A cut aboveFlorists suggest that before you...


A cut above

Florists suggest that before you arrange your flowers you recut the stems on an angle underwater. But it's harder to do than it sounds unless you're a professional with a good sharp knife. (You're not supposed to use scissors; you might mangle the stems.)

Now you can prolong the life of your bouquets with an Aqua Blum underwater stem cutter, a handy little tool that makes a clean cut -- on an angle for maximum water absorption. Available locally at Smith & Hawken in Mount Washington for $21.

Last year, more than 5,000 people attended the National Arboretum's garden fair and plant auction. It was so successful that most of the plants were gone early in the day. This year, the event has been expanded to include thousands more selections -- arboretum introductions, rare and unusual specimens, old favorites and even hard-to-kill plants for novices.

You can bring a photo of your garden problem for a free consultation with experts, and take part in a silent auction for more than 200 specialty plants and garden-related items. There will be bonsai demonstrations and several events for kids.

The free family event will take place April 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the U.S. National Arboretum grounds, 3501 New York Ave. N.E., Washington, D.C. Call 202-544-8733.

Just the right hostess gift is hard to find. One charming solution is a Good Fortune Candle. The pretty candle, which comes in shapes like stars and hearts, is lighted at the beginning of dinner. By dessert, it has burned down enough to reveal the hidden charms and a fortune embedded in each one. Good Fortune Candles, costing from $9 to $15, are available at Littlefield's in Lake Falls Village.

Decorative topiary is the theme of the Homewood House spring exhibition, with herb, ivy and myrtle topiaries and flowering plants decorating the museum's interiors. Tours of "Homewood: A Country House Spring" will be held at noon April 16-20, with a brief slide introduction to the history of topiary followed by herb tea and lemonade served on the lawn. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and $3 for students.

Topiary expert Laurie Crane of Mountainside Gardens will hold topiary workshops this Wednesday at 10 a.m. and 12: 30 p.m. in the Glass Pavilion on the Homewood campus of Johns Hopkins University. The cost is $18 for museum members and $20 for nonmembers. Call 410-516-5589 for reservations.

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