Everyone loves a beautiful bouquet on the dining table. Bouquets made from plants in our gardens are twice as nice. However, we often wish it would last longer. Make your wish a reality by picking and preparing the flowers properly. The life of cut flowers can be extended by up to 75% by following four steps.
Picking the right flowers will increase the longevity of an arrangement. The vase life of cut flowers varies considerably. Some cut flowers last only 1 or 2 days, whereas others may survive 2 to 4 weeks. Annuals that make good cut flowers are giant zinnia, sunflower, lisianthus, larkspur, and tall snapdragon. Good cut flower perennials include hosta, peony, purple coneflower, rudbeckia, shasta daisy, and Asiatic lily. Yarrow, globe amaranth, and celosia are good cut and dry flowers.
Preparing your flowers is crucial to their vase life. The best time to cut flowers is in the morning, when the plants are fully hydrated. Choose flowers that are just about to open or have just opened. When cutting flowers in the garden, carry a small pail of water and immediately place the cut ends of the stems directly into the water. This prevents the stems from drying out. Use a sharp knife or scissors to cut the flowers. A dull implement will crush the stems preventing them from taking up water.
Remove any foliage from the stem that might be under water. Submerged foliage can be a breeding ground for bacteria and other organisms. Let the flowers sit in the pail of water at room temperature for at least an hour to ensure that they are hydrated. Then refrigerate them for at least another hour. Refrigeration slows the flowers metabolism so they open slower and stay fresh looking longer. After this cooling process is complete the flowers can be arranged in a vase. If there s room, return the flowers to the refrigerator overnight while you are asleep and unable to enjoy their beauty.
Adding preservatives to the vase water will also help extend the life of your arrangement. A good preservative contains carbohydrates, acidifiers, and biocides. The carbohydrates provide food to the cut flowers. The acidifiers lower the pH, making it easier for the plants to take up water. Biocides prevent bacteria or fungi from growing in the water. Preservatives may be purchased at local florists or other retail outlets.
Choosing where to place your flowers is also important. Floral arrangements placed in drafts or sunlight lose water rapidly. As a result, the flowers open and die quickly. Also keep your flowers away from ripening fruit. Fruit gives off ethylene gas, which can prevent buds from opening and shorten the lives of flowers. Keeping flowers in a cool location is also a good idea because warm temperatures shorten the life of cut flowers.
These tips work for garden flowers as well as the flowers from the florist. Bringing flowers inside can add elegance and warmth to a room and now for twice as long.
This article originally appeared in the 7/18/2003 issue.