Archive for Thursday, April 14, 2005

Fresh blooms

Keep cut flowers as perky in the vase as they were in the ground

April 14, 2005


If you're like me, when your garden starts coming alive with flowers and blooms, you're poised with clippers in hand and a vase full of fresh water waiting indoors.

Bringing the colors and scents of the outdoors in is one of the sweetest rewards to nurturing a garden. I start clipping forsythia and magnolia trees in early spring and don't stop creating a steady stream of fresh bouquets until the last ornamental grass and Winter Berry is extinguished. I clip anything from trees to bushes, grasses to bulbs -- anything that's growing is up for grabs. In fact, I keep in mind how a plant will fare as a cutting in a vase when I'm shopping at nurseries each season.

Once you've chosen and clipped a bouquet to bring indoors, it's important to keep the arrangement fresh and long-lasting.

This can be a challenge.

When a plant is in the earth, it's being fed by water and mineral salts, which are absorbed by the roots. Photosynthesis transforms these raw ingredients into carbohydrates, which feed the plant and flowers. So when we remove the flower from the mother plant, we're cutting off its food supply as well.

The state of the water in the vase is crucial to a cut bouquet lasting as long as possible. Most florists will provide packets of food to mix into vase water. These packets contain chemicals that kill the bacteria, yeast and fungi that feed on sap that seeps from cut flower stems. They also contain acid that helps the water move up the stem, and sugar which acts as food.

I don't know about you, but I don't have a supply of florist's flower food in my cupboard (and I was a florist for more than five years). But there are some ways to maintain vase water at an optimal balance for cut flowers without using florist's food.

First, keep all leaves out of the water. Leaves release phenols, which, when absorbed, will poison the flower. Homemade solutions, such as one that combines one part lemon-lime soda (not diet) to three parts water. The soda contains sugars and acids and acts much like the packet of food from a florist.

It's a myth that it's beneficial to change vase water every few days. In fact, frequent water swaps are not recommended because cut flowers reach a balance with the concentration of substances in the water. Regular water changes force the flower to continually seek a new balance, which can be exhausting and cause early wilt. Instead, simply add water to the supply already in the vase. If you can add water with a little flower food, that is ideal.

¢ Start with a clean vase. Glass vases are best; metal vases can poison flowers.¢ Use a diagonal cut when selecting blooms. This cut does much less damage to the cells in the stem.¢ Use a sharp, clean blade for smooth severs.¢ Cut flowers and plants in the morning when they are filled with stored food and flowers are most fragrant.¢ Generally, use lukewarm water. Just as you would like to step into a bathtub that will not shock you, so too does a flower.¢ Buck the trend of lukewarm water for bulb flowers such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. These flowers prefer it cold.¢ Make the final cut under water so the flowers first "breath" is water and not air.¢ For woody stemmed plants such as lilac, forsythia and quince, take a hammer and squash the tip of the cut. This will aid in water absorption.¢ Do not de-thorn roses; it shortens their life because the flower is working hard to repair the scars of each removed thorn.¢ Keep your bouquet away from the fruit bowl. Fruit gives off a hormone called ethylene which flowers find poisonous.¢ Never spray your bouquet with water; this encourages fungi on the petals and leaves to develop.¢ Keep your floral creations away from excessive heat or cold, meaning out of direct sunlight and away from vents, fireplaces, televisions and radiators.¢ Cut roses, irises, daffodils and gladiolas in their bud stage. Marigolds, dianthus and delphiniums should be cut when they're fully open.¢ Deadhead so your flower isn't using its energy feeding a wasted bloom.¢ If you're leaving on vacation, place your bouquet in the refrigerator. This will slow down water absorption.¢ Keep daffodils in their own vase. They give off a compound that is toxic to other flowers.¢ Remove the anthers (pollen-covered area on the end of the stamens) on lilies. They stain the petals and essentially "signal" it's time for the flower to fade.¢ Re-cut stems every few days because the flower is continually trying to repair its wounds and seal them.Source: Jennifer Oldridge

Commenting has been disabled for this item.