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It's nearly St. Patrick's Day, but so far my house gives no hints of it. While I have a sliver of Irish heritage, it's apparently not enough to make me deck the halls with four-leaf clovers. And Easter season prompts me to break out the hot cross bun recipe, but it's been years since I've dyed eggs.
I know people whose homes are rotating odes to the holidays, complete with Easter egg trees and Fourth of July bunting, building to a Halloween spectacle worthy of Martha Stewart. The seasonal splendor ranges the gamut from a tad tacky to major art form. While I can appreciate the effort and artistry that goes into some lavish displays, for some reason I haven't joined in. The ideas look great in magazines -- those eggs dyed with onion skins look gorgeous -- but so far I've expended all my holiday decor energies -- and available storage space -- in one big surge at Christmas.
It wouldn't necessarily take a shopping expedition to give a nod to the upcoming holiday: Gather some of your green holiday ornaments in a glass bowl, group green glass bottles on the mantel, or tie green ribbon around canning jar votives.
Maybe I'll buy some bells of Ireland or other green flowers to mark Saturday's holiday, and scrounge some green ribbon to dress up the vase. At least it's one form of holiday decor I don't have to find a storage home for.
How many holidays do you decorate for? And what's your storage solution for seasonal decor items? What are some of your quick decor fixes?
A lot of flowers will change hands this Valentine's Day. And whether you're on the buying or the receiving end, here's a bit of science you might want to know:
From a woman's perspective, a guy with flowers is hotter than a guy without flowers. This news flash come from recent studies at the University of South Brittany in France.
Women are much more likely to find a man attractive and accept a date with a stranger if they are in the presence of colorful flowers.
The guy doesn't even have to buy the flowers himself. Apparently the association between flowers and romance is so strong that all he has to do to spark female interest is be NEAR the flowers.
Here's how the studies worked: Female students watched video of a man talking about himself -- half in a room decorated with vases of flowers, half in an identical room without flowers. The women who watched the former rated the man as more attractive and were more willing to go on a date with him.
In a second study, the same experiment was repeated, only this time the women were led into a room and told to sit down where a man was waiting. They were told he was a fellow student taking part in the experiment, but in reality he was an actor. The man was instructed to talk for five minutes about the experiment, then to ask the woman on a date, using the exact same words.
Half the women who watched the video in the room wthout flowers accepted the man's proposition. But the figure rose to 81 percent for women who had recently been in contact with flowers.
Women under the influence of flowers are kinda like guys wearing beer goggles.
So if you're a guy, maybe you don't have to spring for the big overpriced bouquet of roses. Just bring your Valentine to the Como Park Conservatory.
What do you think -- are flowers the way to a woman's heart? How about a man's?
Outside, it’s bleak and brown.
Inside my house I’ve created a mini-version of the Minnesota Zoo’s tropics trail. My kitchen hutch holds clusters of striped green dracaena. Potted pothos trail over the edge of the coffee table. And a plant stand near a bay window holds my favorite cure for the winter blahs — the jungle-like Peace lily. It’s one of few houseplants that blooms consistently even when there’s little light. Spikes of milk white spoon-shaped flowers shoot out of the deep green glossy foliage. The Peace lily droops when it wants water, and within a few hours, perks back up.
It's a great tme to fill your home’s empty corners, shelves and tabletops with lush green plants. I was at a friend’s house and pointed to a spacious landing at the top of the stairs. “That’s the perfect spot for a Chinese evergreen on a cute little table,” I said.
Why not? Houseplants are pretty cheap and easy to find at local garden centers and even home improvement stores like Home Depot. Don’t worry about a chosen spot not having sufficient light -- many varieties thrive in low-light conditions common in many Minnesota homes in the winter. Good ones are pothos (variegated vine), philodendron (shopping mall staple with heart-shaped leaves) and zeezee plant (fleshy succulent).
These green energizers are pretty indestructible — if watered regularly. Heck, they even clean indoor air by absorbing toxins.
To help with your plant picks, the Better Homes and Gardens website (www.bhg.com) offers sumptuous slide shows — with detailed descriptions — of dozens of different houseplants.
What are your favorite houseplants? Do they help tide you over until spring?
I’m addicted to orchids — but not the unpredictability of when - or if - they’ll rebloom.
