How to keep cut tulips and daffodils looking lovely
A: In general, these spring flowers last longer on the plant than in a vase. The weather, however, can affect their longevity. Whereas cool, cloudy days help preserve the blooms for up to three weeks, one hot, sunny afternoon may cause them to fade overnight.
To prevent the weather from curtailing bloom time, cut the flowers and use them for indoor arrangements. Daffodils harvested when the buds are tightly closed and still green will keep well in a vase for up to 10 days.
Before arranging them, let the stems drain in tepid water. The freshly cut ends emit a toxic sap that may shorten their life and poison other flowers in the arrangement. Change the daffodils' water every few minutes until the thick, clear sap no longer appears, at which point they are safe to combine with other blossoms.
Tulips, while elegant indoors and out, have a peculiar quirk: The stems grow at least an inch after being cut. Harvest tulips when the buds are still predominantly green, with a touch of color starting to show. Leave a leaf or two on the upper part of the stem. This will help the flower open fully. When kept well watered, some varieties, such as parrot tulips, can last even longer than the typical 10 days in a vase.
Although blooming bulbs are relatively short-lived, their presence in the garden can be prolonged. Interspersing early-, mid- and late-season varieties of tulips and daffodils ensures that you will enjoy flowers throughout spring.
To coax another bloom cycle next year, let the foliage turn yellow after the blossoms have expired before cutting them back. The fading leaves nourish the bulbs, fortifying them for the future.
Q: What's the best way to remove dust from my computer screen?
A: Computers produce static, which can turn them into dust magnets. To prevent grime from building up, clean your monitor every week with a gentle fabric, preferably microfiber or lamb's wool. The former has superfine fibers that won't scratch the screen; the latter contains natural lanolin, which combines with static electricity to attract and hold dust.
If there are smudges that require more than basic dusting, check the owner's manual to find out what type of screen you have and whether it requires special care. To clean a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor, use a microfiber cloth that has been spritzed with water until barely moist. Then do a final polish with a fresh, dry microfiber cloth.
For an LCD (liquid crystal display) or a plasma screen, use a spray designed specifically for such equipment, and rub with a soft cloth or pad.
Electronics stores often sell these products as screen-cleaning kits. Because both LCDs and plasma screens are extremely delicate and can be damaged by hard rubbing, make sure to use a very light touch.
No matter what type of display you have, always turn your computer off and unplug it before cleaning, and never use store-bought glass cleaner or detergent on the screen. Wipe the monitor after it has cooled completely; cleaning a hot screen could create permanent streaks. And never spray any liquid directly onto your computer screen.
Q: What's the best way to store my leather gloves?
A: Don't make the mistake I made. I wrapped some beautiful leather gloves in red tissue paper and the color rubbed off on them. So I recommend that you wrap your gloves only in white, acid-free tissue paper, and keep them in a dry, dark drawer apart from brightly colored items. Even other colored gloves can leave stains on lighter ones.
Q: I found documents and log books from more than 100 years ago that belonged to my grandfather. How should I preserve them?
A: Start by placing each item in a separate acid-free paper box. Or put individual items in glassine bags. This is what museums and libraries do, and it can help preserve the items for the next hundred years. If you'd like to make a scrapbook, be sure to get special archival scrapbooks, tapes and glue. Look for these products online.
Questions should be addressed to Ask Martha, care of Letters Department, Martha Stewart Living, 11 W. 42nd St., New York, NY 10036. E-mail to email@example.com.
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