We see them just about everywhere around this time of year in hanging baskets, patio pots and arranged beautifully in garden beds. Annual plants, such as petunias, geraniums and begonias to name a few, complete their life cycle within a years’ time. Being both fairly easy to care for and their ability to look stunning all season long, annuals are perfect for any gardener, with or without experience.
During the pandemic many novice gardeners picked up the hobby of gardening though annual plants, transforming their garden space into a blooming oasis. Continue reading if you are new to these beautiful outdoor plants and would like a few care tips or would like to learn more about them.
Most annuals require full sun, at least six to eight hours daily. Annuals that thrive in the sun include geraniums, petunias and marigolds.
If partial shade is an option or necessity based on where you want to place the flowers, good varieties include begonias, impatiens, fuchsia and coleus.
Annuals don’t have deep roots because they focus on producing flowers. Be aware of outside conditions such as heat, direct sunlight and wind which can dry the soil out quickly.
Most annuals like soil that is slightly or evenly moist two to three inches down. A rule of thumb is that when the soil is dry one inch below the surface, its time to give the plant water.
The lush foliage of some annual plants can make it difficult for water to make its way down to its roots, so do more than “sprinkle”, water deeply.
When container gardening, check often for water and use containers with drainage holes.
Container plants don’t come in nutrient-rich soil, rather a potting mix including peat moss. Providing your plants with a water-soluble fertilizer on a weekly basis, whether in the garden or in a container will help to make the plant as beautiful and healthy as possible.
Sometimes annuals benefit from a bit of “refreshing” during the heat of the summer. Just pick or trim tired blooms and give them some water-soluble fertilizer and they’ll spring back.
By following these steps, you will be sure to enjoy healthy, vibrant annuals all summer long.
Flowers are beautiful all on their own, but it takes talent, dedication and resources to hand-craft an eye-catching, long-lasting floral arrangement and deliver it to a recipient’s home or place of work.
In its newsletter, the Royer’s Flowers & Gifts Kids Club regularly showcases the tools and tricks of the trade that our florists draw upon to do the very best work for our customers.
We’ve compiled some of them below. We hope you enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into the dynamic nature of a flower shop.
Superman wears a red cape on his back. Royer’s Flowers designers have something similar, except they wear it on the front.
It’s an apron, and its pockets hold all the tools they need to be floral super heroes: a knife to cut flowers; scissors to cut thicker stems or ribbon; calculator to add flower prices; pen/pencil to take notes from a customer; highlighter to mark special delivery times and other can’t-miss information; permanent marker to identify the contents of boxes before they are packed away; even a mini-screwdriver in case something needs tightening.
Aprons are embroidered with the Royer’s Flowers logo and have a place for a name tag so customers can identify the designer and how long he or she has been with the company.
The tape at the top of these vases looks like a game of tic-tac-toe, doesn’t it? It’s a tape grid, and it helps us space flower stems evenly. It also provides support to the stems so they stand tall and look their best.
We use three types of tape depending on the color of the container: clear tape for glass, white tape for white containers, and green tape for baskets and other dark non-glass containers.
The reason for the different colors is that we want our customers to focus on their beautiful flowers and not the tape.
Those green blocks in the photo are called floral foam. The foam holds cut flower stems in place to make arrangements look pretty. It also holds water so the flowers last as long as possible.
If you use scissors for craft projects at school or home, you might have a future working in a flower shop! We use several different types of scissors in our stores. Some are just for cutting flowers, some are made to cut thicker stems such as evergreens or lemon leaf, and others are just for cutting ribbon. We never use ribbon scissors on flowers because the blades would get dull and wouldn’t cut the fabric straight.
No matter what you do with scissors, it’s always important to use them safely.
If you play soccer or baseball or another sport for a team, then you probably wear a uniform. Maybe it includes a shirt with your team’s name on front and your number on the back.
Royer’s employees are part of a team, too. They might not be kicking or throwing balls, but they are constantly in motion. They practice how to make beautiful arrangements so they are ready for their big games, such as Valentine’s Day or Christmas.
