As Valentine’s Day looms, many lucky readers can expect to receive a gift of flowers – a token of adoration and romance from time immemorial.
Whether you receive flowers as a special gift, or pick them from your own garden, making your cut flowers last longer will add to your enjoyment of them.
1. Pick flowers at the right time
Most flowers should be picked when they are in bud or half open. The exceptions are carnations, dahlias, marigolds, hydrangeas, camellias, gerberas and chrysanthemums which should be picked only when they are fully opened.
If you are picking your own flowers, it is best to do it in the morning or the late evening. You should never pick flowers in the middle of the day when the sun is at its hottest.
2. Prepare the flowers
Use a sharp pair of secateurs and cut the flower stems at an angle for better absorption. Flowers with woody stems, such as lilac, hydrangea, and rhododendrons, do not absorb water readily. To help break down the thick fibres, split the ends of woody stems upwards for about five centimetres. Remove all foliage below the water line.
3. Place flowers in a bucket of warm water as soon as possible
Cutting a flower’s stem removes its support system, so get your flowers into a bucket of warm water as soon as possible. When picking short-stemmed flowers, use a smaller container.
4. Avoid overcrowding flowers
Allow enough air to circulate between each flower. Too many flowers crowded together in a bucket may cause the petals to become squashed and bruised. Place the bucket in a cool dark place and allow the flowers to have a long drink – four to five hours or even overnight – before being arranged.
5. Use a flower preservative to destroy bacteria in the water
Flower preservatives are available from garden centres or supermarkets. If a preservative is not used, the water needs to be changed and the stems recut daily. If a preservative is used, the stems do not require recutting and the water needs changing only about twice a week.
Alternatives to preservatives include bleach, a pinch of salt with baking powder, sugar, or a crushed multivitamin, rescue remedy or aspirin tablet.
Do not place your flowers near a heater or fan, in a draught, or in direct sunlight. Flowers also do not like radiation, so do not place them on the TV or close to a microwave oven.
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