Love having fresh cut flowers in your home? When they’re out of season and not available to pick in your garden, flowers can be an expensive purchase, so we take a look at how to look after them for maximum lifespan and impact.
Displaying cut flowers
During summer, wild flowers look gorgeous stuffed into makeshift containers such as jam jars and milk bottles, but more formal bouquets call for a more formal treatment. Although there are plenty of guidelines available for arranging flowers, in the end the result will be determined by the vases you have available and what type of arrangement you like.
Hints and tips for cut flowers
If you can, make your bought flowers go further by mixing them with greenery from the garden. Branches of evergreens or autumn foliage not only gives a structure for you to place flowers against but will also give a dark background to help those colours stand out. Arrange the greenery with the stems at a slight angle, creating a crisscross effect higher up which you can use to position the flowers.
If you’re planning to make a ’round’ arrangement which looks the same from all angles, position it on a small table or chair where you can move round it, and arrange each type of flower separately. For example, if your bouquet contains roses, tulips and ivy then put in the ivy first, then all the roses then all the tulips. That way, you can be sure of getting a good spread with the flowers and creating an arrangement that’s not lopsided.
Preparing cut flowers
When you get your flowers home, remove all the packaging and lay the stems out. Start by stripping all the bottom leaves away (leaves that sit below the waterline in the finished arrangement will only rot and discolour the water), and cut each stem at an angle – secateurs make a neater cut than scissors. For woody stems or branches, make a vertical slit in the stem to allow it ‘drink’ more easily.
If you haven’t been given any flower food with your purchase, then add a tiny drop of bleach (to kill bacteria), and either an aspirin or a teaspoon of sugar to clean water to help extend the life of your blooms.
Most flowers prefer a constant temperature of around 20 degrees Celsius, so position your vase away from radiators or draughts. Depending on the time of year, they may also be better away from windows where the temperature fluctuates too much.
You should change the water every two or three days, even if it looks clean, and replace the bleach, sugar or aspirin each time. It’s also a good idea to use a clean vase or wash the original one before refilling it. Every few days, take the flowers out of the vase and re-cut the stems, which can start to ‘heal’ so that the flowers can’t drink as much. If you’ve spent a long time creating your arrangement, tie a piece of string around it loosely first just above the lip of the vase before lifting it out, so that the flowers remain in the same relative positions. Remove another 2cm or so with the secateurs before returning the flowers to fresh water.