Another celebratory time approaches: Valentine's Day. Thursday is time for hearts and flowers.
The "perfect" gift doesn't have to be perfect; in fact, the recipient may love it more little flaws and all if it's handmade.
According to a recent survey by a nationwide crafts company, 85 percent of respondents think "handmade gifts are more sentimental than store-bought." Those handmade mementos are more likely to be kept and treasured for years to come, too.
Yuba City crafts expert Ann Clemmer of StamperDog.com suggests some simple projects for Valentine's Day.
Cards, of course, are a natural and need little more than paper, pen, scissors and glue-stick. Making cards is a great project for children as well as adults. (See some ideas at www.stamperdog.com/valentine-cards.)
Other possible Valentine's Day projects include picture frames (include a favorite photo) or embellished memory boxes to hold keepsakes and mementoes. Those can make great gifts for grandparents or teachers, as well as to your Valentine.
Or create a personal journal or scrapbook as a gift. Create the cover (and maybe a few pages), then let your recipient fill the rest.
As for flowers, Valentine's Day annually is the busiest for florists. Traditionally, flowers come with extra meaning. Red roses signal love, but what about other flowers and colors?
In the Victorian language of flowers, red tulips are a declaration of undying love. Pink carnations mean a mother's love; red carnations, passion. Daisies represent innocence. Camellias stand for excellence. Sunflowers mean loyalty and purity, while irises bring good news.
How to keep those bouquets looking fresh? Cut an inch off the bottom of the stems while holding them underwater. That prevents air bubbles and lets water flow up. If you cut at an angle, that creates a larger surface area to allow the stem to take up water, too.
In the vase, dissolve an aspirin in room-temperature water before adding the flowers. Or try mixing in a splash of 7-Up or Sprite (not diet; your flowers want the sugar rush). After a few days, change the water and re-cut the stems to extend the bouquet's life.
Finish pruning roses. Remove old leaves left over from last season. Also, rake up debris around the bushes and apply new mulch.
Remove old or browned flowers from azaleas and camellias to reduce petal blight.
If needed, apply a final dormant spray to deciduous fruit trees before the flower buds swell. This is especially important with peaches and nectarines to fight leaf curl; use a spray that contains copper.
Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong blast of water or insecticidal soap.
Transplant or direct-seed snapdragon, candytuft, lily of the valley, larkspur, Shasta daisy, painted daisy and stock.
In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichokes, strawberries and rhubarb (photo below). Transplant seedlings of lettuce, cabbage, broccoli and kale. Direct-seed radishes, beets, peas and chard.