Fresh flowers add color and emotion to any room or situation. But unless properly cared for fresh flowers can quickly fade and droop. I have watched my Aunt prepare gorgeous bouquets and arrangements at her shop in Northeast Georgia for years, and picked up a few insider’s tips and tricks.
Follow these tips to keep your flowers fresh and vibrant, whether purchased from a local florist, a mail-order company or cut from your own garden.
First, if you are cutting your own flowers, try to choose buds that have not completely bloomed out. This is especially true for roses and other flower blossoms with many layers of petals. Remember, if arrange properly, a flower will continue to bloom a bit after you put it in the vase. So choose roses that have just started to open, and you will be able to watch them unfold for up to two weeks, instead of just a couple of days.
Online companies like ProFlowers.com use this philosophy to make sure the flowers you order are still fresh. The buds lie dormant in the box for two days during the shipping, so by the time they arrive at your door they are just starting open. The initial bouquet is not as majestic looking, but you will definitely get your money’s worth out your flower purchase.
If you are cutting your own, make sure to have good, sharp garden shears to make a clean cut. The flower stem is like a delicate straw, with many veins to carry water to the bloom. A classic experiment from grammar school uses carnations and colored water to demonstrate the path of water to the bloom. As the carnation sits in the vase of blue (or red) water, its stem draws it up and circulates it throughout the delicate petals, keeping them vibrant and richly colored. The flower begins to droop when the stem is no longer able to draw water up to keep the petals filled out.
Making a clean, sharp cut will help keep the vein endings open to draw up the water. Using dull scissors or knives tears the veins and closes them up.
Also, be sure to leave enough stem to make the arrangement you want. It’s always better to cut a much longer stem than necessary so you can clean up the ends and make them the desired length based on your vase selection.
Now, place your flowers, stems-down, in a sink full of lukewarm water. Whether you purchased a wrapped bouquet or just cut them yourself, this step is the same. This is another reason it’s very important to leave extra stem.
Choose your vase and use one or two flowers to determine the correct length you need to cut the stems. For a professional looking arrangement, use two or three interesting, brightly colored flowers (like roses, sunflowers and irises) and a simple filler like baby’s breath or simple grasses. Too many dominant blooms will be distracting and take away from the natural beauty of the flowers. Also, cutting the stems at three of four different lengths will add depth and height to your bouquet, and let you see all your beautiful blooms without crowding.
When you decide how long the stems need to be, hold the flower gently, but firmly, with the stem underwater. Take a sharp knife and make a clean cut at a 45 degree angle. The water helps keep air from clogging the delicate veins and ensures your flowers can draw water easily once they are place in the vase.
Your vase should also be filled with lukewarm water, and, if possible, a little bit of fresh flower food. This will usually come with store-bought wrapped bouquets, professional arrangements, and on-line purchases. If you have a garden and like to keep fresh flowers yourself, consider purchasing a small bottle at your local plant store or department. If you don’t have any, put a splash of 7-up or Sprite in the water.
Arrange your flowers and place wherever you wish.
If you notice your flowers start to droop (usually after four or five days or the first week), change the water, re-cut the stems and add new fresh flower food or Sprite. This will usually buy you another week.
If you are having trouble getting the stems to stay exactly where you want them arranged, grab a very thin piece of wire (or unfold a paperclip). Even string will work.
Arrange the stems where you want them, and hold. Look to see where the troublesome stem crosses next to, or near, another stem. Grab the stems at that point and wrap a tiny bit of wire around them. Usually, doing this to one or two stems gives enough support to let your other flowers stand where you put them.
Another option is to place river rock or marbles in the bottom of the vase. This can have a lovely effect, as well as supporting you stems. However, this will make it more difficult for the flower stems to draw water, so they will not last as long. It’s a good option for dinner parties when you only need your bouquet to last 24-48 hours.
For another twist, spritz your bouquet with water just before visitors or a party to give them that dew-laden look of a garden at first light. For hardier flowers, like sunflowers, purchase a special spray made just for this. The resulting drops are a heavier liquid, but look like perfect raindrops that dry on your petals.