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A Taste of 2023 – Hibiscus

This popular ingredient gives a whole new meaning to flower power.

Everyone is looking for bigger, bolder flavors, and hibiscus delivers: The electric pink flower is boldly floral and unmistakably tangy, and we’ve all become obsessed. “The taste is a showstopper—like the fabulous dress at a party everyone notices,” says Suzy Badaracco, president of food trend forecaster Culinary Tides, Inc. While the tart, citrusy flowers have been a popular ingredient in tea and cocktails forages,Google searches for hibiscus drinks have doubled in the past year, and chefs are adding the flavor to everything from appetizers to desserts: Hibiscus mentions on restaurant menus have risen 24 percent over the past few years. You’ll also find it all over the grocery store—in yogurt, goat cheese, sparkling water and sorbet, to name a few. Bonus: It’s full of vitamin C and other antioxidants. Taste it for yourself in one of these pretty pink recipe — Carol Lee


ACTIVE 45 min TOTAL: 2 hr MAKES: 6

1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup granulated sugar

4 teaspoons lemon-hibiscus tea leaves (from about 4 tea bags), crumbled with your fingers

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 large lemon)

1¼ sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

¾ cup sour cream

Cooking spray

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

Jarred hibiscus flowers in syrup, chopped, for topping, plus 2 tablespoons syrup

1. Preheat the oven to 350°. Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Beat the granulated sugar, crumbled tea leaves and lemon zest in a large bowl with a mixer on medium-high speed until well combined, about 1 minute. Add the butter and beat, scraping down the bowl, until light and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in the eggs one at a time until combined, then beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the sour cream. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until smooth.

2. Spray a 6-cup mini bundt pan generously with cooking spray and dust with flour, shaking out any excess. Evenly divide the batter among the cups, filling each about two-thirds of the way. Bake until the cakes are golden on top and spring back when gently pressed, 27 to 32 minutes. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the cakes cool about 10 minutes, then remove the cakes to the rack to cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, whisk the confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and hibiscus syrup in a medium bowl until smooth and spreadable. (The glaze should be thick; if it’s too stiff, thin with a few drops of water.) Spoon the glaze over the cakes, letting it drip down the sides. Top with some chopped hibiscus flowers. Let set, at least 20 minutes.


ACTIVE: 25 min l TOTAL: 1 hr 25 min l MAKES: 1 drink (plus extra syrup)

1. Make the syrup: Combine the hibiscus, sugar, ginger and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar, and cook for about 1 minute.Remove from the heat and let cool, then refrigerate until cold, at least 1 hour.

2. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a liquid measuring cup or storage container; discard the solids. (The syrup will keep for 2 to 3 weeks in a sealed container in the refrigerator.)

3. Make the float: Add the ice cream to a tall glass. Pour 3 tablespoons of the hibiscus syrup over the ice cream. Slowly pour in the seltzer, giving the foam a few seconds to subside.


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Fall Flowers Are Coming

It’s time to change out summer container gardens for a fall flowers look now that the days are growing shorter and temperatures cooling. Discover a dozen perfect plants for fall.


Beautiful mums create a cushion of color in festive seasonal shades of red, orange, yellow, peach, and white, as well as contrasting shades of pink. Because of their popularity, you can find these fall flowers in a wide variety of sizes. Look for dainty mini-mums in tiny 2-inch-wide pots (perfect for table décor) or giants that can grow a couple of feet across. 


Pretty pansies provide lovely cool-season color in just about every shade of the rainbow. Wonderfully versatile and heavy blooming, pansies are perhaps the perfect fall flower. Old-fashioned varieties grow in tidy mounds. Look for new varieties, too, that trail and are ideal as groundcovers or hanging baskets. 


Durable and easy-care celosia is a natural for fall because many varieties appear in the traditional color palette. Celosia provides bright yellow, warm orange, scarlet red, and deep burgundy purple accents to your container gardens. And don’t forget to add celosia to your landscape beds and borders. Plus, the flame-like plumes of bloom add fun vertical texture to other fall flowers. 


Croton is ideal for autumn. A houseplant in cold-weather regions (or a shrub in frost-free areas), it also grows well as an annual. Enjoy its flamboyant foliage in rich shades of red, orange, yellow, and purple. Look for different varieties to find the perfect croton for your fall plantings.  


Violas are cute and charming smaller cousins of pansies. They offer a multitude of flowers in just about every color. Because the blooms are daintier, they hold up better to rain and other weather. Violas come in a wider color range than pansies, making them among the most versatile fall flowers.  