They wear uniforms, too. They wear the Royer’s logo on their shirts because it helps to make each employee feel and work like part of a unified team. It also makes it easy for customers to know who they can ask for help.
When we sell flowers, we put them in pretty plastic wrap. It’s kind of like when you wear a coat or sweater: the wrap helps keep the flowers warm and protects them from the wind when they go outside. The wrap also makes the flowers look extra special, like a gift.
Our delivery vans and the men and women who drive them are crucial to the success of our business.
Once one of our designers creates a gorgeous flower arrangement, it’s up to our drivers to deliver them safely and on time. Of course, the flowers have to look as good as they did when they left the store, which can be a big challenge when it’s really hot or cold or stormy.
Our drivers might be the only Royer’s Flowers employee that customers see if they ordered over the phone or online. So we have to hire people who are safe drivers but also happy and friendly and keep their uniforms and vans clean because they represent our company.
Drivers have a lot of responsibility, but they also have the good fortune to deliver presents of flowers to people.
To understand how flower growing has changed in the past four decades, consider 1, 7 and 9. Those numbers identify the three remaining greenhouses at Royer’s corporate complex in Lebanon. As the breaks in number sequencing suggest, Royer’s had more greenhouses back when we grew our own flowers – nine total at the corporate complex and six more nearby on Colebrook Road.
However, a perfect storm occurred in the 1970s: An oil embargo made it prohibitively expensive for Royer’s and other florists to heat their greenhouses, while Bogota, Colombia was found to offer ideal temperatures and sunlight for growing flowers. In the intervening years, most flower growing has shifted to South America.
Today, as Tom Royer, CEO, pointed out, Royer’s isn’t a grower but rather a holder of plants. That is, the company buys from growers both inside and outside the United States. Those plants and flowers are delivered to the corporate complex, where they reside before being distributed to Royer’s 16 stores in seven counties.
Much of the “holding” occurs in the three greenhouses which houses equipment designed to improve plant quality and operating efficiency.
TURN OF A TIMER
Over the past few years Royer’s has installed new flood tables in each of its remaining greenhouses. This automatic plant watering system isn’t new to Royer’s though, the company has utilized this technology since 1999.
Each flood table has its own water reservoir. Once per day, we turn on a timer that floods the table for typically 15 minutes but longer if external conditions warrant. The plants, lined up in rows, drink through openings in the bottom of their containers.
Drip Irrigation systems are also utilized in the greenhouses, specifically for when we have hanging baskets, such as around Mother’s Day. Each water line is placed in or above a hanging basket and when turned on, the water will slowly be absorbed into the soil.
With both systems, a worker doesn’t have to tend to each plant individually, a time-consuming proposition considering the hundreds of containers.
“Now I can water all these plants in 15 minutes,” Tom said, “whereas it would take somebody two or three hours to do that day after day after day.”
The reduced labor also will improve quality, as watering won’t ever have to be sacrificed for the sake of other time demands. (In some cases, watering from above can cause damage, such as stains on violet petals.)
Of course, not all plants need the same amount of water.
“Just like people, they drink different, they eat different,” Tom said. Reflecting those differences, Royer’s separates plants by type (all violets on one bench, for instance) or at least by pot size and waters them accordingly.
Water that isn’t absorbed by the plants goes back into each table’s reservoir so it can be conserved and reused.
Another greenhouse variable is sunlight. In greenhouse 7, which holds blooming plants, a system of cables and pulleys operates the fabric shade cloths. By controlling the amount of sunlight, Royer’s can maintain an internal temperature of 75 degrees.
“If these shade cloths weren’t on here,” Tom noted on a warm, sunny day in early October, “it would be a lot hotter in here.”
Tom said the expenditure on flood tables and the shade system are the price of doing right by customers. “It’s an investment in the future,” he said. “It’s worth it to me to do that because long term I’m going to have better product. It’s going to be taken care of properly. It will grow better, too.”
Maggie Liriano was initially inspired by the robots she saw on television shows.
