Top Drawer Joyce Clark Hicks finds the best for your home and garden

Top Drawer

July 11, 2014 


When you prune a rose bush, cut the cane until you notice the center pith is creamy white and not brown.


Best tips for pruning roses

Summer is in full bloom, with vibrant roses dotting the Triangle. Hometalk – an online home and garden social network – has assembled a list of the most common pruning mistakes. See the entire list and tips to keep your roses blooming all season long at Here are the top pruning mistakes:

1 You cut off too much: Do not prune more than half the plant’s original height – ideal pruning is between one-third and one-half of the height.

2 You left too much in the center: The goal to pruning is an open, centered plant. Pay attention to stems or canes that crisscross, as well as any weak canes growing toward the center.

3 You didn’t cut with the right tool: Use curved gardening shears for standing pruning, a pruning saw for large canes and lopping shears with long handles for extra thick canes.

4 You didn’t make angled cuts: The goal should be to slope the cut away from the leaves, and just above the bud.

5 You cut healthy tissue: Cut the cane until you notice the center pith is creamy white and not brown. This is healthy tissue and the cane will be green.

6 You fertilize too soon after pruning: Avoid fertilizing for about three weeks.

7 You skip over the weak, energy-sapping stems: Cut out any stem thinner than a pencil. These stems will not be productive, and will sap energy and nutrients from the rest of the plant.

8 You leave behind “bad” leaves: Remove every leaf from the newly pruned bush as diseases and insects tend to carry over in old leaves. Then clear all leaves and debris away from the base of the plant.

9 You aren’t pruning: Pruning roses encourages new (and bigger) blooms, overall healthy growth and increased resistance to disease and other common plant problems. If you are not pruning, get on it!

Best tips for making cleaning easier

Real Simple recently put together a list of 10 suggestions to make cleaning easier. We’ve excerpted some of our favorite tips here:

• Feed ice cubes made of vinegar down the garbage disposal, then flush with cold water, to get rid of odious odors.

• To remove remnants of casserole stuck to your glass baking dish, wad a clean piece of foil into a ball, then use it with few drops of dishwashing liquid to scrub your cookware clean.

Clean a ceiling fan without the dusty mess. Working with one blade at a time, slide an old pillowcase over the blade, then slowly draw the fabric back. All the dust and dirt will stay in the pillowcase instead of flying everywhere.

Sprinkle a used dryer sheet with a few drops of water, then use it to wipe away built-up soap residue on your shower doors. It works wonders on scummy surfaces.

• Run a handful of white rice grains through your empty coffee grinder to remove trapped grounds and stale odors. Toss the rice, then wipe the grinder clean.

• Use a coffee filter to dust your flat-screen TV or computer monitor. It will leave the screens lint-free.

•  Lemon juice will work magic on food-stained cutting boards made of light wood or plastic. Slice a lemon in half, squeeze its juice onto the soiled surface, rub and let sit for 20 minutes. Rinse.

View the entire list at

Best summertime recipe

Roxboro reader Mikel Gardner shares a family recipe often enjoyed during summer picnics on the lawn.

Tomato Pudding

1 28-ounce can San Marzano whole tomatoes

3 tablespoons sugar (or less, to taste)

1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

5 slices dried-out bread

1/4 cup melted butter or olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Empty can of tomatoes into a large bowl. Squish with hands. Add sugar and pepper.

Break bread into nickel-sized pieces and place in greased, 9-by-9-inch oven-safe dish. Pour butter or oil over bread and toss.

Spread squished tomatoes over bread.

Bake for 25 minutes or until puffy and slightly brown on top.

Designer’s best

Nancy Myers Interiors, which serves southern New Jersey, offers this tip for “tablescaping” your decor for summertime fun:

“Tablescaping is the art of embellishing the serving/meal table. This can be done by intentionally mixing and matching colorful chinaware from old and new to plastic and hard. A new look today is setting up long farm-like tables outside, covering them in white paper, which you can opt to throw away afterwards. Along with this look, add square glass vases, lining the inside with leaves and placing a candle inside. And, don’t forget those crazy and wonderful ways to use color in the summer – ocean blues, hot coral and lime green!”

Best of the tube


From bachelor pad to family home: Newlyweds Raun and Jasprit are searching for an urban feng shui-friendly family dream home that will fulfill their expensive tastes. Drew and Jonathan Scott have the solution. “Property Brothers” airs at 10 a.m. Wednesday.

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