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Though a good florist can make floral arrangements look effortless, designing your own bouquets and vase arrangements for an at-home event can seem quite daunting. Following a few basic guidelines as you create your bouquet can help you avoid common problems like lopsidedness or holes in the crown.

Choose appropriate flowers for the occasion.

A festive dinner or celebration calls for lots of color. Don’t be afraid to get creative with your bouquet, use fun shapes and colors and mix with interesting accent greens as flowers such as yellow craspedia or curly willow. Oranges, reds, and yellows mixed with purples and blues are great for celebratory events like banquets and parties. On the other hand, if you’re planning a more down-tempo affair, or attempting to create a sympathy bouquet stick with elegant tones of white, cream and blue, perhaps mixed with some greens like bear grass or ti leaves.

Pick a vase and form your “base”.

Now you’ll have to make some decisions about the dimensions of your arrangement. How high do you want it to be? Should it be wide or compact? Take the location of the arrangement into consideration when you make these decisions; this will help you pick the right sized vase. The greens and foliage will be the foundation of your bouquet and help to shape the entire arrangement as you add flowers. It’s important to spend a little extra time and care on this step. Build a foundation that is higher towards the back and allow the foliage to rest easily on the edge of your vase. You can decide whether to make this base of green asymmetrical (for a more modern look) or symmetrical (more traditional).

Add your “face” flowers.

Weave the larger “face” flowers – such as roses, peonies, anything with a large, open head – into your foliage, trimming the stems at different lengths so that they don’t form a bulky line of blooms, that’s a sure way to ruin the aesthetic of your bouquet. The stems of the foliage should form a kind or netting or web that will hold the face flowers in place. Play around with the arrangement of the flowers until you find a design that’s pleasing to you. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical, but watch out for lopsidedness or drooping.

Add smaller blooms and accents.

Now to complete your bouquet, add your accent flowers and greens or vines, such as curly willow or forsythia branches. Make sure to add these at every level of the bouquet and fill in any holes. Flower arranging is an art, not an exact science. Find a shape and organization that works for you and if anything doesn’t look right move things around. You want to end up with a cohesive shape where flowers are not so loose that they fall out or droop, and so tight that it looks overly manicured. You’ll know when you’re done.

Looking for a more natural way to get relief from common ailments? In addition to offering visual pleasure, many flowers also have powerful medicinal properties and can help get you back in good health without the unpleasant side effects of heavily processed, over-the-counter pharmaceuticals. Some flowers can help to heal cuts and burns while others ease headaches or menstrual cramps. You just have to know what to look for. You may find that you already have a bona fide medicine cabinet growing in your garden. Many flowers can easily be made into a tea, infusion or poultice as needed to relieve ailments. Between your garden and your kitchen you may already have all you need to preserve and sustain your health naturally.

BegoBegoniania:

This common garden favorite has a number of medicinal uses. For headache relief, simply steep a few flower heads in hot water for a couple minutes and drink the infusion. Begonia “tea” also has the added benefit of eliminating toxins from the body. Applying crushed begonia leaves and flowers directly to the skin can also help to heal sores and burns and relieve pain.


 

Calendula:Calendula

This cheery orange-yellow bloom has powerful healing properties that can be taken advantage of when used correctly. Calendula is great for healing injured or burned skin. Make your own Calendula-infused curative oil for best results. Simply combine dried Calendula flowers with almond, olive or safflower oil (2 oz. flowers for every 1 cup of oil) in a blender and blend until you get an even (albeit a little lumpy) mixture. Pour the mixture into a jar and let it sit in a warm, sunny location for about 3 weeks, giving the jar a vigorous shake each day. When you reach the end of the third week, pour the infusion into a cloth bag and squeeze out the oil. Let the oil sit for a few days, then strain it through cheesecloth or tough paper towels. Use this topical oil on burns and sores to speed recovery.


Carnation

Carnation:

Carnation petal tea has been known to not only alleviate stress and anxiety but also reduce swelling and clear the skin. Simply pluck the petals from flower heads (be sure to remove them from the flower base, which is bitter) and steep in hot water for 3-5 minutes.


 

Dandelion:Dandelion

Commonly known as a weed, this little yellow flower can be found by the roadside, in the meadows, and virtually everywhere throughout the states. Though many folks go to great lengths to keep this hardy plant out of their gardens, it can be very effective in treating anemia and cleansing the bloodstream. Native Americans knew of its healing powers and used it to promote general well being, and as a mild laxative. Eat the leaves raw or make a tea out of the plant parts.


 

GardeniaGardenia:

Prized for its intoxicating scent, Gardenia also has tremendous healing powers. It can be used to relieve stress, depression and anxiety, as a blood tonic and coagulant, and to reduce swelling and joint pain. To treat swelling, bruising and tenderness from injury, use it topically (you can make a paste by crushing the petals and steeping in olive or almond oil). Make a tea from the blossoms for relief from headaches, irritability, jaundice, hypertension and ulcers.


 

Jasmine

Jasmine:

Sweet smelling jasmine blooms are popular additions to green tea, and can aid digestion and help to treat ulcers. They have also been known to help with anxiety and insomnia. Pick flowers at the height of their bloom and steep in hot water for 3-5 minutes.

 


 

HoHoneysuckleneysuckle:

Honeysuckle is useful as a topical treatment for cuts and inflammations (make a paste from the crushed flowers leaves and warm almond or olive oil). This flower also makes a great tonic for sore throats. Steep the blossoms in hot water and gargle with the tea for relief from throat aches and to speed recovery from colds.