“I was like, that’s so cool, I want one of my own,” the fourth-grader at Mifflin Park Elementary School in Berks County said. “So I made one of cardboard when I was little, and I would dress like a robot. I’ve always asked my mom, can we get an actual robot?
“She said, ‘When you grow up, maybe you can make your own.’ “
Liriano may not have to wait that long. She got hands-on experience with a robot this year as one of the 23 third- and fourth-grade girls who participated in the school’s new Girls Who Code club.
Royer’s Flowers & Gifts, which has three Berks County stores, donated $1,050 to help the club purchase six robots and a floor mat used in competitions.
At Mifflin Park in Shillington, the Girls Who Code club developed under Mark Engle, the school’s innovation and gifted teacher.
His science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, room is alive with curious children, two chirping parakeets, a turtle, rabbit, hedgehog and fish.
It’s a beehive of activity, literally, although the one in the room is only for observation. There’s another one on the school’s “green” roof from which Engle harvests honey.
Girl empowerment and coding
The innovation curriculum covers engineering, coding and robotics, and the scientific process and environmental standards.
Kayla Morris, another fourth-grader and the daughter of an engineer, enjoyed coding in Engle’s class. She signed up for Girls Who Code as a “cool after-school thing,” she said.
Although Engle had similarly modest expectations for the club, they were exceeded quickly.
“I figured kids are going to come for a couple hours, we’re going to have some fun, and then it will be over,” he said. The reality was that the club, which met from October through Valentine’s Day, held twice as many sessions as initially scheduled, and some of the girls worked on projects on their own.
Girls Who Code has its own curriculum that promotes girl empowerment and coding. Engle said he “turned it up a notch” by entering the students into a robot competition, which promoted problem solving, innovation and teamwork.
The rechargeable robots are known as Dash. Imagine four teal balls, three on the bottom that act as wheels and one on the top that serves as a head with a big eyeball. Dash is approximately six inches tall.
One of the appeals of Dash is that students can give the robot a personality, from changing the color of its blinking lights to recording sounds for it to utter to making it dance. Some students made helmets for their robots from styrofoam cups normally used for serving macaroni and cheese in the school cafeteria.
“They can make it speak Spanish,” Engle said, eliciting laughter from club members Liriano and Morris, “although Mr. Engle never understood what it was saying because I don’t speak Spanish, but the robot clearly does.”
Using a touch screen on a pad, students can string together block code to, for instance, direct the distance that Dash travels, dictate turns and the robot’s speed.
Saturn and Jupiter
The competition comprised five challenges involving simulated visits to nine planets, such as negotiating the robot around the rings of Saturn. Students had to find a way to hook a magnet to their robots to retrieve washers, which played the role of Jupiter’s icy moons.
“They realize very quickly,” Engle said, “I did this but the magnet’s too high, it’s not picking anything up. Or I’m moving too fast. And so they not only had to do the coding problem-solving, but also what they made and would it be an effective use.”
Clearly, the lessons they have learned have inspired the students. Liriano and another classmate raised their hands to present their robots at a community event. Morris went with her family to a Girls Who Code event in New York City.
And more opportunities await as they move up to Governor Mifflin Intermediate School next year.
Liriano was incredulous to learn that Engle runs a co-ed club at the intermediate school that actually does make a robot.
“You do?” she said.
“Just made your day, Mags,” Engle said with a laugh.
Meanwhile, Engle anticipates doubling the number of participants in Girls Who Code in the coming school year.
Even after the Easter Bunny has visited and the last eggs are hunted, Easter bulbs – such as daffodils (narcissus), hyacinths, and tulips will bring beauty and color into your home. In fact, you can make the flowers last a lot longer by following these few tips.
The key to making the blooms last longer is to keep the plants in a cool place, such as your garage or porch. For smaller plants, such as a single-bloom hyacinth, finding space in your refrigerator will work just as well. This will stall the normal aging process, extending the life of the blooms.
