Forcing Bulbs Indoors for Early Spring Bloom

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Forcing bulbs to bloom indoors in late Winter is a way to enjoy the magic of Spring flowers a little early.

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If you received a free package of our pink Foxtrot tulip bulbs, they are ready to be potted up indoors as soon as you get them. This is because they have spent the winter in a cool warehouse in Pennsylvania. (For other Spring blooming bulbs, you need to put them in a cool, refrigerated location for 6-8 weeks before potting them up indoors.)

Follow these instructions for forcing your bulbs to bloom this spring indoors:

  • Fill a pot with potting soil or a soilless mix purchased at a garden center or home center. Make sure your pot has good drainage to prevent bulbs from rotting.
  • Plant the bulbs, pointy end up, so that the top of the bulb is just above the soil line.
  • Water well and leave in a sunny windowsill.

Green growth will emerge within 10-15 days. Wait approximately 4-5 weeks for blooms. When your bulbs have finished blooming put them in a dark, cool place. You can plant them outdoors in the Fall and watch them emerge the following Spring, or keep them indoors for forcing again next Spring.

Your Foxtrot tulip bulbs will grow about 10-12″ high, so they are not prone to flop over in their pot.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

Read About Womanswork In Country Gardens Magazine

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We are thrilled to be featured in the Early Spring 2016 issue of Country Gardens, a high circulation magazine published by Meredith. Last Spring we were visited by Matthew Benson, award-winning garden photographer, who took the lovely photos of our greenhouse. Then over the summer Irene Virag and her husband spent the afternoon with us for the story. She is a lovely person who won a Pulitzer prize for her journalism.

Click here to be taken to a flipbook version of the entire article.

Which Plants Want A Winter Rest?

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Which Plants Want A Winter Rest?

Many plants native to warm climates can be grown in colder zones as perennials, but require a rest period during cooler months, which encourages them to bloom or fruit again. Dormancy in plants occurs when the environmental conditions are not suitable for the plant to grow; this is most often during a cold or dry season.300px-Clivia_miniata_(BG_Zurich)-06

Here are a few popular plants I have in my garden, and the techniques Northern gardeners can use to overwinter them:

CliviasClivia miniata

Clivias are native to shady, subtropical woodland areas of Eastern South Africa. In the wild, they go dormant during the dry part of the year. This rest time promotes the development of new buds.

In temperate regions, you can promote flowering of clivias by creating a dormant period: put the Clivia in an environment with a temperature of 50 degrees for 6 to 8 weeks, with very little light (a basement or garage), and just enough water to keep the soil slightly moist.

After the end of the dormant period, the stem will lengthen and a bud will develop. When new growth begins, move to a place with 65-75 degree temperatures and bright, indirect light.

Click here to visit The North American Clivia Society’s website, which has a wealth of information and links about clivias.  

Potted Fig TreesFicus caricaFigTree-Womanswork-Blog

The fig is believed to be indigenous to western Asia. It is in the mulberry family. In Mediterranean and Middle Eastern climates, figs may have two or even three fruiting seasons, but have rest periods in between.

Figs are sometimes wrapped to withstand cold winters outdoors, but potted figs can be overwintered in a garage or cool basement. Allow the fig to go dormant by reducing water. The plant should stay outdoors through a light frost, to encourage the sap to move down toward the roots. Move it to a dark location that stays just above freezing. If your location is light, wrap the plant in dark fabric to keep it dormant. About two weeks before the last frost, the plant can be moved back outside. Choose a protected area, such as near a wall, until temperatures warm up.

Lee Reich is a fruit growing expert with lots of practical information about growing figs in colder climates: http://www.leereich.com/2014/11/figs-up-north.html

Lily of the Nile -Agapanthus africanusagapanthus

Agapanthus, also known as Lily-of-the-Nile, or African Blue Lily, is a showy blue or white flowering perennial, native to South Africa, where it grows in the shade, under trees. They have a dormant period during the winter months.

To overwinter agapanthus indoors, move pots indoors after a light frost. Cut back the foliage. Keep them in a cool, dark location, with temperatures between 35 and 45 degrees Farenheit. In late winter or very early spring, bring the dormant corms into a warm area and water thoroughly. In a few weeks, new growth will emerge. They can be placed back outdoors after danger of frost is over.

For more information about overwintering Agapanthus, visit the Missouri Botanical Garden website by clicking here.

Amaryllis, a relative of agapanthus, can be treated in a similar fashion, though it doesn’t require very cold temperatures for the dormancy period. Bring amaryllis inside before the first heavy frost, cut back foliage to the top of the bulb, and keep in a dark, cool location (50-55 degrees Farenheit) for 8-10 weeks. When new growth emerges, water and move to a bright location, with temperatures between 65 and 75 degrees.

