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Dear Problem Lady

What’s in the powder that florists supply to make cut flowers last longer?
Sugar, acid, and bleach. Sugar gives nutrients to the flowers, acid maintains the pH level of the water, and bleach reduces the amount of bacteria and fungi in the water. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden has instructions for making your own homemade flower food by mixing water with sugar, lemon or lime juice, and household bleach. Changing the water daily and trimming the flower stems help too.

My neighbor blew away all fallen leaves from her flower garden, but aren’t leaves a good free mulch?
Some gardeners feel that leaves harbor slugs and also that a store-bought mulch looks better. But you are correct, fallen leaves form a free, natural mulch that suppresses weeds, and at the same time, fertilizes the soil as they break down. If you want more work, you can rake up your leaves, break them down with a weed-whacker, and spread the resulting finer-textured mulch. Here is a picture of untreated leaves as mulch.

I have not yet planted my spring-flowering flower bulbs. If it’s too late now, can I plant them indoors?
No. The only flower bulbs you can plant indoors are Amaryllis and Paper white Narcissus. They have been prepared. All the rest – snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, etc. require several months of cold in order to bloom. They must be planted out in the cold, not just in your refrigerator. However it is NOT TOO LATE to plant them outside in December as long as you can dig the soil. In our climate, severe freezes can harm bulbs planted in pots out of doors – so plant them in the garden. Take precautions with strong grating to protect the plantings from squirrels.

When should Amaryllis bulbs be planted indoors?
A good six weeks before you want them to bloom.

How can I make sure my Paperwhite Narcissus bulbs stay upright and ds not flop over half way through their bloom time?
Anchor the bulbs in heavy pebbles with the tops of the bulbs level with the top layer of pebbles. There are lots of unproven old-wives-tales about putting a drop or more of gin in their water. Instead try planting Paperwhites in a wide, straight-sided vase so they can’t flop.


Tell Us About YOUR Garden!
For our January 8, 2019 meeting, three Capitol Hill Garden Club members will show pictures of their own gardens and describe their planning process, their learning curve, and tips about maintaining and enjoying the result. This annual event is one of our most popular meetings; you won’t want to miss it! Meeting starts with refreshments at 6:45 pm at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. & 7th St. NE. Meetings are free and open to all. Membership details: capitolhillgardenclub.org.

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