Sean Maloney

Written by  Margaret Inwood Thursday, 16 July 2015 12:16
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Lanark County Master Gardeners

Fresh cut flowers, whether picked from our gardens or purchased from a store or Farmers Market, add beauty and bring the outdoors into our rooms. We often wonder if there is anything we can do to extend the life of these beauties. To keep your arrangement looking its best, for the longest time, follow a few simple steps.

Start with a vase that has been cleaned with hot soapy water to eliminate bacteria and fungi and then rinsed thoroughly. Be sure to prepare the flowers properly. Cut just-opening flowers early in the morning and place in water immediately. Improve the vase life of flowers that ooze a milky "sap" (poinsettias, poppies) by immersing the bottom 5 cm of their stems in boiling water for 10 seconds before using them in an arrangement. Gently remove lower leaves from the stem so there will be none in the vase water.

Before you put any flowers in the vase, recut the stems, removing 2-5 cm at an angle under water. You can do this in a basin full of water, or even by holding the stem and the blades of the shears (or kitchen scissors) under running tap water. Don't crush or burn flower stems as these practices are of little value.

Flowers in most arrangements collapse early because they are unable to obtain enough water to keep them looking crisp and fresh. Recut them under water to ensure that no air gets into the stems. If you live in a hard water area (you find white deposits in teakettles and on faucets), use demineralized water sold in supermarkets for filling steam irons, to make your vase solutions. Never use softened water in a vase solution as it contains sodium, which is bad for cut flowers.

Flowers are living things, and like us they need food for proper growth and healthy color. Amazingly, you can provide much of what a cut flower needs with one of the following simple vase solutions. They contain acid to improve water flow in flower stems, sugar to help buds open and last longer, and a preservative to reduce growth of bacteria and fungi. A recent issue of Fine Gardening Magazine documented an experiment they conducted to determine just that.

Other than using plain water in a vase, they tried six other methods. These are:

1 Tablespoon sugar and 2 Tablespoons of vinegar per quart of water

1 Tablespoon sugar per quart of water

1 Tablespoon sugar and ½ teaspoon of bleach per quart of water

1 part lemon-lime soda to 3 parts water

1 Tablespoon Listerine per quart of water

2 teaspoons “Floral Life Flower Food 300” per quart of water

The result of the experiment was intended to prove what additives would extend the life of the cut flowers and maintain their quality for a certain length of time.

“Floral Life Flower Food 300” proved to be the best and it can be purchased at a florist very cheaply. The best home remedy was the lemon-lime soda. The worst of all was the vinegar and sugar.

If you are using florist foam as an arranging aid, let it soak in the vase solution until it sinks. Do not push it down into the container as air bubbles will remain inside the foam and cause early flower death. Insert stems carefully.

The higher the temperature, the faster flowers deteriorate, so cut them early in the morning, when temperatures are cool, and avoid exposure to heat. Don't place arrangements in sunny locations, near heaters or fireplaces, or on top of television sets. Do put arrangements in a cool place overnight if you possibly can.

Summer is the time we all look forward to. Why not bring a little of it indoors?

Enjoy The Edible Garden Newsletter published monthly by Lanark County Master Gardeners and available on our website or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @lanarkmg.

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