Keeping your bulbs in a cool place overnight or while at work will help extend the life of your bloom and allow for maximum enjoyment when you are at home. Not all bulbs are freeze tolerant so keep temperatures in mind, especially overnight.
Like any living plant, it’s also important to keep the plants watered. Most bulbs like to be watered at soil level rather than overhead. Do not overwater, the soil should not be saturated at all times.
After your bulb plants have finished blooming, let the plant die back into itself. Allowing the leaves to yellow and wither before removing will help nourish the bulb for the following year by. Keep in mind this is different from deadheading the bloom which can be beneficial to bulb growth. Keep the bulb in its pot and store in a cool, dark place. In early fall, separate the bulbs and plant them in your garden in anticipation of their blooming again next spring. Be mindful that some bulbs will not come back depending on climates, among other reasons, following these tips does not guarantee that your bulbs will bloom again.
“The findings show that people who lived with flowers in their homes for just a few days reported a significant decrease in their levels of stress and improvements in their moods.”
One-third of people are stressed every day; women are particularly affected, with one in four of them experiencing stress multiple times daily.
“Our findings are important from a public health perspective,” said lead researcher Erin Largo-Wight, associate professor in the university’s department of public health, “because adding flowers to reduce stress does not require tremendous effort to generate a meaningful effect.”
The Society of American Florists offered these tips for using flowers “to help relax and rewind”:
Experience flowers: Walk into your local florist and take a look around. Just the sight and smell of the natural beauty of flowers will put you at ease. Ask your florist to show you what’s in the cooler so you can learn about new varieties, colors and design styles.
Find peace: If you are having a bad day when it seems like nothing is going right, try flowers in soothing, tranquil colors, such as blues, lavenders and pale greens. Place a small arrangement on your nightstand or in your bathroom, so you can experience the stress-relieving benefits of flowers right before you go to bed, and right when you get up to start your day.
Help others: Sometimes the best way to relieve stress and the pressures of the day, is to do something nice for someone else. Here’s an idea: Go to your florist and buy two bouquets. Keep one for yourself, then take the other bouquet and “petal it forward” to a stranger on the street. You’ll be amazed at the reaction to your random act of kindness.
Give yourself some joy: One great way to reconnect with joy and feel less stressed is to surround yourself with simple things that make you feel happy and loved, like a colorful bunch of flowers or a blooming plant. Flowers have the power to open hearts, and when your heart is open you are more likely to focus on the positive points in your day.
Be a friend: Do you have a friend or loved one who could use a boost? Have flowers delivered unexpectedly to their door, and watch their ordinary day become extraordinary. It will make you smile, too.
Color your world: Color therapists say colors really do affect our moods. The happiest color? Orange. It promotes optimism, enthusiasm, and a sense of uplift. Choose orange flowers — roses, gerberas, lilies, ranunculus, alstroemeria, tulips — to put on your kitchen counter or your work desk, and see your mood soar.
Pepper your house with small doses of calm: When bringing home flowers from your florist, have a couple of small vases and containers available so you can place a few flowers in different parts of your living space. You’ll be amazed how many small arrangements you can get out of a single bunch of flowers, and you’ll have constant reminders to “stop and smell the flowers.”
The 2018 research from the University of North Florida builds on other university studies suggesting that flowers can help make people happy, strengthen feelings of compassion, foster creativity and boost energy.
Valentine’s Day often is described as the flower industry’s version of the Super Bowl.
It’s the No. 1 holiday for florists, similar in size to the Christmas season but playing out in a much shorter schedule.
In 2022, 22 percent of Americans bought fresh flowers or plants as gifts for Valentine’s Day, according to the Society of American Florists. Roses comprised 83 percent of those purchases, with red roses the top seller by far.
Just as the victorious football team’s most devoted fans will celebrate for days after the big game, the recipient of Valentine’s Day roses reasonably can expect to get a week or longer out of them by taking some simple steps.
KEEP ROSES COOL
Keep them away from a heat source, such as a vent or direct sunlight. While you are sleeping, you can place them in an unheated room or garage before putting them back on display in the morning.
