Making cut flowers last

narcissi in mason jar With gardens producing more and more delicious looking blooms, the temptation is to cut some of these beauties to enjoy indoors.  Unfortunately, too many suffer fear of flower arranging and miss opportunities to enjoy flowers during moments when they cannot get outdoors.  Bringing flowers in is one of the best parts of gardening.  It gives the gardener, and everyone else who passes by the mason jar of daffodils or the bouquet of peonies, the chance to wonder at the mystery – and often the scent – of each unique flower. 

I really have to restrain myself, though, when I’m out and about and see a beautiful bouquet of cut flowers sitting in a vase of stinky, bacteria-laden water.  Too often, those let such slimy goo grow will complain that cut flowers just don’t last.  Well, duh!  Wouldn’t you tend to fade if you had to stand in a smelly swamp?

narcissi bouquet Once picked, keeping blooms fresh takes just a little time and attention … think clean vase and fresh water.  Cutting a flower stalk or a branch removes it from it’s water/food source.  Though cut, stems continue to draw up when immediately placed in liquid – you want them drawing up water so immediately place the cut stems in some.  A small plastic bucket or similar water-holding container ( a plastic jug with the top third cut off works well) should accompany you to the garden every time you plan to cut fresh blooms and greens.  If cutting daffodils/narcissi though, take along a container specifically for these.  You don’t want to mix these early spring bloomers with any other cut flower since there is a compound in daffodil/narcissi sap that poisons anything else in the vase.  That’s why just-opening or yet-to-open woody branches work well in narcissi bouquets. – no competing blossoms to die.

cut flower supplies It’s best to cut flowers, etc. early in the morning, particularly during warm/hot weather.  You want to catch them when they are naturally fresh.  Cut stems with a sharp knife, cut them longer than you think you’ll need, and cut at an angle.  Once you have enough blossoms for the container you have in mind, look around for some fillers – woody branches (leafed-out or not), ivy stems, or anything with interesting shaped leaves (ornamental grasses, laurel, hosta, or ferns).  If there’s time, let the fresh cuts draw up some water before arranging them – really important if you had to cut your blossoms during mid-day or later or when it’s really hot.

The fun part comes in arranging.  Sometimes it’s easier to choose the container you’ll use after you see the amount of blossoms and greens you’ve cut.  Avoid using a too large container or one with a wide opening if you only have a small amount of produce to work with.  You want fresh water in the container.  If, like me, you’ve saved a ton of flower preservative packets from store bought flower purchases, it doesn’t hurt to add the powder to the correct amount of water in the vase.  Just let it all dissolve and blend before adding the flowers.  Re-cut each stem/branch, again at an angle, before placing it in the vase.  Fresh cuts take up more water.  And, DO NOT leave any leaves on stems that will fall below the water line in the vase.  Anything left under water will only speed up the decay process and shorten the life of your bouquet.

narcissi grouping When working with just a few stems of flowers use narrow necked vases.   You can also place one blossom per vase, then arrange multiple vases on a table top or tray for a fuller effect.  If creating one larger arrangement, place branches and upright or sturdy fillers in the vase/container first, they help hold top heavy blossoms in place as you add them one at a time.  If you are using top-heavy flowers like lilacs or peonies, hosta leaves make a great filler – you can add the hosta around the lower edge of the vase first, then add the lilacs.  Fill any holes in the lilac blossoms with a few upright hosta leaves.  Simple but beautiful.

If your garden is full of greens, but few flowers, create a green bouquet.  Fresh cut fern fronds in a striking or simple vase can turn a dull corner into a stunning eye-catcher.  A narrow necked but tall vase is a perfect place to slip a few long, arching leaves from ornamental grasses.  Mix variegated with solid colored grasses for added interest.

Most bouquets last longer when given fresh water every couple of days.  I don’t worry about adding more preservative mix after the first couple of days, just steady the arrangement in one hand, dump the water from the vase, rinse it, add fresh water, and replace the arrangement.

Don’t let the fear of flower arranging keep you from enjoying your blossoms even on those days when you can’t get outside.  Experiment … it’s the best way to learn.

For a few more ideas check out Focus on Flowers: Mid-summer bouquets and Peonies and Violet Bouquet.

7 comments for “Making cut flowers last

  1. April 6, 2010 at 7:01 pm

    As usual, I am in awe of your simply beautful arrangements. Thanks for all the good tips, I’m going to start carrying a water container with me when I cut my daffs.

  2. joenesgarden
    April 6, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    Thanks, Debbie. Simple is all you need when you have such beautiful blooms to work with.

  3. April 7, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Guilty as charged. I am a closet case of “vase water negligence.” I might top the water off if it goes down, but rarely do I change it, even though I know better. I chalk it up to laziness.

    Christine in Alaska

  4. April 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm

    Thanks for an informative post with great tips. I didn’t know that daffodils will poison the other blooms in a vase! Your arrangements are an inspiration.

  5. joenesgarden
    April 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Tsk, tsk Christine.

  6. joenesgarden
    April 8, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Thanks, Deborah. Daffs are poisonous when eaten, too. I’ll bet the deer that nibbled a few of my Tete-a-tete blossoms had a tummy ache.

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