How to preserve cut flowers, and 35 gardening terms everyone should know
If you’re new here, welcome! To receive The Weekly Dirt in your inbox every week…
Don’t you hate when people use expert-level words and phrases to describe ordinary things? It seems every field of interest has its version of this, from medical jargon and legalese to sports lingo like tennis’ “love” and golf’s “birdie.” Outsiders, no matter how well-educated or intelligent, can’t possibly understand what’s being described. And as it happens, gardening is no exception.
For instance, when reading about starting seeds, you might see mention of cotyledons. They’re the first set of leaves to develop on newly sprouted plants. They typically have smooth edges and do not resemble the plants’ true leaves at all.
What are “true leaves,” you ask? They’re the characteristic leaves of a plant, usually the first set of leaves to appear after the cotyledons sprout from a newly germinated seed. They’re the functional ones that produce food for the plant.
Even experienced gardeners are sure to encounter some unfamiliar terms. Maybe you’re not quite sure what to do when advised to “side dress,” or “scarification” and “stratification” have you scratching your head.
Read—and maybe print out—my cheat sheet at the link further down in this newsletter.
📬 Ask Jessica
DEAR JESSICA: Is there anything I can add to a vase of cut flowers to make them last longer? Does aspirin really work? --Michaela Griffiths, North Adams, Mass.
DEAR MICHAELA: The key to preserving cut flowers is to inhibit the growth of bacteria in the water and within the vase. Adding a crushed aspirin tablet will lower the pH of the water, which will indeed slow the growth of bacteria.
One-quarter teaspoon of chlorine bleach also gets the job done.
Here are some other recipes to try, depending on what you happen to have on hand (measurements are for a quart of water):
One teaspoon of sugar, one teaspoon of bleach and two teaspoons of lemon juice
Three teaspoons of sugar and two teaspoons of white vinegar.
One teaspoon of sugar and a quarter teaspoon of any clear alcohol, like vodka.
Changing the water frequently — and washing out the vase — is an important part of reducing bacterial growth. So be sure to do so every couple of days, replenishing your preservative of choice each time.
💡 If you do one thing this week…
Those gardening in areas with freezing winter temperatures should be planting spring bulbs now. You can keep planting as long as the ground is soft enough to dig, so there’s no absolute deadline. But if you wait too long — despite mild weather—they might now flower well in their first year.
👏 Sunday shoutout
Ronnie Thyben of Glen Head, NY, shared this lovely reminder of why we break our backs planting bulbs in autumn—it’s a gift to our future selves! And come spring, we’ll be so glad we did.
She says she captured this great shot “one May at Old Westbury Gardens during a tour.”
Thanks for giving us something to hold onto, Ronnie!
Send in your photo, and you could be featured next! (Really, send in your photos—I’m running low!)
📰This week in my Associated Press gardening column
I write a weekly gardening column for the AP, so you might have seen my byline in your local paper (or news website) — wherever in the world you happen to be. In case you miss it, though, I’ll post the most recent here every week.
This week, I wrote a cheat sheet for gardeners who might not be familiar with all the terms they encounter in seed catalogs, on plant tags — and in gardening columns. It’s time to study up: Here are 35 gardening terms everyone should know. Drop me a line to let me know how many you know!
Last week, I wrote about ways to prepare your soil in the fall for spring planting.
Before that, I wrote about the Asian jumping worm, fall houseplant care, starting a hügelkultur garden and much more.
You can read all my AP gardening columns here.
📚📺🎵 📚📺🎵 📚📺🎵 📚📺🎵
Random things I enjoyed this week
✅ Voting! I had a pretty rough day on Tuesday but still managed to get to the polls. I hope you did, too!
🌷 Planting bulbs. OK, I didn’t really enjoy it. If I’m being honest, it was miserable, and I washed down the experience with three ibuprofen. But I got 200 tulips and daffodils into the back of my newly cleared border, so I’ll thank myself in April.
The first two episodes of the second season of The White Lotus on HBO. They’re in Italy this time, and it’s as much fun as the first time around.
Let’s be friends! Follow me:
@jessicadamiano on Facebook
@jessicadamiano on Twitter
and @jessicadamianoofficial on TikTok, where all the cool kids hang out 😎
📧 How’m I doing?
I welcome your comments and suggestions, so please send them along — as well as any topics you’d like to see covered and questions you’d like answered in the Ask Jessica section.