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Healthy Growth For Planting Blueberries

Soil Needs

We recommend that you have your soil tested when planting blueberries. For healthy growth, blueberries do best in soil with a pH of 4.5 to 5.5. Consult your local Cooperative Extension Service for a soil test and advice on how to change your soil pH, if necessary.

You can also test soil pH yourself using a pH Test Kit. To lower soil pH, you can either apply a fertilizer that’s formulated for azaleas, hollies and other acid-loving shrubs, or an elemental sulfur.

If needed, lower the pH of your soil more gradually by digging in lots of peat moss and pine needles. It may take a year or more to see a change. Once the soil is acidic enough, you can plant blueberries and maintain soil acidity by mulching heavily every year with pine needles and shredded oak leaves.

If your blueberry plants arrive bareroot, don’t expose the roots to wind or sun before or during planting. If your ground is frozen, or for some other reason you are not ready to plant, soak the roots in a bucket of lukewarm water for up to 24 hours (no longer). You can then delay planting for a week or two if you keep the roots moist and in a dark, cool place where the temperature is above freezing (35 to 40 degrees F).

If the weather is warm, it is best to plant immediately. Do not store a dormant bareroot plant in a warm place — such as in your house — for more than a week or so. Plants stored under warm conditions are much more likely to be damaged by cold spring weather.

Space the plants in increments that will accommodate the size of the mature plant. Dig a hole that is twice as wide and deep as the diameter of the root system. The plants should be set into the planting hole at the same depth they were growing in the nursery. You should be able to see a soil line around the stem which will indicate how deep it was.

Spread the roots and position each plant so that all the roots will be covered with soil. Be careful not to plant too deep, and do not let the roots dry out during the planting process.

Take any peat moss that is packaged with the plant and mix it into the planting hole. Add more of your own peat moss in heavier soils. If you use peat moss or a planting mix that contains peat, make sure that it is saturated with water before putting it in the planting hole. Peat that is not saturated can wick moisture away from the plant and cause the roots to dry out. Pack the soil firmly around the roots and water thoroughly.


Plants should be watered weekly during the first year, unless they receive plenty of rain.


Wait four to six weeks after planting before adding any fertilizer. Do not apply fertilizer in late summer or fall. This could stimulate new succulent growth that could become injured during winter.

Use a balanced fertilizer, such as All-Purpose Fertilizer. This slow-release fertilizer contains sulfate of potash (potassium sulfate), which is good for blueberries. Do not use fertilizer that contains potassium chloride, which can adversely affect blueberries.

Yellow leaves on blueberries can be corrected with a foliar application of 1 tablespoon of iron chelate in a gallon of water sprayed over the leaves. You should see greener leaves in a few days. However, be aware that yellowing leaves may be a sign that the soil pH is too high. Have your soil tested for pH and amend it as needed.

After two to three years, you should should see 12-18″ of new growth per year. If not, check your soil pH and continue to amend the soil with compost and fertilizer as needed.

Flower Removal and Pruning

During the first year, it is important that your plants develop a strong root system and produce a lot of new shoots. Remove all flowers during the first year and do not allow any berries to develop. Do not prune your blueberry plants for two years.

After two years, prune annually in early spring, before leaves form. Remove weak or damaged branches and any branches less than 6″ long. Mature, thick branches in the center should be removed to improve air circulation and sun penetration. The goal is to have about 12 main stems per plant with a good mix of old and new. Any stems more than 2″ in diameter should be removed.


Sawdust mulch is commonly spread along the entire row of blueberries with extra sawdust mounded around the canes, often to a depth of 8″ or more.

Bird Netting

The best way to protect fruit from being damaged or eaten by birds is to cover it with netting. Bird netting should be installed at least two to three weeks before the fruit matures.

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Fertilizer shortage could impact crop yields over the next year

Experts warn that poor consumers may be the hardest hit

Experts are warning that the dual energy and supply chain crises could serve to significantly disrupt global crop production, potentially disrupting food supplies for poorer consumers in particular.

Those ongoing crises are helping to temporarily decrease the global supply of fertilizer, a critical component in much of world agriculture and one that allows farmers to grow considerable quantities of crops in much of the world’s soils. 

The fertilizer shortage is “impacting food prices all over the world and it hits the wallets of many people,” Yara International Director Svein Tore Holsether told the BBC this week.

“But for some people, especially in the developing world, this is not only a question about the wallet, but it’s a question of life or death.”

Fertilizer production depends in particular on natural gas, which has been in shorter supply over the past year due to a variety of supply and demand issues, many of them related to the pandemic.

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Poisonous Plants and Pets

With the warm weather of spring and summer, many of us have the urge to get outdoors, spruce up the exteriors of our homes, and plant beautiful gardens. Yet without realizing it, we could be exposing our pets to serious dangers growing in our own backyard flowerbeds or on the coffee tables in our homes. This is because many common garden and houseplants can be toxic, even deadly, to pets such as dogs and cats.

