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A bit of earth Annie Calovich: Winter tests our mettle, but let’s be grateful for what we have

  • Published Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014, at 7:57 a.m.

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Buying fresh flowers

Designer Robbin Yelverton, who has a master’s degree in horticulture and teaches the art of design in the Detroit area, has these tips for buying flowers:

• If you’re buying flowers from the store, take a tip from a pro. “I tell florists when they go to their supplier to walk into the cooler, reach down in the bucket of water and rake a finger inside,” he says, noting that if there’s algae under those nails, the water isn’t clean. While you probably won’t want to try this in a grocery store, it’s essential to look at the water the flowers are resting in to be sure it’s clean.

• Be sure the blooms are in good shape before you bring them home. The best way to ensure you don’t get lousy flowers is to buy them somewhat in advance. “People assume flowers don’t last long, when in fact, they often buy them in bad shape, and they don’t treat them well from there.” If you’re running into the grocery store on Feb. 14, the pickings are sure to be slim.

• If you’re a “budding” flower arranger and have decided to buy blooms to arrange for your sweetie, the first thing to do with those flowers is to re-cut the ends, rinse the bacteria off the stems, and be sure you’re putting them in a spotless vase. Changing the water every three days will extend the life of the flowers. When used properly, flower food will also preserve the blooms.

• Location, location: Be sure you keep flowers as cool as possible. Even if you crank the heat up to 80, keep the flowers away from heaters and away from drafts.

• If you’re looking for blooms that will last longer than a week, here are a few “workhorse” flowers that have great staying power: carnations, daisies and Alstroemeria (sometimes called Peruvian lilies).

I’m reminded once again, on a cold and snowy winter’s day, how much a difference the sunshine makes.

The wind chill can be 14 degrees below zero — as it is while I’m typing this — but if the sun is out, I’m warmed to the heart. I can handle the biting winds a bit better.

Once a cloud covers the sun, though, I almost unconsciously scan the sky with a scowl, to determine if it’s just a passing cotton ball, or a more sustained threat to my good mood.

This point in February marks perhaps the greatest test of our winter mettle. The near-term forecast stays in the deep freeze — but the long-term holds out some hope of a warm-up starting late next week.

In the meantime, we have to be grateful for what we have: snow, as much-needed moisture; snow, as much-needed landscape-brightening; snow, as good outdoor exercise in the form of shoveling sidewalks, scraping windshields, and walking (it works the calves just as the sand on the beach does, right?).

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the January seeding of a new prairie at Bartlett Arboretum in Belle Plaine, and the arboretum’s Robin Macy is this week celebrating the snowing-in of the seed. The cold and snow are contributing to new life even as we speak. It’s always the season of miracles.

And it’s always the season of love, but even more so as we head toward Valentine’s Day on Friday. If you love roses or want to give them as valentines, you may want to go to the monthly meeting Tuesday of the Wichita Rose Society at Botanica. Four club members will be taking the second annual Arrangement Challenge: This year it is how to make an arrangement that says “I love you” with three or fewer roses.

“It’s like the ‘Iron Chef’ on TV — we give them an ingredient,” said Cindy Howey, the society’s vice president.

Members will also be giving pointers on how to pick out good roses for arranging as well as tips for making arrangements last longer. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, with a social half-hour beforehand. The event is free and open to the public, with refreshments provided.

When it comes to buying Valentine flowers, I love the advice I read from designer Robbin Yelverton, who has a master’s degree in horticulture and teaches the art of design in the Detroit area: No matter how much money you have to spend, avoid picking a set arrangement online, and, instead, walk to your neighborhood florist. And don’t wait until the last minute to order.

I love the walking idea on a couple of different levels: especially to take it literally, especially at this time of year, or, if you don’t live within walking distance of a florist, to drive to the one that is nearest your house. The very fragrance of the floral shop will lift you out of February. And the full immersion in the treat that is fresh flowers in the middle of winter will hit you. This way the giver gets to share in more of the gift, too.

See the accompanying box for more tips on buying lowers. And have a very Happy Valentine’s Day — one more bright spot in winter.

Reach Annie Calovich at 316-268-6596 or acalovich@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @anniecalovich.

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