How to Keep Your Cut Flowers Fresh

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and giving flowers is almost as common as giving roses to your sweetheart on Valentines Day. But let’s face it: that arrangement is getting expensive! Your $25 or $50 isn’t buying what it used to get her. So let’s make whatever you get last as long as possible.
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Luckily, I grew up with a mom that had a turbo green thumb. Her gardens were huge and things grew everywhere. We lived in a DESERT people, and she had fruit trees, flowers, vegetables, berries grasses and in her home she had orchids and other plants that people said were hard to grow. She has a Christmas cactus that blooms all year. So, when I need advice about plants, she’s the expert I turn to. Here’s what she had to say about keeping your arrangements gorgeous: If you have a bunch of fresh flowers start at #1.  If you have an arrangement already done start at #5.

  1. As soon as you get home, put your flowers in a sink and cover their stems with cold water. Make sure they can drink it because they might be in there several minutes.
  2. Fill your vase with half COLD water and half ICE.  You read it correctly, ICE. Think about it: where do florists store their flowers? In a refrigerator! So if you want your flowers to bloom and die quickly, keep at room temperature. If you want them to bloom slowly and last, keep them as cold as possible without freezing them. Thus, the ice water.  If you have any florist food stir it in. If not, it’s OK. What flowers need most is fresh water.
    ice vase
  3. Now, back to the flowers.  Take a pair of SHARP scissors or a SHARP knife and cut about 2 inches off the bottom of each stem on about a 45-degree diagonal and strip off any leafy-greens that will be underwater. Woody greens like thorns don’t matter. Then put the flower in your ice water vase. If you have a mix of flowers, try to start with the largest flowers first, moving to the smallest with the greenery last. Always do greenery last.
  4. BEFORE you put in the greenery, stop and think for a moment about where you want to put these flowers. Ideally you will want the top of the flowers at eye level or lower so you can enjoy all the flowers as they bloom. Once you’ve made your decision arrange your flowers and add your greenery.
    1. If it will be going in the middle of a table you will want to put the tallest flowers in the center, the smaller flowers in the middle and the greenery around the edges. Some people like having some greenery in the very top too. You decide.
    2. If the flowers are going to be on a sideboard or in a place where they will only be seen primarily from one direction, then place the greenery in the back spread out kind of like a fan, then tallest flowers to shortest. This is how I’ve done my flowers.
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  5. Place your beautiful arrangement where you will enjoy it the most and keep an eye on the water level.  Add in ice twice a day and more water as needed.  On day three or four, depending on when your flowers stop drinking water, dump the water in your vase and repeat steps 1-5 as long as your flowers last. My mom has had hers last over 2 weeks! You should easily expect a week-plus.

A few more EZ ideas to keep in mind when dealing with cut flowers:

  • Tulips like to droop. Don’t put them in a vase with a top that has a drooping edge – they will only droop faster. Stick with a straight edge for them.
  • Roses are weird. You know that cut I talked about? With them you HAVE to do it ALL THE WAY underwater AND have the scissors/knife under as well. Otherwise an air bubble goes up the stem and starves your rose to death. Sad, huh? That’s why some droop over almost immediately and never bloom. An air bubble killed them.
  •  Your flowers will last longer in a room with cool temperatures. Avoid displaying them in direct sunlight or near appliances that generate heat. You’ll also want to avoid areas like open windows, heating or cooling vents and ceiling fans as they can suck all the water out of your little darlings. You also shouldn’t display your bouquet near fruit. That’s right, ripening fruits release tiny amounts of ethylene gas which can slowly kill your fresh arrangement. Who knew?

Well, that’s it. Now you can get that Mother in your life a gorgeous bouquet and know that with your help it will be worth every penny!

 

Spring / Easter Decorating

Spring is kind of a weird time. If you are into sports there is March Madness, the beginning of baseball season, and the end of hockey season. For anyone that’s Irish (or likes Irish people or green or likes to drink) we have St. Patrick’s Day. And sometimes in March and sometimes in April we have Passover and Easter.

I have a couple of friends that are Jewish. Some years we get together for these holidays and celebrate Passover and Easter together. While the decorations for Passover are quite sparse Easter decorations can be really fun.  Here are a few I recommend:

  1. Carrot-theme vases – Take a large hurricane and put a smaller bud vase in the center. Put carrots around the outside and add flowers to the bud vase. Adding water to the entire thing is recommended to keep it looking fresh.
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  2. Candy-theme vase – if you have children in your home this might be more fun for them. It’s the same concept only trade the carrots for colorful candy and add water ONLY to the bud vase. (full details at getcreativejuice.com)
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  3. Colored Deviled Easter Eggs –  Why do they call these “deviled” eggs when they are mostly served at Easter? Isn’t that weird? Anyway, once your eggs have been hard boiled dip them in food-safe colored dyes, then make them up as usual.  It will add some fun color to your dinner table.
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  4. Make a bunny Napkin – fold your napkins into cute little bunny shapes and place them on your dinner plates. Instructions are at drivenbydecor.com
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  5. Shell tea lights – For this one you’re going to want to harden these shells a bit. The easiest way will be to take your shells (just shells after you’ve cracked an egg) and some white glue with food coloring added. Brush the glue onto the egg and let dry. Add several coats so it’s strong enough for a tea light to sit inside without breaking the shell. Once reinforced with another pretty colored “shell” place them in a tea light holder.  This one looks like an egg crate but yours doesn’t have to to look great. Carefully put tea lights in the center either turned on or then light. Now isn’t that a beautiful way to light up your room?
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The “Instant Pot”

I saw one of these last year and put it on my Christmas list. Santa was kind and we got one. Not the name brand but this one from Best Buy that is their store brand but is the same type of thing.

