Never pass up a flower show. Where else would you find a more gorgeous collection of flowers, shrub and tree specimens, hanging baskets and container plants, and woody plant gorgeous flowers and woody plant specimens?

They showcase what grows well here, plus new varieties of the tried and true plants. People are there to answer questions about what it is, how to grow it and where to get it. And, how to condition cut specimens so that they will last longer.

Fortunately for us, the McCracken County Fair includes a flower show that opens on Monday.

Whether you plan to enter cut flowers or not (really should), taking a few minutes to condition them will extend the life of the cut flowers.

The general rule is cut stems at an angle to give a larger surface to uptake water and immediately plunge into water. I cut early in the morning when they are most turgid. Some recommend late afternoon, when they have built up an energy supply.

Once in the house, recut stems underwater, and place in room temperature, not hot water. Heat stimulates growth, causing the flower to wilt. Warm water will revive a flower that has temporarily wilted. Once it recovers, place it in cool water.

Remove foliage that will be underwater, as it breaks down faster than stems and clogs the stem pores.

Of course, there are exceptions to the above. Hosta, calla-lily and begonia wilt rapidly, but will revive after being submerged for a few hours.

Cut dahlias at prime, never in bud, and in warm water overnight. Dip the cut stem of euphorbia and others that drip sap in alum, and singe hydrangea ends for 20-30 seconds. Ornamental grasses don't wilt if stood in full strength vinegar for a few minutes.

After cutting hollow-stemmed flowers, invert and fill the stems with water, and plug with a pinch of cotton ball.

Remove stamens heavy with pollen, as it stains and reduces the plant's life.

The McCracken County Fair Flower Show is Monday at Floral Hall in Carson Park, 300 Joe Clifton Drive, Paducah. Horticulture entries are 7:30-10:30 a.m. Design division, "Symphony of Flowers," must be pre-registered.

Things to do

• 15 Minute gardening -- Temperature and wind rapidly dry out the soil. Daily check porous container-grown plants for soil moisture. Water plants until water runs out. Drain saucers if the plants are standing in water more than half an hour.

• Children activities -- Work with a child to make a customized watering "can." Thoroughly rinse a half gallon plastic milk jug, cut out paper the size of the label, decorate with permanent markers and stickers, glue onto the jug, and seal with clear laminate or spray sealer.

• Garden -- Water beds if they have not received one inch of rain in the last week. Cut spent iris stems to the ground. Collect clematis seed, scatter some and place some with a small amount of powdered milk in a medicine bottle, label and store in the refrigerator.

• Lawn -- Mow no more than one-third of the grass (height) at a time. Mow often to keep the clippings small. They will break down readily and you won't have to rake.

• Trees and shrubs -- Pull back mulch from trunks. Cut water sprouts and suckers at the plant's base.

It is not too late to plant, given a bit of extra care. Deep water planting holes the day before planting. Carry or drag the plant on a tarp to the hole and slip the plant into the hole. Never lift a plant by the trunk, as the weight of the soil will damage the hair roots.

• Vegetables -- Support your local farmers market by trying new-to-you vegetables. If the garden is too wet, plant in containers. Seed outdoors beets, bush beans, carrots, corn, lettuce, parsnips and late potatoes through mid-July.


• June 22-29, West Kentucky Botanical Gardens, Owensboro, "Dazzling Daylily Festival Balloons Over the Gardens," Times vary. Many activities, including "Dig Your Own Clump" of daylilies, $10-15, potted $15.

• Tonight, WKBG, 4-8:30 p.m.,

• Now through Oct. 19, Yew Dell Gardens, Crestwood, guided tours 11 a.m.-noon Saturdays.

Contact Carolyn Roof, the Sun's gardening columnist, at

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