Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.


How to make spring flowers last longer

conditioning tulip stemsHave you ever picked spring flowers, got them inside, arranged them in a vase only to have them flop, shrivel and die in a couple of days?

This guide is going to stop that happening ever again.

The main thing is to remember that spring flowers are different from other flowers.

Spring flowers shoot up fast, they go from hunched leaves shivering in cold weather to showy blooms waving in the sun in just a few weeks. This is one of the reasons that they are so precious.

This means that they have sappy, water filled stems with hardly any structure. Your main aim is to keep the flowers hydrated - to keep as much water in the stems as possible and to make it easy for them to drink.

conditioning tulip stems

Picking -

  • Pick your flowers when it is cool, either in the morning or at night is best - this is when the flowers have as much fluid in their stems as possible.
  • Pick directly into a bucket - every minute that the stems are out of water they are getting dehydrated.
  • If you are buying flowers rather than picking them try to keep them cool until you get home - don't leave them on a sunny parcel shelf.

conditioning tulip stems


  • Take off all the leaves that you don't absolutely need for your arrangement. Leaves invisibly 'sweat', so the fewer leaves there are, the less dehydrated the flowers will be.
  • Boil a kettle of water and pour about 5-10 cm of just boiled water into a mug or jug. The shorter the stems the less water you need - so bluebells need less than tulips.
  • Sear the ends of the flower stems for a couple of seconds and then put straight into a vase or pot of luke warm water. There are lots of conflicting arguments about why searing works - it might break down the cell walls helping the stem to take up water, it might shock the plant, it might sterilise the stem and stop bacteria. It doesn't actually matter why it works - it just does. I find that flowers whose stems have been seared last 4 days longer in the vase.
  • Leave the flowers in the vase for a couple of hours in a cool place and then arrange.

conditioning tulip stems

In the vase - how and where you display your flowers has a big effect on the vase life

  • Make sure your vase is very clean.
  • Do not put the vase in full sun - the aim is to keep them nicely hydrated so baking in full sun is going to make them overheat and flop. They won't be able to drink fast enough to make up for the fluid they are losing.
  • Do not put the vase near a fruit bowl. All fruit, but particularly bananas, give off ethylene which encourages ripening. This is why you can ripen an avocado by putting it in a paper bag with a banana. For flowers ripening means the flowers dying and moving onto seed production. You do not want this!
  • Keep an eye on water levels, spring flowers are incredibly thirsty and can drink a vase of water in a couple of days.
  • Remove individual flowers as they die and the rest of the arrangement will last longer.
  • Changing water every couple of days has a slight effect on how long flowers last. I don't do this because it is a hassle, but it is there as an option!
conditioning tulip stems


If you liked reading this you might like to read more about the tulips I grow.


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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
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Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

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I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
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