Cut flowers Gardening Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

For Cut Flowers that Last and Last

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Harvest cut flowers early in the day.

Your home flower garden can be an almost inexhaustible source of cut flowers for the home. In fact, it was once common to plant a cutting garden near your home: a bed specifically dedicated to cut flowers. But even a small flowerbed can provide lots of bloom for indoor decoration.

How to Harvest

For a bouquet of cut flowers that lasts as long as possible, start by harvesting the flowers early in the morning, when the stems are fully turgid (rich in moisture). If the flowerbed is particularly dry, it may be worthwhile watering the day before.

Bring a pail of warm water to the garden with you. Each time you cut a stem, place it immediately into the water. This will allow for better hydration. Why warm water? Because flower stems absorb warm water better than cold.

Back Indoors

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Packets of cut flower preservative.

As you begin preparing your arrangement in the vase of your choice, add a packet of cut flower preservative (available at the florists or a dollar store) to the water. This product is designed to feed cut flowers and lower the pH of water of their water (tap water is hard, but plants prefer their water acidic) while slowing the growth of harmful bacteria.

20160627BIf you don’t have a cut flower preservative on hand, you can make a close substitute. Mix one part of 7-Up or Sprite to three parts water and add a drop of bleach. Or mix 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of bleach and 2 teaspoons of lemon or lime juice to 1 quart (1 liter) of warm water.

Before placing the stem in the vase, remove any leaves that will end up under water where they are likely to rot. Also, using secateurs (never scissors, as they tend to crush stems), recut the stem at an angle of about 45 degrees. If possible, recut them underneath the solution in the vase (you can pick up the bits of cut stem later). That way liquid will penetrate the wound rather than air bubbles. That won’t be possible, of course, if the vase has narrow neck. In such a case, simply cut the stem in the air and dip it immediately into the solution.

Finally, despite a popular belief, you do not have to remove the thorns from cut roses: doing so will reduce the duration of their bloom and allow harmful bacteria to penetrate the stem.

Maintenance

20160627DCut flowers will last longer in a cool, bright room. If that’s not possible, you can at least place the bouquet in a cool room at night.

About every three days, thoroughly clean the vase and change the water solution. And recut the stems, removing about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from their tip. That will help to eliminate bacteria that have probably already begun to form.

As flowers fade (and some only last for a few days while others may last two weeks or more!), simply remove them from the arrangement. And when there is pretty much nothing left, well… it’s time to get rid of the stragglers and go harvest a new bouquet!


There you go! A few carefully planned actions will give you the best possible results from your cut flower arrangement.

 

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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