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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.

Houseplants

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.”

Mulch

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.

Treatment

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.

Conclusion

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

BY JEZ FREDENBURGH
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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How to keep peonies fresh longer

Make Peony Blooms Last Longer

Using peonies as a cut flower for floral design is easy, with a few tricks to preserve the health of your plants and flowers.

Peonies are the queen of the garden during their blooming season. From late spring through early summer, there is a beautiful abundance of color and shapes blooming, depending on the variety. Finding a variety that is also fragrant adds to the reward of growing this exquisite flower.

Pick flowers in the cool of morning or evening
Storing peony stems allows you to use early and mid-season blossoms together in an arrangement.

Here are few tips to extend the bloom of cut peonies indoors.

When cutting flowers from your plants, be sure to leave at least two sets of leaves on the stem so that the plant can continue to thrive.

You can select flowers that are as open as you like, but for the best vase life, select buds that have just begun to open and feel similar to a marshmallow. 

Cut stems can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three weeks, butno fruit—such as apples—can be in the refrigerator with your peonies. The ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruit will cause petals to drop, and buds to wilt and fail to open. I store peony stems so that I can use early- and mid-season blossoms together in the same arrangement. (This is also a good safety net if you are hoping to use peonies for an event, but Mother Nature decided to allow the peonies to bloom early.)

I have success in storing blooms two ways. One is by placing cut stems in a clean vase of cool water in the refrigerator, making sure that low foliage is not in the water. This can be challenging because the height of the stems don’t always fit in the fridge very well. The other method is to cut the stems and place them lying down in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel to absorb moisture. Both methods require daily checks to replace the water in the vase or the paper towels. If any of the blossoms in the plastic bag grow moldy, the infected flowers should be discarded, and the remaining flowers placed in a clean plastic bag. If the buds droop, don’t worry—often they can be revived in a vase of warm water.

Got ants? Ants love the sweet nectar of peonies as they begin to open. I dunk the blossom end of the stem in cool, clean water for 30 seconds to rid the ants from the flower before bringing the flowers into the house.

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Easter Centerpiece

How to Make an Easter Centerpiece

I spotted an amazing Easter centerpiece in Southern Living back in 2015. I was totally in awe of the mechanics and art that went into creating this lovely arrangement. You can see more of my crafts and creations here.

I knew I wanted to take a stab at making this myself, but I ran into a number of challenges that I finally conquered this year! The first being that I could not find a fishbowl with a small opening like the one used by Southern Living. 

Finally I settled on this glass bowl that is 9 and a half inches deep and 9 inches across at the opening. This would have to do. This size is easy to find at Hobby Lobby or Michaels. IMPORTANT: Do not ever pick up one of these bowls by the rim, make sure you carry it from the bottom and sides. The rim can break off easily .

A floral cage would not fit across the top of this bowl and I really didn’t want water sitting in the bottom of my bowl beneath the carrots. Setting a plastic salad plate across the top of the bowl seemed to be the answer. I drilled two holes in one of two plastic plates and four holes in a second plate. 

First, I cut the green tops off of my carrots. Using floral wire, I stuck the wire through my carrots and gathered them into a tight bunch. 

The wires from the carrots were pulled up through the two holes in the first plate, securing the carrots hanging beneath. I did tuck a couple of little carrot greens into the top of the carrots to hide any wires that might show.

It is very important to secure the plates to the glass bowl. I used waterproof floral table to do this. 

A piece of wet floral foam was secured into a cage and that cage was then anchored to the second plate through the four drilled holes. This second plate can then be set upon the first and also firmly anchored with additional waterproof tape.

Carrot tops were the first thing I added to my arrangement.

Radishes and brussel sprouts were put on bamboo skewers to add them among the flowers to my arrangement.

I don’t think I could be happier with how my arrangement turned out. Now, if only I had Southern Living’s photographers capturing mine! This will be a lovely centerpiece for my Easter table. I hope I have inspired you and have offered you enough details that you can create this for yourself!  I would love to have you stop by my blog,   Celebrate & Decorate for the full tutorial as well as sign up for my latest creations, posts, recipes, exclusives, and more…

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Update

As you probably know, we are still dealing with the effects of the shut-downs from last year and the disruptions to our supply chain in a very real way. From product shortages and availability issues to logistical challenges in getting our flowers from outside countries, it will take some time to completely repair the supply chain and get back to 100% normalcy.

Here are some things we have for Easter, 2021.

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Rare ‘Christmas Star’ To Light Up Night Sky For First Time In Hundreds Of Years

Jupiter and Saturn will appear to be so close from Earth on Dec. 21 that they may look like one shining star.

Look up at the night sky on Dec. 21 and you may see something special.

The planets of JUPITER and SATURN will appear (weather-permitting) on the winter solstice to be so close from Earth that they may look like one shining star, even though they’ll actually be 450 million miles apart.

The so-called “Great Conjunction ” last happened in 1623 but could not be seen from Earth. Before that, the phenomenon previously occurred on March 4, 1226.

2020’s celestial event has been christened by some as the “Christmas Star,” due to its proximity to Christmas Day.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said, a professor of physics and astronomy at Rice University.

“On the evening of closest approach on Dec 21 they will look like a double planet, separated by only 1/5th the diameter of the full moon,” Hartigan explained. “For most telescope viewers, each planet and several of their largest moons will be visible in the same field of view that evening.”