Royal beauty

first_imgThe princess flower is the perfect name for this plant. With loads of uncountable blossoms of royal purple. It’s unchallenged in its status as the most beautiful plant of late summer and fall gardens.Botanically speaking, the princess flower is known as Tibouchina urvilleana and is native to Brazil, the site of the current Olympics. The family name is Melastomataceae, and other species are most likely quite rare at your local garden center. If you can name even one more member, you are probably a horticulturist.Here at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah, Georgia, we do have two other family members: the large-leaved or silverleafed princess flower, Tibouchina heteromalla, also from Brazil, and the extraordinary pink lantern, or Medinilla magnifica, from the Philippines. Neither are as cold hardy as the regular princess flower, but both are visually outstanding. The pink lantern, which we are growing in a large basket, has really captured my attention.The princess flower is winter hardy in zones 9 through 11, but here in Savannah, where I garden, it dies to the ground, returning with vigor in late spring. The same was true for me in Columbus, Georgia. At my home, they are now 5 feet tall and loaded with innumerable royal purple blossoms that glow almost iridescently and will dazzle and mesmerize until a killing frost.While my plants in zone 8 in Savannah are 5 feet tall, in their native Brazil and similar climates they will reach 12 to 18 feet, which is, simply put, a breathtaking sight. The leaves are velvety, deep green and oftentimes lined with orange along the margins. In the fall, the leaves will change to an orange bronze. It blooms best in full sun, though a little afternoon shade is certainly no problem. The soil should be fertile, organically rich and very well drained. Soggy conditions quickly prove fatal, so plant on raised beds if your drainage is suspect.It is not very hard to grow the princess flower in a container or to dig and overwinter the plant. The most serious requirement is to not overwater. Keep it dry during the winter. Those of you who like to propagate plants will find it easy to root from greenwood-type cuttings placed in moist sand in a shady location or to separate spreading shoots that develop.The purple is so vibrant that choosing your flower combinations is quite easy except that everything seems to look great. You will no doubt note that many consider the flowers to be blue. I can buy that for a couple of reasons. First, as a horticulturist there is an unwritten rule: If it is not orange, then we have the right to call it “blue.” Secondly there is the outstanding dwarf selection known affectionately as “Athens Blue.” Most of the time I see purple in my eyes and in photographs, too.No matter what color you see, the princess flower is stunning. I am growing a half-dozen of them and each combination seems to be a Kodak moment. In one area I have the exotic, flowered, pink ‘South Pacific Sipper’ hibiscus. The pink and purple is eye-catching, to say the least. In another area, I have a gold blooming milkweed for a superb complementary color scheme. But if you want to look like a landscape pro, try growing blue with the purple. I’m using ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia. There is just something special about putting blues and purples together.You’ve also got to consider the golden thryallis, Galphimia glauca, as a partner. With hundreds of small, soft, golden blooms, it seems as though it was created just for a princess flower marriage. It too is a zone 9 through zone 11 plant, root hardy in zone 8 and superb in a container for overwintering.Lastly, as fall planting time arrives, there are some great combinations to be had, such as growing the tall cut flower ‘Amazon Rose Magic’ dianthus as an understory planting to the taller princess flower. If you are in Savannah, like me, you are probably muttering that the summer has been relentless. Just about the time we feel like throwing in the proverbial “garden towel,” the princess flower starts to amaze and causes us to linger, taking in all its beauty. I hope you will give it a try.Follow me on Twitter @CGBGgardenguru and learn more about the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm at read more

