From Mélie’s Garden
Now that summer is officially here and flowerbeds are weeded and mulched (my athletic friends complain about shoulder and back pain from tennis and golf, but I am sure you can get the same “Sports Injuries” weeding and hauling mulch) you are finally enjoying the flowers in your garden. I started thinking about picking them and making arrangements for the house. For many years, I have been a member of the Garden Club of America and I remembered that I had two booklets about flower conditioning that are written by two premier GCA flower arrangers, Joanne Lenden and Betty Dawson Burnett. I read both of booklets again and I pass along their conditioning cut flower tips.
“As you go into the garden, take a bucket with warm water and a sharp pair of sterilized clippers.” (Clippers can be sterilized by wiping the blades with Isopropyl alcohol).
“Cut flower stems on a slant to expose a greater surface to water. Remove all foliage which would be below the water line.”
“Most flowers last longer when cut early in the morning or late afternoon. Do not cut flowers in the heat of the day.”
“If possible, let flowers condition overnight before arranging them in a cool, damp and dark area.”
“Add a preservative to the water in order to feed the fresh cut material. You can buy a ready mix powder or if these are not available, make a mixture of ¼ cup of liquid Clorox and six quarts of warm water. Use hot water for woody stemmed material and lukewarm for tender-stemmed materials, varying the degree of water with the degree of the stem.”
“Lemonade or sprite will revive flowers if they become limp after a day or two. This is due to the sugar, carbon dioxide and other additives which react on the cells and movement of moisture through the plant tissue.”
“Metal containers, such as silver and copper, seem to help preserve cut flowers. It is thought that these substances inhibit bacteria. An old penny in a vase will also inhibit bacteria.” Also, remember to thoroughly clean your containers after use, a bit of Clorox in water will kill any left over bacteria.
All these tips are excellent advice to condition all flowers, but I have selected a number of varieties that grow on Fishers Island for conditioning tips as they specifically apply to them.
Dahlia and Delphinium – make a new cut and place in very hot water for a minute and then in cool water.
Geranium – Place in warm water. When the water is room temperature, place in refrigerator over night.
Grasses – Dip stems in vinegar and then into cold water.
Hollyhock – Plunge stem into boiling salted water for a few seconds.
Hydrangea – Pick well-developed firm heads. Remove most leaves. Scrape stems and place in boiling water one minute. Soak overnight up to their heads in cold water.
Impatiens, Lantana and Lobelia like warm water.
Lily – Cut stem on a slant and use warm water with 2Tbs of vinegar. Remove the pollen – it stains!
Nasturtium – Immerse to heads in cool water for one hour.
Peony – Place stem in boiling water for thirty seconds. Then put in warm water.
Petunia – Place in warm water with 2Tbls of sugar. Leave until the water cools.
Phlox – Pick before fully open. Take off the leaves and soak in warm water.
Queen Anne’s Lace – Strip foliage and place in warm water.
Rose – Cut stem under hot tap water. Put the rose in a bucket of warm water and remove thorns and foliage from the stem that will be underwater.
Snapdragon – Cut stems underwater, remove leaves and place in warm water.
Sunflower – Cut when immature and place in hot water.
Sweet Pea – Place in cool water with 2 Tbs of sugar.
Wildflowers (Black-eyed Susan, Daisy, Goldenrod, Joe Pye Weed and Milkweed) remove the leaves and place in hot water until it cools, then immerse to heads in cool water.Conditioning flowers properly
Conditioning flowers properly over night should allow the arrangement to last for a number of days. If you need to use oasis, it can clog a stem and inhibit intake of water, so take a skewer or a chopstick to make a hole through it first where you want to place the porous stems. And finally, keep your plants deadheaded throughout the summer and your garden will continue to grow and provide flowers to pick and arrange into the fall.