Well, I can retire my old pressure cooker. Not that I use it but once in a blue moon. Nope not even that often. Still it is nice to have that feature if you need a ton of baked potatoes in a hurry or something.

The best feature I think is that I can get a slow cooker meal in less than slow cooker time. I LOVE slow cookers. We have – I think – 4 of them. A 4-quart, two 6-quarts, and an 8-quart. We mostly use the 6-quart but if we are doing a pot luck we may end up using 3 of the 4. They are great! We throw a bunch of stuff in them in the morning, close the lid and turn them on and by the end of the day a delicious meal is waiting for you. These were MADE for busy people with no time to make dinner.

But back to the quick-pot thing. Say I’m too busy in the morning or I forget to toss in my food and my crock-pot is empty that day. I come home and kids are expecting roast beef with vegetables for dinner. Are they getting mac and cheese instead? That depends – can they be a little bit patient? The instant pot can take my roast beef and veggies and have them ready to eat in about 30 minutes. Sweet! What if I remember and come home at lunch and toss in some chicken and the rest of my ingredients for cranberry chicken? (see below for recipe) Does my family have to wait until 7pm to eat my chicken safely? Nope. The instant pot can have it ready for you when you want it to – in 4 hours? 5? or 1.  I LOVE this thing.

It comes with a super-easy rice cooker that is so easy to make the best-tasting rice in and its dishwasher safe so clean-up is also a breeze. Hard-boiled eggs are done to perfection in about 5 minutes. I tell you – pick up one of these and you will love it!

There is a downside and for me it’s a biggie. I mentioned I have so many slow cookers and all the different sizes. When I cook I’m usually feeding either my own teenagers/ young adults + friends or I’m making a dish to share with my friends. In either case a 6-quart is just BARELY enough for a main dish. (Have you seen teenage boys eat? It’s like watching locusts!) I’d love to get an 8-quart version and they haven’t made one — or have they? Yes! Now I have a birthday present.

So now you know what I think about this gadget. If you have one let me know what you think. And here’s my recipe for cranberry chicken. Now, I’m giving you the EZ version that uses items found in your pantry and goes in one pot all together. It doesn’t look as pretty as others but still tastes great. If you want one that makes a true chutney then there is a great one here from the crockpot girls. It’s in a great cookbook they created along with over 500 other great crockpot recipes. Now that you know you can adapt these for a quick-pot you can also enjoy them in not-quite-an-instant!

Cranberry Chicken

Chicken Breasts – 40 oz bag
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 bottle western dressing
1 envelope onion soup mix

Rinse ice off chicken breasts and place in crock pot. Mix all other ingredients together and pour on top of chicken. Put lid on, turn crock pot on “low” or “auto” and in about 7 hours dinner is ready. (please make sure chicken is fully cooked according to your crock pot’s cooking schedule and instructions. I’d hate to have anyone get sick on yummy chicken.)

Making an Arbor

Arbors dress up your yard or garden so beautifully. Now you don’t have to have one that looks like the arbor at the Biltmore Estate:

 
This photo of Biltmore Estate is courtesy of TripAdvisor

There are  very simple arbors that can make a great difference and are really easy to make. This great arbor, shown by Better Homes & Gardens is very elegant and doesn’t take a lot of know-how. All you need is a well-equipped toolbox to bring it to life, including a circular saw or a small handsaw and miter box for making precise cuts.

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This wooden arbor takes a few hours of labor and waiting overnight for the concrete posts to cure. It looks lovely and is easy enough a novice could take this one on. Visit The Spruce.com for full details.

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This is an arbor my dad made and is a bit more advanced. He’s added an outdoor chandelier, hanging baskets on either side, a fountain on one side and a bench on the other. You can do this too if you have a little patience.

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My dad has plans for every project in the world but it’s taken him most of his adult life to accumulate them. Today if I want to build something I’ll go into the home improvement store and pay $24.99 for 10 deck or 8 arbor and trellis plans. But I know a guy! He has created a plan book for every wooden project imaginable and the reason I love it is that it is idiot-proof. Because when it comes to projects I tend to be an idiot. I won’t understand why there has to be a hole at this end (or even if there IS a hole at this end) because the plans just don’t show it clearly. It’s very frustrating. Ted’s plans are extremely detailed with great graphics and step-by-step — and I mean that — instructions. So take a look for yourself and make an arbor for your garden.

I’d love to see the results when you’re finished. Please share them with me!