How to make your flowers last longer
The trick to buying fresh flowers:
• Flowers standing under bright lights or exposed to the sun and wind have already had their lives shortened significantly by the time you buy them. Ideally, they should be displayed in a cool, shady spot.
• Beware of flowers that are sold in wrapped bunches; that may be a way of concealing steams that are already browning.
• Double blooms such as dahlias or chrysanthemums should still have dense, unopened petals at their centres. Fully opened flowers or those with browning petal edges are past their prime.
• The cup of a carnation (the area just under the petals) should feel firm when you press it lightly between your thumb and forefinger. If it feels hollow, the flower is old.
• When you gently shake a bunch of daffodils, they should rustle – if not, the flowers are past their prime.
• Smell the stems: even a faint scent of rotting cabbage indicates old flowers.
• The stamens should be covered in pollen, not dry.
• Browned stems indicate that the flowers have already been standing in water for far too long.
• Ideally, buy your flowers from a florist, flower seller or supermarket that you know guarantees freshness.
How to make your flowers last...
• The secret is to get cut flowers into fresh water immediately.
• Replace the water in your glass vases daily.
REMEMBER: In a glass container, the stems form part of the display.
• Strip all leaves from that part of the stem that will be underwater.
• Soft stems should be cut at an angle to increase the water absorption area.
• Foliage can also be immersed, provided it’s not silver or grey.
• Stand tulips, gerberas, pelargoniums, sunflowers and poppies in shallow boiling water for two to three minutes – or expose the bottom of their stems to an open flame for a few seconds – they’ll then last longer in a vase.
• Don’t keep fruits such as tomatoes, apples and bananas in the same room as carnations. The ethylene gas the fruits release will make the carnation petals curl within 24 hours.
• Only cut hydrangeas when the small flowers that make up the heads are fully open. Bruise the stems and briefly stand them in boiling water, then again in deep water for a few hours before placing them in a vase. Hydrangeas are thirsty flowers, so top up the water at least once a day.
• Mature ferns (brown spores are visible on the undersides of the leaves) will last for ages in an arrangement. If you’re using younger fronds, mix a tablespoon of sugar in half a bucket of water and immerse the ferns in the water for at least an hour – then allow the fronds to dry before using them; this also works well for arum lilies.
• Don’t use daffodils with other flowers, as they release harmful chemicals that are particularly damaging to tulips. Prevent this chemical warfare by cutting 2cm off the daffodil stems and standing them in fresh water for 24 hours.
By then the stems will have sealed, so you can rinse them and use them in mixed arrangements – but don’t cut the stems again because the sap will begin to flow again.
• Don’t stand your flowers in direct sunlight.
• And half a teaspoon of bleach to all cut flowers to destroy bacteria.
• Add a teaspoon of sugar to every litre of water to feed the flowers.
The trick to arranging flowers:
• Flowers can be arranged in any container lined with plastic (to contain excess water) and a block of oasis. Cover the plastic and oasis with an attractive arrangement of moss, dodder (Cuscuta campestris) or maidenhair (Muehlenbeckia).
• The container should match its environment: for example, use a ceramic bowl or an enamel jug in the kitchen or a basket on the patio.
Working with roses:
• Cut them at an angle.
• Strip off the thorns and the lower leaves.
• Don’t crush or bruise the stems, as this prevents water absorption.
• If you want roses to open fast, place them near apples and bananas.
• If the blooms droop, cut the stems again and wrap them in newspaper with the roses facing upwards and stand them in a deep cylindrical holder filled with warm water for at least two hours – the flowers should recover.