Make the most of cut flowers

  • Wed Feb 1st, 2012 9:37am
  • Life

By Martha Stewart

Q: What are some tricks for long-lasting flower arrangements?

A: Most well-tended bouquets last a week. Orchids, chrysanthemums, carnations and lilies usually stay fresh for 10 days, sometimes even longer.

Whichever flowers you choose, use stems with vigorous foliage and fresh blooms; put them in water immediately. If picking from the garden, take a bucket of water with you. If buying blooms, take them home at once.

Scrub the vase with warm water and use a few drops of dishwashing liquid. (Use a brush with a long handle to clean narrow-necked vases.) Rinse thoroughly.

Trim stems with gardening shears at a 45-degree angle so the flowers can take in more water. For woody branches such as lilacs, cut an asterisk in the base or crush the last few inches of the branch with a hammer.

Strip leaves that would sit below the waterline. Fill the vase with lukewarm water, and add a drop of bleach. Arrange the bouquet, and set it in a cool spot out of direct sunlight. Every couple of days, change the water and retrim the stems.

Q: My husband is allergic to dogs, but my son really wants one. Are there any breeds that are hypoallergenic?

A: There’s no such thing as a hypoallergenic breed. Every dog carries an allergen in its skin, saliva and waste. As the pup sheds and dispenses friendly licks, the allergen spreads.

Still, people allergic to dogs often tolerate some breeds better than others. Certain dogs shed less fur and so cast less dander. These include poodles, schnauzers, shih tzus, bichons frises, Yorkshire terriers, Havanese, Portuguese water dogs and Tibetan terriers.

But before telling your son about them, your husband should see his allergist. Depending on the severity of his allergy, it may not make sense to bring any dog home.

If it turns out he’s not too sensitive and your family starts to peruse pooches, you should still spend a good amount of time with any potential pet to see how your husband fares.

If all goes well and you adopt, take steps to control the amount of dander at home. First, make part of your abode pet-free.

As for the rest of your home, vacuum often, using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. An air purifier with a HEPA filter can help, too. Finally, bathe your pet weekly with a mild dog shampoo, and brush it frequently.

Q: How do I get rid of tiny gnats that fly around my houseplants?

A: These are fungus gnats, which don’t harm people, pets or most plants, but they are annoying and unpleasant.

These insects lay eggs in moist potting soil. To deter them, let the top inch of dirt dry between waterings; your plant will become far less hospitable to the bugs (and probably healthier since few plants do well in soggy soil).

If you still see gnats after a couple of weeks, set a half-inch-thick potato slice on the soil to lure the larvae. Stake a yellow sticky trap (sold at garden centers) in the soil; the color attracts the adults. After a few days, toss the potato and, if the gnats have also disappeared, the trap.

Some plants, such as maidenhair ferns or pitcher plants, need wet soil. For these, seal the pot and soil with plastic wrap. A little unsightly, yes, but less so than those teeny critters.

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