Outdoor Plants

The possibility of a pet being exposed to a poisonous plant is greater outside than inside the safety of your home. The majority of plants toxic to animals are only dangerous when they are ingested, but some reactions are caused by skin contact, so keeping your dog from digging up flower bulbs may not be enough to prevent exposure to hazardous plants. Examples of poisonous outdoor plants include:

  • Amaryllis – In dogs, ingestion of this plant’s toxins can result in “vomiting, depression, diarrhea, abdominal pain,” tremors, excessive drooling, and loss of appetite, according to PetMD’s Ten Common Poisonous Plants for Dogs.
  • Azalea – Vomiting, diarrhea, and excessive drooling result from ingesting azalea leaves. Without prompt veterinary treatment, more severe reactions can result in coma and possibly death.
  • Crocuses – Both types of crocus plant, the spring and autumn crocus, are poisonous to pets. However, while ingesting the spring crocus (Crocus) can cause gastrointestinal issues including diarrhea and vomiting, the autumn crocus (Colchicum autumnale) is more dangerous, causing respiratory failure and liver and kidney damage among other things.
  • Cyclamen – Severe vomiting and even death can result from ingestion of this plant’s toxic roots.
  • Daffodils – All parts of the daffodil plant are toxic to cats and dogs, and can cause gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, and possibly even more severe symptoms including cardiac arrhythmias or respiratory depression. Daffodil bulbs are covered in a crystal that irritates the tissues in the mouth and esophagus, which is evidenced by profuse drooling.
  • Lilies – In cats, acute renal failure can result from ingesting any part of the Lilium or Hemerocallis species (which include Easter lilies and tiger lilies, and day lilies, respectively). While not in the same family, lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis) is also extremely poisonous, with symptoms of “severe vomiting, diarrhea, drop in heart rate, severe cardiac arrhythmias, and possibly seizures,” according to Pet Poison Helpline.
  • Hyacinths and tulips – The alkaloids in hyacinths and the allergenic lactones in tulips can cause irritation in the mouth and esophagus. If only small amounts are ingested this results in excessive drooling, vomiting, and diarrhea, but ingestion of larger amounts may cause more severe symptoms such as respiratory problems or increased heart rate.
  • Kalanchoe – “This popular flowering succulent plant can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and heart arrhythmias if ingested by pets,” Pet Poison Helpline warns.
  • Oleander – The leaves of this popular shrub are extremely toxic if ingested, causing vomiting, decreased heart rate, and possibly death.


Although it may be more difficult to control what plants your dog or cat encounters outside, that does not mean there are no potential hazards indoors as well. In addition to the dangers of bringing any cut flowers of the aforementioned outdoor plants inside, houseplants can also pose a risk. Here are two such houseplants that have proven especially harmful to animals:

  • Dieffenbachia – This is a common decorative plant in offices and homes, but if a cat or dog ingests it, it can cause oral irritation (resulting in drooling and difficulty swallowing) as well as gastrointestinal problems including nausea and vomiting.
  • Sago palm – A popular houseplant in warmer climates, the sago palm is extremely harmful to pets. According to Pet Poison Helpline, ingesting any part of the plant—especially the seeds—can cause “vomiting, bloody stools, damage to the stomach lining, severe liver failure, and, in some cases, death.”


It is common knowledge that chocolate is bad for dogs. Chocolate contains theobromine, a substance that can be toxic in large quantities—to humans as well as their canine companions. The difference is that humans metabolize theobromine much faster, allowing larger amounts to be consumed without risk of toxicity.

What does this have to do with mulch? Some mulches are made up of cocoa bean hulls, and can have the same effect on dogs as chocolate if they ingest them. Cocoa bean mulch is attractive to gardeners as an environmentally friendly, organic way to nourish the soil. But if you’re a gardener and dog owner, it would be best to look into other alternatives.


Prevention is the first course of action when it comes to keeping pets safe from poisonous plants. If a pet is exposed despite preventive measures, however, taking immediate action can be the key to successful treatment and recovery. According to Alex Molldrem, DVM, there are four steps to follow if a pet exhibits symptoms of poisoning:

