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How to make cut flowers last
When to pick
- Knowing when to pick your flowers is in many ways the most important thing. You want the flowers to be fully mature, but not yet fertilised. As soon as a plant is fertilised it concentrates on forming seeds, it no longer has any use for the flowers and begins to let them wither and die.
- Spend some time looking at your flowers - particularly look at the very centre of the flowers - if they are very open & fluffy with pollen, then a bee will have already visited & the flower will not last long once picked.
- If there are several flowers on a stem it is fine for up to 1/4 of them to have been pollinated - the plant will continue to support the remaining ones.
How to pick
Picking flowers is all about conserving as much of the water that is already in the plant as possible.
- Pick when it is cool - not when there is direct sunshine on the flowers.
- Use sharp scissors or secateurs.
- Put the stems immediately into a clean bucket of tepid water.
- If you are buying flowers rather than picking them, try to keep them as cool as possible until you get them home - don’t leave them on a sunny parcel shelf while you are driving home.
How to condition
- Remove all leaves that will be below the waterline in your vase. This means that there is less for the flower to keep going and also prevents a nasty smelly build up of rotting leaves.
- Boil a kettle and pour 2 inches of water into a mug. Carefully dip the stem ends into the hot water, count to ten and then put them into a deep vase or bucket of warm water to rest for at least an hour. Warm water goes up the stems more easily than cold.
Preparing your vase
- Vases should be really clean as dirt can lead to a build up of bacteria.
- They should also be big enough so your flowers aren’t crammed together. If they get too squashed they will become hot and sweaty and just a little bit tired.
- I like to use lots of different sizes and colours of bottles to display flowers - they seem to last longer with some air around them and it is easy to replace the ones that die soonest and keep the arrangement going for a longer time.
Maintenance of vases
- Do not put vases of flowers in full sun, the heat of the sun makes them sweat and they need to drink faster to compensate, this is why they go floppy.
- Don’t put them near fruit bowls either as ripening fruit gives off hormones which will encourage them to die faster.
- Keep an eye on water levels - particularly with spring flowers - as they are very thirsty and can go through a vase of water in a day.
- Remove any flowers that do die as they will speed up the death of the others.
- If flowers go floppy or their heads droop, it is because they are not able to drink well enough to get water all the way up the stem.
- Take them out of the vase and let them relax for an hour. If they have heavy heads like tulips, you can bind the stems straight in a cone of newspaper and string.
- Then recut the stems and condition them again with boiling water.
- You can also float multi-petalled flowers like hydrangeas & peonies as they will take up water through their petals – just fill a sink or bath with tepid water and lay the flowers on the surface of the water for an hour or so. Then condition as normal.