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Flowers are University of Georgia horticulturist Paul Thomas’sspecialty. And, for holiday plant suggestions, they’re his toppick. But when asked, “What was the best plant you’ve ever gottenfor Christmas?” his answer is: “A ming aralia that I got from mymother-in-law. It’s strictly a foliage plant, and it looks like abonsai. It’s really awesome.”Ming aralias, specifically polyscias fruticosa ‘elegans’, havecarrot-like foliage and woody stems as they get older. A mingaralia was “the plant for kings and queens to have,” he said. “Itgrows slowly and beautifully.”While they are beautiful and do make good gifts, they’re also achallenge, he said. The biggest danger is overwatering andover-fertilizing. They only need a tiny bit of diluted fertilizerevery few months.When it comes to buying gift plants, the best place to purchasethem is at a local florist’s shop. “They have the best quality,and they’re grown by specialists for the highest quality,” he said.Thomas likes to give flowering plants as gifts. A deep basketfilled with a few pots of colored calla lilies or a basket with acluster of cyclamen topped with white or silver grass “makes astunning gift,” he said.For gift giving, Thomas suggests:• Calceolaria. The flowers look like a pocketbook, which gives itits common name of ‘pocketbook plant.’ “It’s just cool andunusual,” he said. Flower colors range from yellow to bright redwith polka dots. The flowers are delicate, so handle it carefully.The plants must be kept moist but not flooded with water. Theylike sunny windowsills that are cool but not freezing. There,they’ll last about a month. They can’t be saved and plantedoutside in Georgia, because they will die of plant diseases.• Cinerarias. These plants look like daisies, but their colorsare more intense, or, as Thomas puts it, they have “five timesthe impact” of daisy flowers. The blossom colors range frompurple to yellow.Like calceolaria, they need sunlight and water. “Don’t let eitherof these plants dry out ever,” he said. “I put them on my coffeetable during the day and on the windowsill at night.” They willlive about six weeks.• Cyclamen. These plants bloom white, pink or bright red. Theycan be found in grocery stores, aren’t expensive and are a greatsubstitute for poinsettias if someone is allergic to latex, whichis found in poinsettia plants. Kept cool and moist, cyclamenblooms will last three to four months. “Buy five or six plantsand put them in a big basket with white or silver grass, like thekind they sell at Easter,” Thomas said. “It makes a really niceChristmas gift.”They’re also a good gift plant if the holiday you celebrate isn’tChristmas. Because they are native in Israel, they are a goodchoice as a Hanukkah plant, he said.• Miniature roses. These tiny blooming beauties can do doubleduty as both a holiday plant and a garden attraction come spring.They prefer cool spots inside until all chance of frost haspassed. Then plant them near the foundation or in anotherprotected area of the yard.• Calla lilies. “Normally, people would buy bouquets of callalilies, but sometimes florists will sell calla lily bulbs inpots,” Thomas said. When growing calla lilies, their bulbs shouldbe kept moist and their flowers dry. The stems also need to bestaked so they won’t fall over and break.“Three to four pots in a deep basket are a really nice gift,” hesaid. “They’ll last a long time.”Before visiting a local florist, give them a call, Thomas said,especially if you have one type of plant you might want to giveto several different people. “Get your orders in now to get thebest quality for the Christmas season,” he said. read more
Manchester United midfielder Darren Fletcher has taken a big step forward in his recovery from a debilitating bowel condition, manager David Moyes has said. Press Association Fletcher last played for the first team on Boxing Day last year. Moyes said: “I think with the nature of his illness, everyone should be hoping he comes back. “It is the sort of thing that, whatever walk of life you are in, you want to see people make recoveries from illness or other things that are wrong with them. “Darren has shown that with the right medical treatment, by looking after yourself and doing the right training you can get back to where you were.” Two players back in the first-team picture are experienced centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic. The pair have both had fitness issues but played together for the first time since the infamous derby loss to Manchester City in September in the midweek Capital One Cup win over Norwich. They could now both feature against Fulham at Craven Cottage in the Barclays Premier League this weekend. Moyes said: “I think they are both very close. They played against Premier League opposition in midweek, they both played 90 minutes. “I can’t see any reason why they wouldn’t be ready to be selected or be involved.” England international Danny Welbeck will not be involved in London as he continues his recovery from a knee problem. Moyes said: “Danny Welbeck has had a bit of fluid on his knee. “He has trained a few days this week and he is certainly getting much closer to match fitness but he will not travel this weekend.” But Moyes insists the Scotland international will not be rushed as he eases back into a routine of training and playing. Fletcher made his first appearance for United at any level in 10 months on Monday as he played 67 minutes