When It Comes to Flower Arranging, Don’t Be a Late Bloomer

Six Tips on Making Beautiful Bouquets

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Armed with good intention, I joined Apartment Therapy’s January Cure, a thirty-day plan to “whip your home into shape, get it clean, organized and under control.” I lasted until Day Eight, when the weekend task was to “Clean Your Kitchen and Declutter/Organize as You Go.”  It was just too much for a weekend.

One thing I did pick up during the seven days I participated in the January Cure was the weekly purchase of fresh flowers for my house. According to Apartment Therapy, “As simple as it sounds, the act of buying flowers for your apartment holds great significance and will heal your home on many levels. They are beautiful, they add life to the space, they help to humidify and cleanse the air.”

Mason Jar Arrangement

Yet with all of these are reasons to buy fresh flowers, there was no “Flower Arranging for Dummies” guide. I winged it, and through a process of trial and error, have created a few really nice arrangements. Recently, on Food 52, I saw some great tips on arranging flowers! (Where were these when I needed them?) Because they were such good tips, I thought I’d pick out a few of my favorites. For the full Food 52 article on flower arranging, click here.

  1.  Pick a color sequence of no more than three colors. It’s easy to get carried away while browsing a flower shop — but making something beautiful is easier when your flowers match each other.
  2. Big flowers stretch the farthest. If you’re on a budget — or if you’re nervous about making your own arrangement — go for a larger type of flower. They take up more space in a bouquet, so you can buy less of them — and they’re easier to work with while building a bouquet.
  3. If you’re using a round, wide-mouthed vase, make the arrangement in your hand first. Start with the flowers you’d like in the center, and start building around them, rotating the bouquet in your hand. When you’re satisfied, you can cut them all together — and just plop them in your vase!
  4. If you’re using a tall, skinny vase, think about height. Since these vases look beautiful standing against a wall, take advantage of your point of reference. Starting from the front, build your bouquet upwards, so that the tallest flowers stand up in the back. Here’s where your filler flowers come in; use them as your tall backdrop, while letting your colors pop in the front.
  5. Work on symmetry. When you’re starting arrangements, it’s easiest to make things beautiful by working in symmetry. Putting a pink flower on the left? Put another on the right. Is there a big flower towards the front? Try framing the bouquet with them.
  6. Change your water every day. If you have time, wash the vase with soap and water, and add a tiny bit of bleach to each new change of water (this will kill the bacteria). Each time you put your flowers in new water, you should give the stems a fresh cut.

Easy Ways to Green Your Cleaning

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Earth Day is the perfect time to discuss green cleaning, the growing trend of using environmentally-friendly ingredients and/or packaging for your household cleaning.

Green cleaning

Why does green cleaning matter? Consider this:
• Some cleaning products contain ingredients that pose health hazards and/or harm to the environment.
• Cleaning products are frequently involved in home poisoning, many involving children under the age of five.
• According to the US EPA, levels of pollutants indoors can be two to more than 100 times higher than outdoors, and the number one culprit for indoor pollution is our use of cleaning products.

Contrary to popular belief, green cleaning doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time consuming. Here are some quick and easy tips that you can start implementing today.

1. Look for products in containers that are:
• Minimally packaged
• Recyclable in your curbside or drop-off recycling program
• Recycled content, preferably post-consumer
• Large (a gallon instead of four quarts)
• Refillable
• Pump sprays (not aerosols)

2. Purchase products that you reuse instead of throwing away:
• Buy rags or cloths instead of paper towels and wipes.
• Use a mop, not one-use wet floor wipes
• Select a feather or static duster instead of disposable dusters
• Use a traditional toilet brush, not clean once and flush scrubbers

3. Look for eco-friendly ingredients like grain alcohol (instead of toxic butyl cellosolve), plant oils (rather than petroleum) and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus (not triclosan).

4. Avoid toxic ingredients such as nonylphenol ethoxylates, antibacterials, ammonia, butyl cellosolve, butyl glycol, ethylene glycol, monobutyl, chlorine bleach, d-limonene, diethanolamine and triethanolamine.

5. Be on the lookout for “greenwashing,” misleading claims regarding product eco-standards. There are no standards for words like nontoxic, eco-safe, environmentally friendly, natural and green. Read the labels and research products before purchasing them, and look for third-party certification. Also note that unless you compost them, biodegradable containers end up in the landfill, where very few things ever degrade.

6. Make your own cleaners with ingredients you already have in your cabinets. These cleaners are less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly. One of the best sources I’ve found is Apartment Therapy’s 25 Green Cleaning Recipes for the Entire House.

Let me know what you think about green cleaning! Are you already using some of these tips around your home? If so, how do they work for you? If not, which one(s) are you willing to try? Do you have a tried and true recipe for green cleaning? Please share it!