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Ask Martha

Growing flowering shrubbery; reviving a Berber rug

Many varieties of flowering shrubs will flourish spring through fall in containers.

Librado Romero/New York Times

Many varieties of flowering shrubs will flourish spring through fall in containers.

Q. Can I grow a potted lacecap hydrangea or other flowering shrub on my patio?

A. The best potted shrubbery looks good spring through fall, blooming with attractive leaves early on, followed by flowers throughout summer, and perhaps even berries in autumn. If you decide on the lacecap, you will need to water it frequently and keep it in a shady spot; otherwise it will wilt in the summer heat. Sturdier hydrangeas with woody stems, such as peegee (Hydrangea paniculata “Grandiflora”) and oakleaf hydrangea (H. quercifolia) adapt better to life in a container, where water drains faster than it does in the ground.

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Other varieties of flowering shrubs will flourish in containers. The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has pale lilac flowers and scented leaves. Butterfly bush (Buddleja) flowers come in various colors, including purple, pink, and white, and as the name suggests, attract butterflies. Finally, black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has dark brown-red leaves, white flat flowers and edible berries at the end of summer. These all bring color and visual interest to your patio.

Whatever shrub you decide on, it will need more water and more organic fertilizer than if it were in the ground. Be sure to prune it as needed so it doesn’t become spindly and bare at the bottom.

Q. My large Berber rug looks matted down in some areas because of heavy foot traffic. How can I revive it?

A. Many Berber rugs are durable and ideal for busy areas, but their looped style is more susceptible to matting than a cut-pile rug. This is because dirt and soils that lodge in the looped fibers are very difficult to remove, says Mike Reed, president of Austonian Fine Rug and Carpet Care, in Austin, Texas. When people walk on the carpet, the entangled particles separate and abrade the threads, crushing them.

How you clean the rug will depend on what material it’s made of. Leave wool, which may bleed or shed profusely, and handwoven rugs to an expert. If you have a wool or nylon Berber carpet, a professional cleaning every two to three years should restore it. Often this involves a machine known as an extractor, which sends hot soapy water into the carpet and then sucks it back up, along with the embedded grit. Area rugs are normally handled outside the home, at a carpet-cleaning facility, where they can be treated on both sides and dried thoroughly before they are returned to you. Rugs made from polyester or olefin, a glossy synthetic, are less resilient and might need to be replaced if severely matted. Before getting rid of a synthetic carpet, though, you could try tackling it with a deep-cleaning machine, for rent at hardware and home-supply stores.

Aside from deep-cleaning your carpet, regular vacuuming is your best defense against matting. Do this a couple of times a week, if possible, to prevent grime from implanting in the carpet in the first place. For the best results, Reed recommends giving high-traffic areas eight or so passes with the vacuum, changing the direction as you work.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
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