshed, rejuvenated and revitalised. Many people also believe that swimming in Tea Tree waters slows down the ageing process!

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Image via Jend McCarty

Tea Tree is an Australian native, which means that this miracle treatment for just about anything is ALL AUSSIE! Aboringinal people have been using Tea Tree forever.  The Bundjalung people from North East NSW were among the first to use the Tea Tree plant for medicinal reasons. Tea Tree would be used to create a healing tea, but they would also take the leaves, crush them up and rub them into bites, grazes, burns and other skin irritations. Tea Tree can also be used as an insect repellent. According to Bodyecology, one legend even describes a magical lagoon where our native people bathed to heal their burns, cuts, and skin disorders. Tea trees surrounded the pool, and the fallen leaves created a natural healing bath.

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Image; Tea Tree Lkes

These days Tea Tree oil is used for many natural remedies to combat a variety of issues such as; acne, cold sores, warts, dandruff, ring worm, athlete’s foot, softens corns, reduce itch of insect bites and chicken pox .

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Image via Wafex

Some cultivated varieties of Tea Tree are also used as a cut flower that are ideal for native flower arrangements. It is perhaps an underrated material. Tea Tree is not a focal bloom so we use it as a transitional material; to fill spaces and make the arrangement appear more ‘full’. In recent years wholesalers have been offering particular lines in a variety of artificially dyed colours, so at times you may have seen hot pink or purple dyed tea tree. I am not a great fan of dyed products however as natives are often more neutral  or dull in colour, having a vibrant filler allows us to ‘pull’ more colour out of the natural pieces. For example, hot pink tea tree will make proteas appear more ‘pink’.

What are your thoughts?

Fwf x

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Quick Stick Decorating

Winter is a time to spend a little more time cosied up on the couch, or near the fire, so it makes great sense that we create an internal space that makes our hearts and soul sing.  The cooler temperatures mean that we are less social spending more time in our own homes, so it is nice to spend some of our energy doing some simple decorating. It is easy to stick your tried and tested methods of decorating, adding an indoor plant or a vase of cut fresh flowers, but winter offers up some interesting and long lasting alternatives to your regular fresh cut flowers or indoor plants.

Disiduous branches and sticks are a fantastic way of filling a vase for weeks at a time. Depending on what you choose you may or may not need to add water to the vase- and for someone like me who hates cleaning dirty vases of stinky water, this spells H-E-A-V-E-N! Some sticks, such as magnolia branches or cherry blossom for example will flower and bloom and will require a vaseful of fresh water, but believe me, the floral display is certainly worth the effort! Other branches are sold more for their architectural qualities and are striking in a vase en masse. In this case, you can choose to display them in a vessel without water. Any sticks that are displayed this way will become more brittle with time but in general, their appearance changes very little. As the branches become more brittle, it is advisable that they are not moved often, as you will see the branches breaking and becoming damaged.

So what can you get your hands on in the coming months? Well, consider these;

Budded magnolia branches are divine! The naked branches are shapely and interesting alone, but for a matter of weeks you can enjoy the pretty blooms in soft cream, mauve and pink tones. When the blooms are spent, simply pinch them off the stem, and enjoy the naked branches.

 

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Image via Pinterest

Lichen covered sticks are super interesting to look at;they look a bit moody and mysterious. The leafless branches are covered in silvery green flakes that resemble peeling paint. The branches bring a certain woodland vibe,  and the natural beauty of the forest.

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Image: Etsy

Dogwood is stunning throughout winter, with its reddish, golden glow. It is so different to the other sticks available with its vibrant colour, and adds visual warmth to a room or an arrangement.

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Pussy willow have furry buds called catkins along the length of their stems. Before they come into full flower, they are covered in a fine, grey fur, which leads to the comparison to ‘pussies’ or small cats.

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Image: The Spruce

 

Tortured Willow is a unique tree that is also known as curly willow, twisted willow or corkscrew willows due to its wiggly stems. It is a plant native to Korea and North Eastern China that was introduced to Australia for ornamental purposes, but when left, it invades riverbanks and creeks. All species of willow are considered weeds due to their invasive nature, as they have aggressive root systems that cause damage to footpaths and drains.  However as a cut material, it looks beautiful in its simplicity. Tortured willow does not require water, however if left dry, it will also become brittle, and break easily. If it is placed in water, the tortured willow will remain malleable, easily manipulated into different shapes- making it ideal for creating sculptures and wreaths. It will also quickly develop roots in water, so can be planted again.

An abstract composition of a twisted willow tree
Image; Texas Tree Trimmers

 

Fruit tree Blossom are always popular, particularly cherry blossom, but there are many more fruit tree blossoms available such as peach blossom and apple blossom.

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Image; Apple Blossom by Pixabay

So, instead of sticking to what you know, give something different a go.

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