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Journal

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

Conditioning

  • 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.

 

Tags: gardening

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I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
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I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
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This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
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It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
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When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
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The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
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The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
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My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
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Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
Abundance.⁠⠀
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And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
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My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
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So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
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I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
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I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
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It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
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My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
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Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
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Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
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But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
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This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
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This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
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White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
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The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
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Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
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We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
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Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
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Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
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It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
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Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
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Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
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So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
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An attempt to keep momentum.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

Learn more about why here

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