An arrangement of fresh flowers will brighten a room, bringing the beauty of nature indoors. Picking fresh flowers that you have grown yourself is one of the delights of gardening, but whether you are picking your own flowers or buying cut flowers, you will want to do all you can to get the most from your arrangement.
When picking flowers from your garden, do so early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Cool them quickly by placing them in a bucket of water left in a cool place for an hour or so. This is especially important in hot summer weather.
Buying Cut Flowers
If you are buying cut flowers, look for bright, fresh- looking flowers that are just starting to open. Avoid flowers that have been standing in the sun or have been exposed to car exhaust fumes. Flowers with yellowing leaves on the stem or those with slimy stems have been in water for quite some time and are unlikely to be very satisfactory. When you get your flowers home, put them straight into a bucket of water without unwrapping them and leave them in a cool place to revive.
Make sure your vases are perfectly clean. The stains in vases are usually bacteria that will get to work blocking the water uptake to the flower stems. Stains that are difficult to remove with normal cleaning may be removed by filling the vase with water and adding a few drops of household bleach. Allow the vase to soak for a couple of hours; then rinse well.
Clean Water and Preservatives
Clean water is essential for cut flowers. You can change the water in the vase daily or use a floral preservative. Check the vase often to see if it needs filling. Some flowers with woody stems drink a lot of water, especially in the first two or three days after cutting.
Preparing the Flowers
Cut off a couple of inches of stem with sharp shears and be sure to remove any leaves that would be below the water level in the vase. Any left on the stem will rot quickly and pollute the water.
Daffodils, jonquils and tulips should not be placed with other flowers immediately after cutting because their secretions can block the stems of other flowers, causing their vase-mates to collapse. Place them in a separate vase for an hour or two. Then seal the tips of the stems by dipping them in very hot water before adding them to a mixed arrangement.
If flowers develop a bent neck, they probably have an air lock in the stem and are unable to absorb water properly. Recut the stems under water and place them in cool water for a couple of hours.
Most flowers absorb water best if cuts are made between nodes or joints. This is certainly true of carnations and hydrangeas. Never crush the stems, as the damaged tissue will not absorb water well, and the water will become polluted. Sharp, clean cuts are best.
A number of flowers respond well to having the stems scalded for a few seconds. Place the ends of the stem in boiling water for about 20 seconds, but be careful to keep the heads out of the steam.
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