Follow my simple tips to make your jugs of flowers last for as long as possible.
- If possible, especially in the height of Summer, cut your flowers either early in the morning or in the early evening when the sun isn't at full strength and the rate of transpiration (water loss through the leaves) is at its lowest.
- Use proper flower snips or secateurs so that you don't damage the stems which will interfere with water uptake. Cutting stems at an angle will increase the available surface area for water uptake.
- For most flowers, pick before the flower is fully open when the petals are just emerging from the bud. Exceptions are Dahlias, Zinnias and Roses which may not develop fully from a tight bud.
- Carry a bucket 1/3rd full of water to your cutting patch and plunge your cut blooms in straight away to prevent water loss and wilting.
- Ensure your chosen container is clean before use as a build up of bacteria will shorten the life of your flowers. Hot, soapy water is fine and I use a bottle brush to get into any hard to reach places.
- Some flowers need Conditioning to maximise vase life. Most benefit from spending a few hours (or overnight) in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, bathing in water up to the first flower bud. Searing the stems of soft and sappy plants such as Euphorbias, Hellebores and Poppies in boiling water will help prevent the dreaded flopping - place the bottom inch of stem in a jar of boiling water for approx 20 seconds while protecting the flower from the steam.
- Remove any foliage from the stem which will sit below the water line as it will decay and promote the growth of bacteria. Commercial flower food or your own mix (a tsp of sugar and a few drops of bleach or vinegar) can be added to the water to discourage bacterial growth and provide nutrients.
- Change or top up the water in vases regularly and if necessary, re-cut the flower stems of any flowers that have wilted as this might be enough to perk them up again. If you don't want the fuss of having to rearrange your flowers all over again, carefully push the flowers to one side and hold the vase under a gently running tap until all the old water overflows and has been replaced with new water.
- Keep jugs of flowers out of direct sunlight and away from heat sources such as radiators as high temperatures dramatically shorten the life of cut flowers.
- Some flowers and foliage are naturally long-lasting once cut such as Larkspur whereas others like Sweet peas and Cornflowers have a shorter life-span. You can edit your arrangement throughout the week - remove stems of flowers that have gone over, or snip them off if it is hard to extract them, and replace with some newly cut flowers. If your foliage is long-lasting then you can always re-cut the stems and use it in a totally new arrangement.
The important thing is to have fun and if you feel like picking some flowers in the middle of the day and just plunging them into a milk bottle then don't worry - your flowers may last a day or 2 less but as you are growing your own displays for a lot less than it would cost you in a supermarket, you won't mind. It's a good excuse to pick some more!