My grandmother used to make very small flower arrangements to give as gifts to hostesses. I have a lot of small rose bushes that will be blooming over the next few weeks and would like to make some of those for upcoming events. Can you tell me how to make them? It seemed simple when my Grandmother did them.

 

The lovely Victorian gifts you are thinking of are called tussie mussies. They are really uncomplicated, and really beautiful and can be made from a handful of flowers from the yard or from the florist inexpensively. In Victorian times, they were full of messages, as each type of flower was heavy with meaning. Depending on the flower and the color of the flower, a message could be sent of passionate love, friendship, good wishes, regret, comfort, jealousy, warning, eternal love or sadness. So much weight on an arrangement of flowers!

Today we just focus on their beauty. To make a lovely little tussy mussie, you can start with a few teacup-sized roses or one large one. That will be your centerpiece. They should be just open from buds. Strip the leaves and leave about 5” of stem. You need floral tape to wrap the stems together, starting about 1” below the blooms. Wrap them tightly enough to keep them close together. You can follow with a layer of small greenery. It does not have to be rose greenery. Make sure they are in perfect shape. No black spot or other diseases. Tiny leaves are best and you don’t need many to do the job. Each layer should be wrapped with floral tape, which is available at craft stores. Another layer of roses of a contrasting shade should follow, not as many this time.

A flower of a totally different shape is good for the next layer. A few stems of statice are inexpensive at the florist and last forever. Bright blue statice pops against the flowers and the greenery and dries out beautifully. Follow this with more greenery. Ivy is my favorite, but not everyone is crazy enough to grow it. It requires a little controlling. It’s really nice to tuck a few stems of herbs in the arrangement. A stem or two of lavender or rosemary can provide a lovely, long lasting fragrance. Many different herbs could be used, although one per arrangement.

Play with it until you are happy with it. The outer layers can be ribbon or lace or a strip of pretty fabric. There is a great instructional video by HGTV for those who would like to see it done. They used a single finger from an inexpensive white cotton glove as the outside sleeve for the arrangement. Nice idea!

I have a nice pineapple orange tree. It has a lot of dieback this year. What could be causing that?

There are many possible causes for dieback in a citrus tree. Some dieback is normal. Branches in the interior of the tree, shaded out by upper branches, die out all the time and can be trimmed out at any time. They simply stop being functional for the tree because they stop getting sunlight. In addition, drought and excess water can cause dieback because they damage roots. We had a lot of rain this year and a lot of plants have been showing signs of too much water.

Spray burn, which can happen if pesticides or herbicides are sprayed nearby and carried by the wind onto the tree can cause dieback. As the homeowner, you would know the schedule of spray applications. Most of these chemicals should not be applied on windy days.

Greasy spot is a frequent problem on citrus. It leaves small black spots on leaves. If you have that, it may be slowly defoliating your tree and causing your dieback. It is often more noticeable at this time of the year when we go out to pick the fruit! It can be controlled by spraying the tree in mid-May and again in late July with a lightweight horticultural oil. Copper can be added for greater effectiveness. Take care to spray branches as well as leaves and undersides as well as tops. This will help prevent the fungus from continuing to damage your tree.

I found marjoram at a nursery. I bought it, but can we grow it?

Yes! Marjoram does grow well here. You’ll need to protect it a little over the winter, but it’s a lovely plant. Like many of our favorite herbs, it needs good drainage and a sunny site. Go light on the fertilizer. Flavor of herbs is intensified if we don’t spoil them too much. Still they like a good quality, well drained soil. I like to grow my herbs in containers because I believe it aids in drainage.

Marjoram is often used in tomato dishes, vegetable dishes, sausages and poultry dishes. Use the leaves, but not the tough stems!

Becky Wern is a master gardener with the Duval County Extension Service and the University of Florida/IFAS. If you have gardening questions, you can speak to a master gardener from 9:30 a.m. to noon and 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Duval extension office at (904) 255-7450.