Meet Mike in Chantilly on Friday, Feb. 25. WTOP Garden Editor Mike McGrath will appear live at the Capital Home and Garden Show at the Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Va. on Friday, Feb. 25. He'll help you get your lawn off drugs at 11 a.m., help you grow your best-tasting tomatoes EVER at 2, and answer your toughest garden questions at 4 p.m. (NOTE: Mike will only be there on Friday.) More info: www.capitalhomeshow.com< /a>.
Men. Are You Ready for Monday?
ATTENTION MEN. WHOOP. WHOOP. Alert. Alert. Monday is Valentine's Day. Are you prepared? You'll need a nice card (NOT a stupid one that you think is funny-unless you have a furnished garage), some really good chocolate (dark chocolate, because wimpy milk chocolate isn't worth the calories) and, of course, flowers.
Red Roses? How About Red Tulips?
You can spring for the traditional roses, of course. But while most roses DO mean some form of love (except yellow ones, don't DARE give those on Valentine's Day.) in the ancient language of flowers known as The Floral Code (invented to communicate feelings that weren't proper at the time to be expressed out loud), red tulips specifically mean a declaration of love, as in "I love you." That's why you'll find red tulips in florist shops and supermarkets along with the roses at this time of year.
Pick ones where the petals on the flower heads are still mostly closed up tight (not wide open. That would mean they're at the end of their time), keep them in a cool place that's NOT in direct sun, water them lightly if they're live plants in soil and they'll last for weeks.
LIVE Tulips Just Might Bloom Eternal
If you do indeed consider the tulip for your Valentine's Day Flowers (but only in red, I don't know what the other colors mean), look for live plants -- that is, potted tulips where the stems are growing out of soil as opposed to cut flowers.
After the blooms fade, remove the very top of the flower stalk but leave all of the other greenery untouched. Put the leafy plants in a VERY sunny window, feed them with a gentle organic fertilizer (this is when spring bulbs make the following year's flower deep inside the bulb) and water them (remove any decorative foil from around the pot and don't let any water sit in the saucer under the pot).
Allow the leaves to turn brown, then gently trim them off, leaving a little bit attached. Then place the bulbs (still in the pot and soil) in a cool dark place and mark your calendar to retrieve them in October. Remove the bulbs from the pots at that point and plant them outdoors in loose rich soil. Although tulips in general aren't the most reliable returners, red tulips DO tend to come back reliably (I have clusters that have been blooming for over 25 years.) So, with any luck, your sign of love will bloom eternal every Spring.
Turn Cut Roses into Live Plants
Going to spring for cut roses this Valentine's Day? Consider turning some of those cut flowers into living rose plants.
Take some of the stems out of the bouquet, cut the flowers off with a couple inches of stem attached and display these short-stem specimens in a cut glass bowl filled with marbles and water. (This must be done. The canes won't root if the flowers are left on top).
Fill a big plant pot (plastic, with good drainage holes) with soil-free mix (NOT outdoor dirt) saturated with water.
Cut the bottom couple of inches off each severed stem, remove half the leaves from each cane, gently insert the canes a few inches deep in the saturated mix, hang a plastic bag loosely over top (to trap moisture) and place in a warm area, but not in direct sun.
Keep the mix well-watered and mist the canes every morning.
After a month or so, new growth will appear on the canes that have rooted. When that happens, remove the plastic bag and cut back on the watering. Layer an inch of good compost on the surface of the soil. Grow them inside for another few weeks and then take the pots outside to an area with bright light and morning sun only. Keep watering lightly.
When you and they are ready, select spots that get morning sun and afternoon shade, loosen the soil well, gently plant each cane, being careful not to crush the new roots, and then mulch them with an inch of compost. NO WOOD CHIPS, SHREDDED BARK OR OTHER TRASHY MULCH.