Roses

Rose:

Eating raw rose petals has been known to both relieve depression and improve circulation. Roses are quite safe to consume and the blossoms can be eaten raw or made into a tea. The tea will act as a mild laxative and calmative. Make the petals into a paste and apply topically to noticeably improve the condition of the skin.


 

SSunflowersunflower:

Make sunflower leaf tea to bring down high fevers and ease inflammation of the lungs. The leaves also have diuretic properties. Make a poultice from sunflower roots to treat rheumatism, snake bites and spider bites.

Essential oils are a great alternative to perfume sprays. They can be used as body oils for massage or heated to make to your home or office smell wonderful. Commercially produced essential oils are somewhat difficult to make. The ingredients undergo a sophisticated distillation process involving instruments most of don’t keep around the house. The oils produced are usually heavily scented and may be quite costly to purchase. But there’s an easy way to make your own essential oils at home using just a few simple materials and a little elbow grease. You don’t need a high-tech distiller to get lovely flower and herb-based oils, your kitchen should already have everything you need. Just follow the simple steps below.

You will need:

• Freshly picked herbs or flowers (lavender, mint and roses are all good picks)
• A base oil such as almond, sunflower, safflower, or olive oil
• Plastic ziploc bag
• Rolling pin
• Cheesecloth
• Glass jar with lid
• Dark tinted small glass bottle

1) Gather your plant materials.

Pick fresh flowers or herbs in the morning, when they are most potent. Make sure you pick plant parts that are free of damage from pests. As a rule, only pick up to one third of the plant or plants in your garden to make sure the plants themselves will continue to thrive (unless, of course, you want to use the whole plant). Tip: herbs are the most potent right before they bloom.

2) Release the oils.

Rinse your plant materials in cool water and blot them dry with a paper towel. Then, place 1 cup of the plant matter inside a plastic sandwich bag and seal the bag. Bruise the plants with a wooden rolling pin, just enough to release the plant essences – no need to go nuts here, a little bruising can go a long way. Just make sure you can see that some bit of the plant sap is released.

3) Prepare your base oil.

Choose sunflower, safflower, almond or olive oil as your base oil. Almond oil is a great choice if you intend to make a body oil. It also won’t cloud the fragrance as much as something like olive oil. Pour about 1 cup of your base oil into a glass jar.

4) Infuse the oil.

Add your plant matter to the oil and seal the jar. Place it in a warm spot (like on top of the fridge) to steep for 1-2 full days (24 – 48 hours). You don’t want the mixture to heat too quickly, so keep it out of direct sunlight. The process should be slow and gradual; you’re infusing, not cooking!

5) Strain the mixture.

After 1-2 days, open the jar and strain the mixture through a piece of cheesecloth. Discard the plant matter and return the oil to the jar. Chances are your oil won’t be as heavily scented as you might like at this point, so repeat the process with more plant matter, bruising and adding to the oil, allowing to steep and then straining, until you reach the desired concentration. The more plant matter you infuse, the more powerful the scent will become.

6) Store your oils.

It’s a good idea to transfer your essential oils to small darkly colored glass bottles. This is because the dark glass will block out light and prevent the fragrance from changing. If you can find bottles with droppers attached to the underside of the caps, this is a plus and will make for easier application. You can find these in craft stores. Store your oils in a cool, dark place for best results.

There are dozens of chemical-laden pesticides on the market and it seems like slews of new brands come out every year. But there are plenty of better, gentler and more earth-friendly ways to naturally combat bugs and other pests in your garden. And they actually work! Check out these easy recipes you can whip up right in your own kitchen. Some of them target specific types of insects and some are a bit more general. With a little trial and error, you can easily figure out which natural pesticides work best in your garden.

Oil and soap pesticide:

For immature insects and eggs.
You will need:
• Unscented liquid dishwashing soap (not antibacterial)
• Cooking oil (vegetable, canola, corn or peanut oil, for example)
• Water
• Spray bottle

Measure out 1 tablespoon of the dishwashing soap, and 1 cup of the cooking oil and combine. You will want to add 2 ½ teaspoons of the mixture to every 1 cup of water you use to make your insecticide. After you add the water, pour your mixture into a spray bottle and spray directly on the affected plants. Make sure to target area where eggs are visible. Hint: check the undersides of the leaves.

Pepper and Garlic Pesticide:

This mixture may take a bit more time to prepare, but it’s well worth it – it has long-lasting effects and will keep away bugs you’ve gotten rid for an entire season.
You will need:
• Hot peppers of any variety
• Garlic cloves or diced onion
• Water
• Spray bottle
• Cooking pot

Chop up ½ cup of the hot peppers and prepare ½ cup of peeled garlic cloves (or ½ cup of diced onion). Measure out 2 cups of water. Combine all ingredients in a pot and steep them on the stove for 24 hours. Remove your mixture from the heat and place it in a sunny location for a full 24 hours. After a day has passed, strain your mixture and siphon it into a spray bottle. Spray your plants, especially targeting any location where bugs or eggs are visible.
Orange Peel Pesticide
Great for mealy bugs, aphids, fungus gnats and ants.

You will need:

• 1 Orange
• Castile soap
• Water
• Cooking pot
• Heat-safe container
• Spray bottle

Peel the orange and place the peelings in a heat-safe container. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and pour it into the container with the orange peels. Allow it to sit for 24 hours. After a day has passed, strain your mixture and add a few drops of the castile soap. Siphon into a spray bottle and spray your plants completely, focusing on the undersides of the leaves (bugs like to hide and lay eggs here).