Other Plants That Like a Dormant or Rest Period:

Cyclamen

Calla Lily

Oxalis

Christmas Cactus

 

Why Is Shea Butter Women’s Gold?

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Do your skin care products have shea butter in them? It is one of the most nourishing things a woman can put on her skin. Cleopatra was supposed to have used and loved shea butter! It has been called ‘Women’s Gold’ because in West Africa, where the raw ingredient is harvested, shea butter is a women’s industry. Over the years it has enabled women to improve the quality of life for their families and community.sheabutterraw2

Womanswork After Gardening Skin Care products, including Elderflower facial cream, Vanilla Bean, Lavender Mint and Pink Grapefruit moisturizers, and Arnica Muscle Rub, feature organic, unrefined shea butter, formulated with pure botanicals and other plant based ingredients. Our products are made exclusively for Womanswork by a Master Herbalist.

LavenderMintHandCreamHere are five reasons why shea butter is the perfect skin ‘food’:

  • Shea Butter is rich in nutrients including vitamins A and E, essential for healthy skin
  • Shea butter rebuilds and rejuvenates collagen and has been shown to have anti-aging properties
  • Shea Butter is anti-inflammatory, and is recommended for a number of skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis
  • Shea butter protects skin against damage from sun exposure, wind, cold and dry winter air
  • Raw, unrefined shea butter is produced from the nuts of the Shea Tree, native to West Africa, without the use of chemicals or preservativessheanuts. For more information about shea butter, visit the website of the American Shea Butter Institute.

West African Women and Shea Butter  – The demand for shea butter has increased significantly in the past 10 years. In West Africa women’s cooperatives have been established to produce and sell shea butter, producing enough income to build schools and health care clinics in rural villages. Click here to find out more about cooperatives for women shea producers.
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Making The Perfect Bow for A Festive Holiday Wreath

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Elizabeth Buchtman works at Womanswork, and on weekends she’s been making and decorating holiday wreaths with Stephen Chamberlain of Dutchess Farm in Castleton, VT. She agreed to share her secret with us for producing festive bows for her holiday wreaths.wreathphoto

Step One: Get your supplies lined up. This includes ribbon (3 in. wide with wire edges), a spool of wire, sharp scissors, and her Womanswork pocket stone to keep her scissors at peak performance for cutting the ends of the bow.

BowSupplies

Step Two: Pleat the ribbon in six even pleats. Hold them together at the base.Pleats

Step Three: Tie a piece of wire tightly around the base of the pleats. Do not cut the wire.WrappingWire1

Step Four: Pull each pleat or section away from the other sections before wrapping wire in between each one and around the bottom.PullingSections

Step Five: Keep wrapping wire in between each section and around the back side and up again through the next one. (5 times for 6 sections)WrappingWire

Step Six: Twist the wire on the back side and keep a 12″ length for tying your bow onto the wreath. Cut wire. Pull each section of the bow away from the center and plump it up to give it body and to cover the wire in the center. Cut the ends of the bow on a sharp diagonal. VOILA!

FinishedBow

Growing Paperwhites That Won’t Flop Over

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paperwhites3A problem with paperwhites, as with many bulbs planted in pots, is that they grow quite tall and all of their weight is at the top.

This information is reprinted from the about.com website. I have tried it and it works.

paperwhitesResearchers in the Flowerbulb Research Program at Cornell University have come up with an unusual solution to this top heavy problem: Alcohol.

When paperwhite bulbs are grown in a dilute solution of alcohol, the plants reach a height of 1/3 to ½ their normally expected growth – but the flowers remain normal size and last just as long.

Why they thought of giving their paperwhites a nip, I don’t know. But it appears that the resulting water stress on the plants is just enough to stunt their growth, but not interfere otherwise.

How to Stunt Paperwhites with Alcohol

  1. Pot your paperwhites in stones and water, as you normally would.
  2. Once the roots begin growing and the green shoot on top reaches about 1-2″, pour off the existing water.
  3. Replace the water with a solution of 4 – 6% alcohol, as described below.
  4. Continue to use the alcohol solution for future watering.

You should see results in a few days.

How to Make the Alcohol Watering Solution

  • The alcohol content needs to be less than 10%, or your plants will overdose and severe growth problems will occur. Many liquors are only labeled as “proof”, not percentage of alcohol. Don’t confuse the two. To determine what percentage alcohol you have, divide the proof in half, So an 86 proof bourbon is 43% alcohol.
  • You can use any hard liquor (vodka, tequila, whiskey…) or rubbing alcohol. Don’t use wine or beer because they are too high in sugar.
  • Check the bottle for the percentage alcohol.
  • You will have to do some math to get the different concentrations of alcohol down to 4-6%.To convert your booze to 5% alcohol, just divide the percentage alcohol by 5 and then subtract 1. That will tell you how many parts water to mix with your 1 part alcohol. Ex: 40 divided by 5 = 8: 8 minus 1 = 7… 7 parts water to 1 part alcohol.Or simply use this chart:

    Convert Existing Alcohol to a 5% Solution for Watering

    10% Alcohol = 1 Part Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    15% Alcohol = 2 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    20% Alcohol = 3 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    25% Alcohol = 4 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    30% Alcohol = 5 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    35% Alcohol = 6 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol
    40% Alcohol = 7 Parts Water to 1 Part Alcohol

And so on.