I was lucky that two of my first phalaenopsis plants were overachievers. When the last wilted petal dropped, I cut down the stem. Within weeks, a new tiny green stem pokes out of the bark, a sight as thrilling as the tip of a spring tulip emerging in the garden. Each day the slender stem grows longer and eventually little buds appear. And when they finally open, orchid flowers are lovely, elegant -- and perfect.
Over the last decade, orchids have gone from pricey, exotic plants to only $19.99 at Home Depot. They’ve become so mainstream that every Parade of Homes displays one on the coffee table.
I have a collection of phalaenopsis or “moth orchid” named for its moth-like arching sprays of flowers. I’m in love with their otherworldly color palette of buttery yellows, creamy whites and hot pinks. Moth orchids are one of the most popular varieties and considered the easiest to grow.
But my most recent purchase — from a reputable garden center — is a slacker. I’ve been waiting forever for the barren plant to push out a miraculous stem, which will produce new flowers. The fleshy foliage is a deep, healthy green. What am I doing wrong?
I visited several orchid care websites for help. (I didn’t use Orchid Society of Minnesota because the website requires a membership fee before you can access resources).
LIGHT: Do not place in direct sunlight. East or west-facing window is best. Check.
TEMPERATURE: Orchids thrive best when the temperature drops at night, usually about 10 to 15 degrees. Check. This is easy to do in Minnesota.
WATER: Once a week is sufficient to keep your plant healthy and happy. Check.
FERTILIZE: One teaspoon per gallon of water once a month. Check.
HUMIDITY: Phalaenopsis like moist air. Set the pots on a tray of pebbles filled with water; make sure the pots aren’t sitting in water. I think I'll try this.
REBLOOM: When the last flower drops, cut the flower spike halfway down the stem. Continue to care for it and wait for it to rebloom.
I’m still waiting.
Have you had good luck with your orchids? What do you think of the waiting game and if you're lucky - the big payoff?
The doorball rang. Too quickly, I opened the door to find the cute little kid from across the street, holding an unwieldly package of stapled paper. Bursting with joy, he couldn't wait to tell me that my poinsettia had arrived! Huzzah!
I'd ordered the plant back before Halloween, when Christmas seemed impossibly distant, and the chance to help the cute little kid support his school seemed delightfully immediate.
Hoping that he took my speechless for similar joy, I took the package, murmured my thanks, unwrapped the plant and proceeded to mark the calendar date, so as to know just how many days pass this year before it dies or, worse, lives.
Poinsettias occupy the strangest of horticultural niches. They are a symbol of Christmas, undeniably gorgeous with their canopy of scarlet blossoms. But once the season is over, they seem out of place, the guest who's overstaying their welcome. Yet these are not cut flowers kept alive only by the grace of water. A poinsettia is a living plant, and every instinct tells me that its continued existence must be nurtured, encouraged, celebrated.
Or that I least that I keep the leaves from dropping until the holidays have come and gone. You see the mixed feelings here: I can't let it die before Christmas and don't really want it to live after that. If past experience is any indication, though, Santa with either gaze with curiosity upon a plant with bare stems, or my poinsettia prove to be the Betty White of houseplants, demonstrating an unflagging verve for life, month after month after month.
It's very weird.
In any case, I'm on the poinsettia's side right now, which brought me to the University of Minnesota Extension Service's guidelines for its care. Here's the drill:
"Poinsettias require bright light and should be kept away from drafts. A temperature between 65° and 70° F is ideal. Avoid temperatures below 60° and above 75° F. Keep the plants well watered but do not over-water. Newer, long-lasting varieties can be kept attractive all winter."
The temperature thing I can handle; we've compromised on 68 degrees in our household. The dealbreaker here is that fine line between overwatering and underwatering. For I contend that the line is very fine. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
OK, for you overachievers out there, or for those who against all odds will, come next fall, find yourself with a still-thriving poinsettia, you might as well go for broke and see if you can get it to flower again. Again from the Extension Services, here's the drill:
"Starting October 1, exclude poinsettia from artificial light for 16 hours; either cover with a light-proof box each evening or place in an unlighted room or closet. Expose to full light during the day (eight hour days). Use fertilizer when new growth is visible. After 10 weeks of short days, the plants should reflower."
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