If you enjoy having fresh cut flowers in your home, especially during the holiday season, take a look at some of the many new, long-lasting varieties now available. They add so much colour and fragrance to the festive season, and with proper care, their lifespan can be almost doubled.
Cleanliness is the single most important factor in making fresh flowers last. Dirty vases are no place for fresh flowers. Not only should they be clean, but a few drops of bleach should also be added to the water to kill any bacteria that can reduce the capillary action of water flowing up the stems. The water should be warm, and the addition of floral preservatives will greatly extend the lifespan of your cut flowers.
It is always a good idea to re-cut the stems on all fresh flowers the moment you receive them, but it is very important for you to make that cut while the end of the stem is held underwater. Special machines are now available to florists for doing just that. Another re-cut should be done in about a week to keep that water flowing. Research has also proven that exposure to constant, rather than fluctuating temperatures, increases the lifespan of flowers. In other words, keep them at a reasonably cool room temperature rather than in a hot sunroom by day and in the cold at night.
I would never discourage anyone from picking up fresh cinnamon-scented carnations or long lasting chrysanthemums at this time of year, however, I would suggest trying a few different flowers that have great keeping qualities as well. Locally grown anthuriums are exotic looking. They are also very reasonably priced, as are cymbidium orchid stems, another long lasting flower. Colourful alstromerias fit in nicely with any bouquet and will go the distance even with mums. If you are really tropical minded, South African proteas last and last.
Spring flowers are now here and ready to bring a breath of fresh colour to brighten our winter spirits. Tulips, pussy willows and iris push aside those winter blues.
I am very fond of statice, and if you did not save any from your garden this past spring, fresh imported bunches are available even now.The Scotch heather that adorns the hillsides of northern California is now available, and it also lasts well. Pink or white wax flower is certainly one of my favourites to add a finishing touch to any bouquet. Some of the most fragrant flowers are Oriental lilies, Polianthes tuberosa or even a small bouquet of freesia. Just one blossom is sometimes enough to fill your whole room with a delightful perfume.
To accompany these flowers, I suggest you use some traditional winter greens. Noble and silver fir boughs are very dark green, fragrant and classy looking. They are also flat and easy to work with. The soft, wispy branches of white pine are certainly another favourite at this time of year, both for perfume and longevity. Some branches of golden or blue cedars and cypress growing in our yards can also provide a great enhancement for any bouquet. A little trick florists use to spice up the greens even further is a light dusting of gold or silver glitter spray. This alcohol based product can even be used on fresh flowers as an added festive touch.
Traditional holly is always nice at this time of year, but I suggest you try a twig or two of the deciduous holly, Ilex verticulata. he berries last well indoors, and ‘wow’, do they ever give your holiday bouquets that special festive look!
We’re right in the middle of the cool, dark days of winter and fresh flowers brighten everyone’s spirits. According to research, fresh flowers are the gift that makes people the happiest. They do not have to cost a great deal, and garden centres, florists and larger stores all have super selections at this time of year. Although prices will vary, always buy quality and look for both fragrance and varieties that last.
Brian Minter is a master gardener who operates Minter Gardens in Chilliwack.