10 Easy Thanksgiving Tabletop Ideas With Plants

Here are 10 of our favorite tabletop ideas for Thanksgiving, using plants and fruits. For how-to instructions, click here to go to the Womanswork Pinterest board. Click on individual images to be taken to their source.

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Cranberries in glass container with votive candle in center. (We used a hand blown glass by Jill Reynolds, glass artist, with a pleasingly irregular shape, for added interest). Dorian Winslow, Womanswork

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Erin Boyle, Gardenista (click on photo to be taken to Gardenista website)

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Sunday Suppers + Kinfolk (click on image to be taken to website)

DIY Cotton Garland, detail 7, by Justine Hand for Gardenista

Holiday bough with cotton. (Click image for step by step instructions on Gardenista website)

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Apple place cards. No instructions needed.

steal this look thanksgiving tabletop from the garden l Gardenista

Persimmons with bay branches and painted walnuts. Can substitute other fruit and other greenery foraged locally. Click on the image for how to instructions at Gardenista.com

Erin Boyle, Gardenista

Dried fruit garland. Click on image for how to instructions from Erin Boyle, Gardenista.

Babble.com. This is the 7th image in a string of ideas.

Babble.com. (Click on this image and go to the 7th image.)

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Via carlaaston.com. No instructions needed

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Cotton bolls, bay branches and figs. Via SouthernLiving. com

 

 

Why We Love Arnica!

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Arnica flower

The yellow, daisy like flowers of the Arnica plant  make a cheerful addition to the herb or perennial garden. A member of the sunflower family, Arnica is easy to grow and quite adaptable,  preferring moist but well drained soil, but tolerant of  both clay and sandy soils, partial or full sun. It is hardy to all temperate zones.

While the European species, Arnica montana, is considered the official species and most often used in commercial products, there are 28 North American native species of arnica. In my Northern New Jersey herb garden, I  grow Arnica chammisonis, a native variety known as Meadow Arnica,  which I started easily from seed. If you live at a higher altitude, you may have luck growing Arnica montana (Mountain Arnica).

ArnicaMuscleRubCC

Womanswork Arnica Muscle Rub in Apothecary Style Aluminum Tubes

For more information about growing arnica, visit:  http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Arnica+montana

Regarded by herbalists as one of the best remedies for external healing, Arnica has been used since the 15th century to treat bruises, sprains, strains and torn ligaments, as well as inflammation and pain due to arthritis, rheumatism and similar conditions.

Today Arnica is used topically in over-the-counter creams, salves and ointments that are formulated to treat muscle pain and spasms from sports injuries, arthritis, bruises and muscle and joint inflammation. It can also be taken internally, but only in very small homeopathic doses.

Arnica is an active ingredient in Womanswork Arnica and Peppermint Muscle Rub. I infuse freshly dried Arnica montana flowers in pure sunflower oil for six weeks. Oil infusions have traditionally been used as a way of adhering beneficial ingredients onto the skin. Because the oil softens the keratin (outer) layer of the  skin, it allows for easy absorption of the soothing herb.  

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Liz Scholl (left) at Dingle Hill Flowers & Herbs

Click here to read about Dingle Hill Flowers & Herbs, the farm where some of the herbs we use for Womanswork after gardening skin care products are sourced.

This blog post was written by Liz Scholl, Womanswork Master Herbalist. Her formulas are exclusive to Womanswork.

Farmer-Florists Bring Flowers Fresh From the Farm

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Stephanie Hall is part of a growing trend in the florist trade to source flowers locally and in season. Her farm in North Carolina, Sassafras Fork Farm, has a two- acre plot dedicated to approximately 70 different varieties of cut flowers. Says Hall about the farmer-florist movement, “It’s a stark contrast to the conventionally grown, imported flowers of the commercial floral trade.” Stephanie-Hall-Womanswork-Blog

Stephanie grew up in Chapel Hill, the daughter of a UNC professor.  In 2011, she and her (just retired) father decided to start Sassafras Fork Farm, named for the native tree. The 150 acre plot of land had been in the family since 2000, an old tobacco farm that had not been in production for over a decade when they purchased it.