  1. Evaluate the symptoms. Try to identify the source the toxin, backtracking where and when your pet may have come into contact with it.
  2. Call the Pet Poison Helpline at 1-855-213-6680. As with most pet ailments, the sooner they are treated for toxicity, the better chance of recovery or at least minimizing any long-term damage.
  3. Do NOT give anything to your pet unless instructed to by a pet health professional. Home remedies can do more harm than good, and even if a treatment is widely accepted as helpful, that doesn’t mean it should be used in your pet’s particular case.
  4. Get veterinary help. While the Pet Poison Helpline can give you advice on immediate steps to take in treating your pet, it may be necessary to take them to the closest veterinarian to be examined in person. It is a good idea to bring the plant you think your pet has eaten.Common treatments often call for inducing vomiting, decontamination via enemas or binders, and flushing out the toxins with intravenous fluids. Bathing with liquid dish soap may be needed if the toxins were exposed to the pet’s skin rather than internally ingested, Molldrem says. This removes the toxins from the animal’s sebum, as Drs. Erik Dunayer and Valentina Merola explain in The 10 most common toxicoses in cats

As with most pet ailments, treatment is generally most effective when the symptoms are recognized early and treatment is begun promptly and aggressively. To do this, it’s important to be aware of what sort of plants your pet might encounter both inside and outside, and if possible remove those dangerous plants from their environment altogether .Sometimes it’s unpreventable to keep pets away from certain poisonous plants. Walking your dog or caring for an outdoor cat means they are exposed to environments beyond your control. In the event that prevention isn’t completely possible, it helps to know what sort of plants cause which symptoms. The Humane Society of the United States provides a link to a .pdf file of Plants Potentially Poisonous to Pets, which they suggest printing out and having close at hand in the event that your pet begins to present symptoms of poisoning. The ASCPA also has a searchable page of plants toxic to dogs, cats, as well as horses. Because getting treatment as quickly as possible is essential, keep emergency phone numbers where they’re easy to find or access, and know the route to the closest veterinary emergency service.


We care about our pets, and we want them to be as happy and healthy as possible. Whether it’s planning a garden for the spring and summer months, or even something as simple as purchasing a new houseplant, pet owners have more factors to consider when selecting plants than water and shade requirements. By taking into consideration which plants are harmful to animals, we can avoid toxicity dangers and create safe, healthy living environments for our pets.

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The 4,000 mile flower delivery

Made On Earth

The story of the world’s trading networks told through eight everyday products

Our love of flowers might seem frivolous, but it drives a worldwide industry worth billions of pounds.

While the Netherlands dominates the trade, countries on the equator are becoming increasingly important as growers.

For more than 200 years, the heart of the global trade in cut flowers has been the Netherlands. The world’s largest global auction for flowers began, famously, in a pub. One trader turned to his peers and asked, how much? 

The question was the start of the most dynamic and highly organised trading sites for flowers in the world. Now known as the Royal FloraHolland auction house at Aalsmeer, near Amsterdam, the floor of a cavernous warehouse is home to a giant game of Tetris with living flower stems bustled about on trolleys, to be bought, sold and dispatched. 

As it has done for years, Royal FloraHolland still plays a critical role importing and then re-exporting 40% of flowers from all over the world. But newer players in the flower trade are making their presence felt, shifting the dynamics of production. As transport technology develops, producers in regions elsewhere, including sub-Saharan Africa, are challenging the Netherlands’ traditional hold on the industry. 

The scale of the global market for cut flowers is large, and increasing. In the UK alone, the market for cut flowers and ornamental plants was worth £1.3 billion in 2018, according to government statistics. Around 90% of these flowers are imported – the vast majority still coming via the Netherlands. In 2015, the global trade in flowers was worth around €15bn (£10.6bn), with stems shuttled between continents with breath-taking speed.

Keeping up with the world’s demand for flowers involves an intricate and delicately balanced supply chain of workers, farmers, wholesalers, airlines, cargo ships, traders, florists and supermarkets. Getting something as delicate as a bunch of flowers from one continent to another without them being crushed or wilting is a daunting technological feat. 

Cut flowers have to be transported quickly using a “cold-chain” – a series of refrigerated facilities on farms, lorries, planes, and boats – which put the flowers into a dormant state, so they stay fresh. This allows a rapid transfer from farm to shop within 24-48 hours, if going by plane, says Sylvie Mamias, secretary general of Union Fleurs, the international flower trade association. 

Time is critical: for every extra day spent travelling flowers lose 15% of their value. Vase life – the length of time flowers stay fresh after reaching the customer – is then usually 12-15 days, Mamias says. 

The biggest buyers of cut flowers are the EU and the US, but the biggest growers and exporters are the Netherlands, Ecuador, Colombia, Kenya and Ethiopia. Roses, carnations and chrysanthemums are the most popular blooms.

In the UK, 80% of cut flowers come via the Netherlands, according to the British Florist Association, although a significant proportion originate in Kenya. Some Kenyan flowers also come straight to the UK on direct flights from Nairobi, where entire terminals at certain airports are dedicated to flights exporting blooms. 

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