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Seasonal flowering plants are like a box of chocolates

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Film character Forrest Gump famously said: “Life is like a box of chocolates.”

Well, so are seasonal flowering plants. Here are the plants we think match the attributes of a selection of chocolates:

Cyclamen plants flower in a brilliant array of colours, and are low-maintenance in their need for low temperatures and indirect, bright light.
Cyclamen plants flower in a brilliant array of colours, and are low-maintenance in their need for low temperatures and indirect, bright light.  (Dreamstime)

Orchids = chocolate vanilla cream. Everyone likes them, the taste lingers on the palette.

Orchids are not hard to grow (there’s one myth dispelled!). In fact, we find many people who are good at ignoring their plants can grow orchids very well. The most common orchids are epiphytic and lipophilic-type cymbidium orchids — which means they grow in trees or on rocks in tropical climates. In their natural environment, they derive their nutrients from the trees and rocks on which they grow, as well as rain water. It is best to let the roots get dry between waterings and to soak the roots by leaving the pot in the kitchen sink overnight when you do water.

They prefer indirect light and cool (not cold) temperatures; 17C to 24C is best. A cool, bright window works well. Fertilize once a month with an orchid fertilizer. Sweet finish!

Orchids like this red cymbidium grow on trees and rocks in tropical climates. Let them dry out between waterings.
Orchids like this red cymbidium grow on trees and rocks in tropical climates. Let them dry out between waterings.  (Dreamstime)

Cyclamen = maraschino cherry bomb. An explosion of colour enrobed in chocolate (chocolate people love this word, “enrobed”), as a cyclamen enrobes its foliage in knock-out colour.

Cyclamen is Mark’s favourite for brilliant, long-lasting colour. Easy to grow, cyclamen don’t demand much attention. Like orchids, they enjoy cool temperatures and indirect but bright light. Fertilize with 20-20-20 once a month. Available in pink, red, white and a variety of lipstick-bright colours. Can continue to bloom for up to four months.

Origjnally from Mexico, poinsettias' leaves ? not flowers ? are the red foliage we enjoy through the holidays.
Origjnally from Mexico, poinsettias’ leaves ? not flowers ? are the red foliage we enjoy through the holidays.

Poinsettia = solid chocolate. Who doesn’t like pure chocolate? Straight, clean, original.

The No. 1 seasonal flowering plant this time of year, poinsettia is originally from Mexico and they like to be dry between watering applications. They do not like drafts from open doors and mostly they enjoy the brightest natural light you can offer. Note that the bright red “flowers” are not flowers at all, but coloured leaves. The flowers are smallish and yellow, appearing in the middle of a leaf cluster on the top of the plant. When you buy a poinsettia, look for one that is not in “flower” to ensure the longest possible bloom time. Solid.

Eye-catching amaryllis flowers on their long stalks are easy and quick to grow in pots.
Eye-catching amaryllis flowers on their long stalks are easy and quick to grow in pots.  (Dreamstime)

Amaryllis = chewy caramel. A long-lasting delectable, but worth the effort.

You may buy amaryllis as a bulb or a flowering plant, depending on the time of year. Right now, both are available at most garden retailers. The bulbs are fun and very easy to grow. Plant the amaryllis bulb in a pot about two centimetres wider than the bulb, using quality, well-drained potting mix. Place in a bright room near a sunny window. Warm temperatures hasten blooming. When it does bloom, usually about six-to-eight weeks after you pot the bulb, pull the plant back from bright light to prolong the blossom time.

Don’t lose patience if it takes its time to push up a stem and bloom. Sometimes they are a bit lazy.

Remember to look for a quality bulb: the larger the bulb, the greater the number of flowers and flower stems. Make sure that it is firm, like a good onion. A long, sweet journey.

Why chocolates? Like chocolates, there are mass-produced plants that you find at the grocery or drugstore. And there are those found at purveyors of fine plants, often grown locally by a small grower. The difference can be subtle, and you might pay a bit more for the locally grown varieties, but we doubt that you will regret the investment. Kind of like the chocolatier who really knows their stuff.