IMB: Piracy against Ships Drops to 22-Year Low in 2017

first_imgA total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were reported to the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in 2017, according to the latest IMB report.This is the lowest annual number of incidents since 1995 when 188 reports were received.In 2017, 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.In 15 separate incidents, 91 crewmembers were taken hostage and 75 were kidnapped from their vessels in 13 other incidents. Three crewmembers were killed in 2017 and six injured.In 2016, a total of 191 incidents were reported, with 150 vessels boarded and 151 crewmembers taken hostage.Persistent danger in the Gulf of GuineaIn 2017, there were 36 reported incidents with no vessels hijacked in this area and 10 incidents of kidnapping involving 65 crewmembers in or around Nigerian waters. Globally 16 vessels reported being fired upon – including seven in the Gulf of Guinea.“Although the number of attacks is down this year in comparison with last year, the Gulf of Guinea and the waters around Nigeria remain a threat to seafarers. The Nigerian authorities have intervened in a number of incidents helping to prevent incidents from escalating,” Pottengal Mukundan, Director of IMB, said.Sentencing Somali piratesNine incidents were recorded off Somalia in 2017, up from two in 2016.In November, a container ship was attacked by armed pirates approximately 280 nautical miles east of Mogadishu. The pirates, unable to board the vessel due to the ship’s evasive manoeuvring fired two RPG rockets, both of which missed, before retreating.Six Somali pirates were subsequently detained by European Union Naval Force, transferred to the Seychelles and charged with “committing an act of piracy” where they face up to 30 years’ imprisonment, if convicted.In the Philippines, the number of reported incidents has more than doubled, from 10 in 2016 to 22 in 2017. According to the report, the majority of these incidents were low-level attacks on anchored vessels, mainly at the ports of Manila and Batangas.Vessels underway off the Southern Philippines were boarded and crew kidnapped in the first quarter of 2017.“However, alerts broadcast by the IMB’s Piracy Reporting Centre (PRC), on behalf of the Philippine authorities, have since helped to avoid further successful attacks,” IMB said.last_img read more

New material can fold itself into hundreds of shapes

first_img Drs. Qian Zhao and Tao Xie Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Call it one small step for material science, one giant leap for origami. Researchers have created the first heat-reactive polymer material that can not only remember its current shape but also memorize new ones. The material—which currently requires high temperatures to change shape and reset its memory—could lead to a new generation of reusable self-folding materials that could be useful for everything from medical implants to shape-shifting electronics.Self-folding materials aren’t new. The first generation of shape memory polymers folded into a single predetermined shape whenever they were heated. Later generations could be triggered by other stimuli, such as light, electrical charges, or a magnetic field. But they all relied on a property known as elasticity. When cool, their stringy polymers coil up. They straighten out into a new shape when heated, and then they bend right back to the default shape once they cool off again. In this way, they keep a “memory” of their original shape.But elastic shape memory materials can only memorize two or three shapes. A 2005 Science paper offered a possible route to hundreds or even thousands: Rather than elasticity—the tendency for a material to come back to the same shape—the paper demonstrated a way to trigger a change in a material’s plasticity, that is its ability to be reshaped. “The question was … can we incorporate these two shape-shifting behaviors in one polymer?” says Tao Xie, a chemical engineer at the State Key Laboratory of Chemical Engineering in Hangzhou, China. To make a material that is both plastic and elastic, Xie and colleagues started with a known elastic material: crosslinked poly(caprolactone), or PCL. To give the material plasticity, they added a chemical called 1,5,7-triazabicyclo[4.4.0]dec-5-ene (TBD). If it works, then above and below PCL’s elastic temperature point the material should flip between a default shape and one other shape. But if the temperature is raised above the plasticity threshold, then the TBD kicks in by creating chemical bonds between the polymer chains. If you physically manipulate the material into a new shape before this plastic “annealing” process starts, then the default shape gets replaced.But the trick for Xie was to combine PCL and TBD in such a way that the elastic and plastic temperatures were far enough away from each other that the material can switch cleanly between its different shapes. Otherwise, it could become a chaotic shape-shifting mess, like the death scene of the liquid metal T-1000 in the film Terminator 2. (You’re welcome, sci-fi geeks.)After months of fine-tuning the mixture of these chemicals, the team nailed the critical temperature gap. The new substance has transition temperatures of 70°C and 130°C for elasticity and plasticity, respectively. To demonstrate its multishape capabilities, Xie’s team turned a 30-millimeter square of the material into an origami masterpiece that could fold between two shapes using elasticity and change into other shapes using plasticity. 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Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Not only did the material fold into multiple different shapes, but it could also snap between them hundreds of times with little sign of fatigue—a critical feature if the material is to be used in real-world applications, they report today in Science Advances.The team is already working on a version of the material that works at lower temperatures. “The biggest challenge for us is not necessarily technical, but rather our imagination of what the possibilities are with this type of shape-shifting behavior,” Xie says. He considers flexible electronics to be one possible “killer application.” Imagine an electronic newspaper that becomes plastic in the heat of your hands but always folds back down when you’re done reading it.The new material is a “step forward” in shape-programmable systems, says Timothy White, a chemical engineer at the Air Force Research Laboratory at the Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, who was not involved in the research. Among the possible applications on his mind is a “reconfigurable antenna.” Not only could it be bent into many different shapes, but it would still always be able to retract. Emaillast_img read more