Cactophiles rejoice! Predictions are that your prickly passions are due to make a comeback this year. So say Brits, often ahead on such matters. Those eschewing genetic engineering need not be off-put by reports that bibulous botanists have crossed citrus and cactus to get spiked orange juice.
An amazing 52 percent of home owners now use houseplants to counter pollution, say market researchers Mintel. They say the interest in anti-pollution products is influenced by Chinese Feng Shui and the spectre of the Paris Climate Summit while ignoring an equal spectre—a Trumpeting Donald.
Many might be supported in macram√© hangers, also making a comeback from the flower child days half a century past. Alas, most of those latter have sadly gone to seed.
Diversion No. 1
The floating gardens of Aztec Mexico; the Versailles kitchen garden that supplied the table of Louis XIV of France; hydroponic vertical farming in Japan. Throughout history, agriculture has been integrated into cities in various forms, moulded by environmental conditions, design intent and technological and agronomic innovation. Today, and explosion in studies on urban agriculture is broadening perspectives, writes Laura Lawson in the journal Nature.
A fresh mealy bug outbreak seems to have commenced from the ever-popular Phalaenopsis orchids. White to pinkish lice lurk in leaf axils, sucking juices, spreading virus and ultimately destroying the orchid and any other plants they spread to. A simple and safe control is using a Q-tip dipped in rubbing alcohol () to dap each of the pests. Check back every couple of weeks as there is no effective way to destroy mealy bug eggs. Repeat the treatment as soon as any are once again detected.
Diversion No. 2
Maria Krajewska can’t stand the black walnut tree in her backyard. “Unfortunately, I have to call it a killer tree,” she told CBC News. She gives two main reasons for the strong reaction: the potential danger of the nuts hurtling to the ground, and the root system that releases toxins into the soil, making it hard to grow much else. In October, the East York Community Council denied her application to have her tree cut down and replaced with several mature trees. The City’s Forestry Department confirms it has no record of anyone ever being hurt by a falling walnut.
Kale is out of the ‘superfood’ list but other plant-based diets are set to explode into mainstream this year. Black currants have attracted renewed interest thanks to their content of antioxidants known as anthocyanins. Cold-pressed nut oils from cashew, walnut, almond and hazelnut will see rising interest along with algae fats to supply omega-3 fats. If we are to believe The Daily Telegraph‘s Anna Macgee, watermelon seeds are apparently going to be big news this year. As will Chilean maqui berries. Chaga mushroom tea though is “ridiculously expensive.”
Diversion No. 3
“I heard it bring bad luck to have sex on Ground Hog Day.” “Don’t worry,” advised George Burns, “Unless you’re planning to have it with a ground hog. And it would probably be bad luck only for the ground hog.”
If you’re shivering from unusually teeth-rattling cold this season, global warming is probably the last thing on your mind. “The local weather conditions that people experience likely play a role in what they think about the broader climate, says Utah State University researcher Peter Howe. “Climate change is causing record-breaking heat around the world, but the variability of the climate means that some places are still reaching record-breaking cold. If you’re living in a place where there’s been more record cold weather than record heat lately, you may doubt reports of climate change. Or so he reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Diversion No. 4
‘Attention! If you stole a watermelon from building 7, you need to contact a poison control immediately! It was a biology project and has been injected with the urine of rats on steroids.’ Handwritten sign reported in ‘Sideswipe,’ The New Zealand Herald
February as Bird-Feeding Month makes sense. And we kind of like the 18th February declared as Drink Wine Day. But given Canada’s famed winters, let us give a miss to Serpent Day (1st February) and Working Naked Day (3rd February). Then, of course, there is 14th February, Valentine’s Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, how about having a roach named for you? The Bronx Zoo is offering people the chance to name one of its Madagascar hissing cockroaches in honour of someone on St. Valentine’s Day. For $10, recipients get an e-mailed certificate telling them that one of the insects from the world’s largest roach species has been named for them explains, amongst many others, The Washington Post. Love and hisses?
Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.
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