KEEP ROSES WATERED
If roses arrive in a vase:
They will use more water than you think, so add water pretty much daily.
If after five days or so the water is getting dirty, pull the roses out, re-cut the stems and put them back in the vase with fresh water. Add a packet of floral preservative, available from your florist.
If the water is relatively clean, leave it alone as it will have some preservative left in it.
If roses arrive loose or in a box:
If the roses came with tubes on the stems, remove the tubes and re-cut the stems about 1 inch from the bottom. It is best to cut at an angle, which creates more surface area for water intake.
Place the roses in a vase with water that is room temperature to a little warm.
Add floral preservative to the water; you should have received a packet with the delivery.
Only change the water if it becomes noticeably dirty.
IF ROSES DON’T OPEN
Within a day or two, your roses should begin to open. If not, remove them from the vase, re-cut the stems at an angle, and return them to the vase.
If they still do not begin to open, re-cut the stems but this time also float the flowers in a bath of water for an hour or two to rehydrate them. Then return them to the vase. Most times, this will bring the roses around.
In one significant way, the Valentine’s Day/Super Bowl analogy falls short of the goal line.
Because unlike the football game, the best outcome for Valentine’s Day is when everyone – florist, giver and recipient alike – emerges a winner because those beautiful flowers lasted so long.
For all of its exploration of the galaxy, the space program has accrued many benefits right here on earth. Thanks to NASA, we know that houseplants can purify the air in our homes and workplaces.
NASA originally focused on finding ways to purify the air in orbiting space stations. A 1973 space mission identified 107 volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, that were emitted by the synthetic materials inside the spacecraft. It was clear that tightly sealed buildings, whether orbiting in space or on the ground, could cause health problems.
Sick building syndrome
Back on earth, spurred by the energy crisis of the 1970s, the building industry focused on making old and new structures more energy efficient. Without intending to, they also paved the way for trapping pollutants – or what is often called “sick building syndrome.”
Three of the pollutants found in spacecraft – benzene, formaldehyde, and trichloroethylene – also are present in homes and offices, emitted by everything from building materials to furnishings to office equipment. Air-tight buildings conserve energy and reduce heating and cooling costs, but they also trap these pollutants.
NASA found that certain houseplants, because they are good at absorbing gases, could remove indoor pollutants. Researchers suggested using one potted plant per 100 square feet of home or office space to improve indoor air quality. One study found that philodendron, spider plant and golden pothos removed 80 percent of the formaldehyde that was introduced into a sealed chamber.
If you want to improve the air quality of your space, you might consider bringing home some of these commonly recommended plants:
1. Heartleaf philodendron
2. Elephant ear philodendron
3. Cornstalk dracaena
4. English ivy
5. Spider plant
6. Janet Craig dracaena
9. Golden pothos
10. Peace lily
11. Selloum philodendron
12. Chinese evergreen
13. Bamboo or reed palm
14. Snake plant
15. Red-edged dracaena
Sources: sunsethillsfoliage.com, coopext.colostate.edu
For the holidays, the song says, you can’t beat home sweet home.
But while the sunshine of a friendly gaze can warm your heart, home also is where you can find practical solutions to Christmas complications.
Take hairspray, for instance.
You can spray it on nail polish to make it dry faster as you get ready for the office party, or on wrapped presents to make them glossy and stand out.
Our favorite holiday hack, however, is the power and punch hairspray can give to your Christmas wreath.
A wreath’s round shape and evergreen composition are why it is a symbol of eternal life. Evergreen trees have long been revered for their ability to survive winter.
Of course, even a fresh wreath will become dry over time. A cut Christmas tree will lose needles, but you can slow the process by giving it daily drinks of water.
That’s not possible with a wreath. Instead, you can seal in the wreath’s moisture with hairspray. It acts like glue and holds the needles on.
For best results and to avoid messes, spray the wreath outdoors before you hang it on a door, window or wall. Hang it on the outside of a door (it can get cooked if placed behind glass) and out of direct sunlight.
If you want to be happy in a million ways, the song says, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.