Whether you want to make your wedding bouquet last longer after the big day, make the most of your cut flowers from the garden or even just enjoy a wrap or two you picked up with your groceries, here are my top tips on how to make your cut flowers last longer.
Vase / Container
A simple piece of advice, but very important all the same : make sure you place your flowers in a clean container. Using bleach is great as it will ensure that any bacteria from the previous time it held water is killed off. Bacteria can create slimy ends that then make the vase water smell bad. It also blocks stems and prevents them from taking up water.
Therefore it is vital to use a clean container, otherwise the above will considerably shorten the life of your cut flowers.
As well as having a clean vase, using unusual ones can truly bring out the best of your flowers. My favourite include a large, black, geometric one, and smaller geometric ones in gold, white and metallic tones. Don’t be afraid to go for something a little different, and experiment with different shapes and sizes.
Unwrapping Your Flowers
If you have picked up a wrap or two of flowers from a shop, you must first take off all of the wrapping and the string that holds them together.
If you have been gifted a hand tied bouquet, again take off all of the wrapping, including the cellophane and the aquapack. However, do not remove the string holding the arrangement together. There may be string holding the cellophane and paper together, which will need to come off. But the string holding the actual flowers together is holding the arrangement in place. This gives it the name: hand tied bouquet.
A hand tied bouquet is carefully created in a way to make the most of each flower, with different heights and texture. I remember creating a hand-tied bouquet for a friend, and watched her cut the string and just plop the flowers into a vase, making the arrangement all but disappear!
Tip : Some flowers will wilt faster than others. At that point, you may want to cut the string so as to pick the wilted ones out. You can then leave the remaining flowers as they are, add any cut flowers from the garden to them, or redistribute them throughout different containers.
Once you have picked your flowers, the next step is to condition them.
This mainly means stripping all of the unwanted leaves from each stem.
The rule of thumb is that there should not be anything but the stem in the water. If you leave some of the leaves below water level, these will go mouldy and create bacteria.
With thorns, if possible, it is best to leave them, as removing them will create an open wound and these invite bacteria to move into the stem. As a florist, I would remove these for hand-tied bouquets that are likely to be hand-held. But for the home, the thorns can be left on.
A good pair of florist / gardening scissors will also help you cut the stems easily and clean (we will soon have some available for sale on our online shop). Ideally, cut at an angle, to allow a larger surface from the stem to drink from.
If you have picked your flowers from the garden, it is advised to let them rest after condioning by placing them in a clean bucket of water, in a cool dark place, for a few hours at least.
If you have been gifter a hand-tied bouquet, this will have already been conditioned by the florist. You may just want to cut the stems to ensure they remain able to drink up as much water as they need.
Once your vase has been cleaned, and your flowers conditioned, fill your vase with clean, tepid water and add the plant food that has been provided with your wrap / bouquet. You can also make your own, a great number of recipes pop up when you search “make your own plant food”.
If some of the flowers have too strong a scent, you can also add a drop of bleach to the water, to help diminish the scent.
In terms of arranging, simply have fun with it. It is best to start with foliage first, to create the shape and size you want. Once you are happy with this, you can then add the flowers. Make sure to play around with different heights to create something visually pleasing.
For a whimsical, romantic look, floristry frogs are a great tool to make the most of your stems and create interesting angles. They come in numerous shapes and sizes. If you don’t have one to hand, you could also roll up a little chicken wire into a loose ball to create a smiliar tool. Oh Joy has written a great post on these, on this link.
From then on…
From then on, the key is to make sure the water remains clean. Ideally change the water every 2-3 days. If the water goes green in the meantime, change it as soon as possible and clean your container.
Recutting the stems can also help prolong the life of your flowers, as some species will blister over the cut faster than others.
If some of the flowers are a little floppy, you could try searing them. This essentially means plunging the end of the stems into some boiling water for 10 seconds to a minute. Only do this to the very ends of the stems, no more than 5cm. Make sure you don’t leave them in the water too long to avoid damage – soft stems will only need about 10 seconds, whereas strong, woody stems will need up to a minute. You will also need to protect the flower heads from the steam, you can do so by wrapping them in paper for example.
Where to keep them
Cut flowers don’t like direct sunlight or heat, so it is best to keep them away from radiators, as well as windows or doors. If the sun shines directly on them at some point of the day, pull the blinds down to protect the flowers.
So there you go, I hope it helps. Have you got any additional tips you’re tried and tested that help prolong the life of your flowers? Or perhaps you have found a good recipe for plant food? I’d love to hear from you so get in touch!