Chocolates and flowering plants make great gifts, almost everyone loves them, they don’t last forever — though plants usually last longer — and they are an affordable indulgence that give you a lift.

But there is one category where plants have it over chocolates: Calories. Guess which has none?

Mark and Ben Cullen are expert gardeners and contributors for the Star. Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkCullen4

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Victoria real estate agent disciplined for false advertising, encouraging cash deal to avoid taxes

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A Victoria real estate agent is facing $9,000 in fines and a 60-day licence suspension after breaking several professional rules during the sale of her father’s half-million-dollar property, according to a decision by the Real Estate Council of B.C. 

Whitney Garside’s missteps — outlined this week in a disciplinary decision posted on the council’s website — included falsely advertising the property as being almost twice its actual size and advising the buyer they could avoid the property transfer tax if they paid cash directly to the seller.

The property on Burnett Road in Victoria was being sold in 2016 by the real estate agent’s father. That relationship was disclosed and isn’t among the reasons she has been disciplined.

According to the disciplinary consent order, Garside told the buyer — whose name is redacted — that by paying $42,000 cash on the side, the value of the property could be reduced to avoid paying the property transfer tax.

That cash arrangement was not shared with Garside’s brokerage, Re/Max Camosun, a failure that contravened the Real Estate Services Act.

The council also ruled that she “failed to act honestly and with reasonable care and skill” when she advised the buyer the property transfer tax could be avoided by paying cash directly to the seller. 

The council’s discipline committee also found that Garside committed professional misconduct when she failed to recommend the seller and buyer seek independent legal advice, specifically regarding the property transfer tax and the cash agreement.

Another issue the council considered professional misconduct involved the size of the property in question.

The council ruled that Garside published false and misleading advertising and failed to act with reasonable care and skill when the property was advertised as 8,712 square feet, when in fact a portion of the lot belonged to the Ministry of Transportation, and the actual size was just 4,711 square feet.

The discipline committee ordered Garside’s licence be suspended for 60 days, which will be completed Jan. 3, 2021.

She has also been ordered to complete real estate ethics and remedial classes at her own expense.

Garside was also fined $7,500 as a disciplinary penalty and $1,500 in enforcement expenses.

She agreed to waive her right to appeal the council’s discipline committee’s decision in September.

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Frisco apartment community sells to Canadian investor

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A Canada-based investor has purchased a Frisco apartment community as part of a larger Texas deal.

The 330-unit Satori Frisco apartments opened last year on Research Road in Frisco.

BSR Real Estate Investment Trust bought the four-story rental community that was built by Atlanta-based Davis Development.

Satori Frisco was more than 90% leased at the time of sale. The property includes a two-story fitness center, a car care center, a dog park and a resort-style swimming pool.

The Frisco property sold along with Houston’s Vale luxury apartments in a deal valued at $129 million.

“BSR recently exited the smaller Beaumont and Longview, Texas, markets and also sold noncore properties in other markets,” John Bailey, BSR’s chief executive officer, said in a statement. “We are now using our strong liquidity position to invest in Vale and Satori Frisco, modern communities in core growth markets with the amenities our residents desire.”

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House prices on Prince Edward Island continue steady climb

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Residential real estate prices on Prince Edward Island continue to climb at a rate higher than the national average, according to the latest report from a national organization. 

The Canadian Real Estate Association released monthly figures for November 2020 on Tuesday.

They show that the average price for a resale home on P.E.I. is about 21 per cent higher than it was a year earlier. 

Only Quebec had a bigger year-over-year increase, at about 23 per cent. Overall across Canada, prices were up 13.8 per cent year over year in the ninth month of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For the fifth straight month, year-over-year sales activity was up in almost all Canadian housing markets compared to the same month in 2019,” the report noted.

“Meanwhile, an ongoing shortage of supply of homes available for purchase across most of Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces means sellers there hold the upper hand in sales negotiations.”

That lack of houses coming onto the market compared to the demand means that in those provinces, there is “increased competition among buyers for listings and … fertile ground for price gains.”

There have been anecdotal reports for months that Prince Edward Island’s low rate of COVID-19 infection and looser rules around social activities have been encouraging people to buy homes on the Island. 

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