As soon as Stephanie started growing flowers she felt a deep connection to them. Says Hall, “There is a nostalgia I feel when I’m picking and arranging them that connects me to the past.” The growing season in NC is long, from April to the end of October, and she has been able to extend it further through the use of high tunnels and a passive solar greenhouse for seed starting.  Only two months, December and January, are off limits to her, without a heated greenhouse.Stephanie-Hall-Sassafras-Womanswork-Blog

As a result of her love of growing flowers, the farm’s priorities have changed.  Instead of focusing on a great diversity of produce, there’s much more focus on flowers, which they call the “Petals” part of the business.  Her father spends more of his time cultivating year round pastures for the cows, sheep and chickens, raised for grassfed meat, eggs and wool. But he also helps her by foraging for wild greenery, such as sassafras, wild blueberry, ferns, millets, sourwood, honeysuckle and river oats, which she uses abundantly in her arrangements.

Sassafras-Farm-WomansworkStephanie credits two formative events with helping her connect with others who share her passion for flowers, and giving her the confidence to stay the course. “Until I joined ASCFG [Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers], “I used to think flowers would only be a small part of our business, but now I feel otherwise,” says Stephanie. At ASCFG conferences she is reminded that there are growers all across the country like her, who are making a career of growing flowers.

The other thing that made a huge difference was meeting Erin Benzakein, founder of Floret in Washington’s Skagit Valley. In 2014, Stephanie attended Erin’s first “Farmer-Florist” workshop, and in 2015 she was invited to help with two workshops there. She says, “Through Erin I found the importance of cultivating beauty within my life as well as all the lives our flowers touch.”  At the workshop she learned about intensive growing methods, producing more high quality blooms in a smaller space, seed starting, compost tea, marketing strategies and floral design skills.

I asked Stephanie what some of her favorite cut flowers are. They are ranunculus, anemones, allium, old-fashioned scented narcissus, peony tulips, dahlias and poppies. When I mentioned that poppies are not something one typically sees in traditional floral arrangements she agreed and said that poppies really need to be grown locally. They won’t survive a long flight across country or across international borders.Weeders-Womanswork-Blogsassafras_Womanswork-Blog

She gave me these tips on conditioning poppies: 1) Stage of harvest is critical: Cut the poppy when its buds are just splitting open. Always cut in the morning when stems are filled with water. 2) Post harvest treatment is the 2nd most important thing: Heat sear the ends with a flame OR boiling water for about 5 seconds and then put in fresh water. Following these steps you can get 5 days from your poppies.

These days three quarters of Stephanie’s floral business is selling to other florists in the area (“Many of them are jumping on the bandwagon and want locally grown flowers”, says Stephanie), farmers markets and specialty grocery stores.  Stephanie is growing into designing for events, including weddings. When Stephanie was a bride herself just a year ago, they built a barn at the Farm to host her wedding.  They plan to hold ‘farm to fork’ dinners and other events there in the future. But she wants to take it slowly. She’s following her heart, and is grateful for the passion she’s found in flowers.Sassafras-floral-Womanswork-Blog

To learn more about Stephanie Hall and Sassafras Fork Farm, order our free Womanswork catalog here. This article was written by Dorian Winslow of Womanswork.

Growing Edible Figs

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Fig trees are easy to grow in warm climates. They produce their best fruit in Mediterranean climates with hot, dry summers and cool, wet winters. Mature fig trees are fully cold hardy to 20 degrees F. The trees can be grown outside their normal climate range if they are planted in lightweight, easy to move containers. In climates where winter temperatures fall below 20 degrees F, the potted plants should be moved indoors to a sunny location until spring. Fig trees need plenty of sun, at least 8 or more hours per day, so if this is not available indoors you should move them to an unheated garage or shed. Be sure to keep temperatures above 20 degrees F.  Your fig tree will drop its leaves and go dormant, but it should still be watered when the soil is dry.CaringforFigs-Womanswork-Blog

Once a year in spring, repot your fig tree using organic potting soil, pruning tops and roots to control the size. Use a larger container each time, up to a 25-gallon container, which will be its last home. During the growing season be diligent about watering and feeding the plant. Feed the fig tree monthly with compost or a manure tea to give the plant a healthy boost.FigTree-Womanswork-Blog

Water when the top inch of the soil is dry.  If you let the soil dry out completely your fig tree may lose its leaves. But take care that the soil is not constantly soggy either. For the best fruit production, water figs regularly during the growing season unless rainfall is adequate. Heavy rains or sporadic watering may cause the fruit to split. The amount of splitting varies depending on the variety, but a good rule of thumb is that the riper the figs, the more they will split and sour. When fall arrives, stop watering and allow your plants to harden off.

With proper care, your fig will live 20 or more years.

In most climates you can harvest figs twice, in June and then again in late summer.  Ripe fruits are soft to the touch and the skin is prone to splitting. Fresh figs are very perishable and should be refrigerated for up to 7 days or used right away. For more information and fig recipes visit http://www.californiafigs.com/.Eco-Spouts-Womanswork-Blog