for the under-21s against Fulham at Salford. The 29-year-old has featured little since being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in December 2011. He did return to make 10 appearances for United, as well as three for Scotland, last season but his comeback was put on hold as he underwent surgery in January. Moyes said: “It is great to get Darren back. “It was the first time he pulled on a jersey in a competitive reserve league game (since the operation) and we’re really pleased. “We will bring him along, his training is coming along well, but we don’t want to do anything that might give him a setback. “It is a sort of steady, slow grind for him just now. “But we are pleased and hope to involve him in the upcoming reserve games in the weeks to come, if he continues to do as well as he is doing now.” Moyes has sensed a strong desire within the game to see Fletcher, a former United trainee, back in action soon. read more
As if it were unexpected, Andrew Helmer charged up the field and drew little attention. The skills — the size, the speed, the stick-handling — were nothing new during Syracuse’s season-opening loss to Colgate. The 6-foot-1 long-stick midfielder rarely flashed them for much of his career. Offense or defense, he navigated mostly with his long pole in hand, sparingly using a short stick. Against the Raiders in 2019’s season-opener, to the surprise of maroon jerseys that sat and watched, Helmer reached back and found twine.“I’m pretty limited honestly,” Helmer said. “Usually I’m trying to get it to the extra man on the fast break. But, I mean, if someone gives me time and room, I’m more than willing to shoot.”While the effects of an 80-second shot clock have been largely minimal, SU head coach John Desko noted that the inception will lead to a faster pace of play before the season. A game which for years moved toward specialization now highlights midfielders who can play both sides of the ball. No. 8 Syracuse (5-3, 1-2 Atlantic Coast) has proven pieces for that mold. Junior short-stick defensive midfielder Peter Dearth showed versatility off a primarily offensive role in his first year and David Lipka has gone on scoring explosions. Helmer, in a consistent role with a goal and an assist so far this season, represents the evolution of SU’s system to feature its top athletes.“Guys are used to specializing at a young age and a lot of your short-stick defenders aren’t used to handling the ball,” Desko said. “If we can find guys like that, it’s a bonus.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textJosh Shub-Seltzer | Staff PhotographerHelmer primarily served a defensive role with the long stick when he attended Summit (New Jersey) High School. He played close, one-on-one defense and shifted out to navigate the crease area. But Helmer showed something more, and became adept leading fast breaks — he scooped ground balls and took off. Jim Davidson, Helmer’s high school coach, talked with coaches about giving Helmer an opportunity with the short stick and possibly adding him to the man-up unit. But Helmer settled as a close defender and used the speed that made him “one of the fastest guys on the team” to create offensive opportunities.At Syracuse, the Orange saw an opportunity to take advantage of Helmer’s tools. By mid-April 2017, Helmer developed a reputation as a runner in the defensive midfield. The platoon of Helmer and Austin Fusco increased SU’s forced turnover numbers. Though SU’s defense has struggled against dodges from the top side, Fusco and Helmer have earned the Orange extra possessions.Starting in his sophomore year, Helmer’s contributions with a short stick were limited. He was injured and could only practice the last two days of the week. For games, he picked up the short stick and “tried to do my best.” Helmer appeared in 12 of Syracuse’s 15 games (the three he missed were due to injury) and split time between the short stick and the long pole.Coming into 2019, Helmer said he remained limited with the short stick and practiced with the rest of the defensive unit in pre-practice shooting lines and stick drills. Though he’s rarely shot in practice prior to this season, Dearth said SU’s “aggressive and up-tempo” style has forced players like Helmer and Spencer Small to work frequently with short sticks, so they’re “not completely clueless” when put in those situations in-game. “I’m definitely getting more comfortable with it,” Helmer said. “Being able to play out in transition and play both sides, I think that’s huge.”Susie Teuscher | Digital Design EditorEven on the defensive side, the short stick relies mainly on footwork and quickness, something Davidson said Helmer adapted to. He thrives through contact and utilizes his speed to stick with players and lead the break the other way. “He’s been becoming an unbelievable offensive midfielder,” Dearth said.Against Virginia, Syracuse mounted a comeback through mainly quick-trigger transition play off of faceoffs. Behind the goal, Helmer camped with the long stick he was used to playing with. When the ball found him, he passed it over the top to Bradley Voigt. In one of his best plays of the season, Helmer exemplified the offensive development he’s made, the result of a playing style Syracuse is taking advantage of.“It’s a progression,” Helmer said. “Getting better and better.” Comments Published on April 1, 2019 at 12:06 am Contact Michael: [email protected] | @MikeJMcCleary Facebook Twitter Google+ read more