August is a perfect time to enjoy fresh-cut flowers, especially late- flowering summer bulbs. But how do you keep them looking beautiful (and lasting longer) once you bring them inside?
Amy Dube, bulb expert from the Dig Drop Done Foundation (www.digdropdone.com), offers this advice for getting the most out of these late- summer bouquets:
Gladioluses: These popular bulbs bloom from the bottom up. The best time to cut the gladiolus stem is when one or two of the lower flower buds start to show color, Dube said. The cut stems can last up to two weeks indoors.
Lilies: Watch out for the pollen! To prevent pollen stains from getting on table tops, hands or clothing, remove the stamen from the inside of the lily before you bring it inside, Dube said. If the lily bud is half bloomed, you can easily pull off the stamens because they have not yet been pollinated. However, if the lily has fully bloomed, you'll need to use scissors to remove the pollinated stamens. If a lily flower becomes wilted on the stem, simply cut it off; the other buds will continue to bloom.
Dahlias: To maximize the vase life of dahlias, cut them in the early morning before the blooms get warm, or in the evening after the temperature drops. Dahlias do not like to be out of water, so place cut stems directly into a vase or bucket of water. Remove any leaves that may fall below the water level in the vase and change the water every few days.
Calla lilies: Cut stalks at an angle and try not to crush the stem, Dube said. A crunched stem prevents water from entering and traveling upward.
As for making a great summer (or any time) bouquet, Dube offered these tips:
Use one flower and one color. Whether it's a single stem or a mass, the effect is greater, and it's easier to arrange.
In a bucket, allow flowers to have a good drink of water for four to five hours, and preferably overnight, before arranging in a vase. This allows the stems to fill up with water and the flowers to become crisp. These flowers will last twice as long.
Work in odd numbers: One, three, five or seven stems
Cut flowers shorter to create a fuller effect. Recut stems about a half-inch underwater to eliminate air bubbles in the stem.
Use non-glass vases so you don't see the water, but still watch the water level. (Those flowers can get thirsty!) Refresh the water after a day or two.
Use warm water, not cold. Flowers take up warm water more readily. This helps cut flowers last longer.
Don't fill vases to the top with water. Foliage beneath the water line will rot and pollute the vase, which feeds bacteria, causes odors and limits flower life.
For more advice on using bulbs, click on www.digdropdone.com.
Keep an eye on tomatoes during hot weather. They can wilt easily when the temperature hits triple digits. Give your plants a deep watering two to three times a week, more if they look droopy or grow in containers.
Give vegetable plants a boost with phosphate-rich fertilizer to help fruiting. Always water before feeding.
Keep picking squash, eggplants and peppers to encourage plants to bear more.
Want more summer veggies? It's not too late to plant corn, green beans, pumpkins and squash. Keep the soil moist so the seeds will sprout, and keep them well watered.
Get started on the fall vegetable garden. Plant seeds for beets, carrots, Chinese cabbage, head lettuce, mustard, onions, parsley, parsnips, potatoes, rutabagas and turnips.
Plant lettuce and spinach in flats in partial shade, then transplant to sunnier spots in the garden for fall salads.
Start asters, salvias and violas indoors for fall transplanting.
Watch out for voracious hornworms and caterpillars in the vegetable garden. Hand- pick them off plants in early morning or late afternoon.