Whenever you buy flowers they should always be in the best condition possible. There is nothing more beautiful and more easy to work with, than healthy looking fresh flowers – flowers that look as though they have just been picked. Thanks to an advance in storage methods and quick shipping from suppliers abroad, flowers are generally kept very fresh but in order to keep them like that they do need looking after.
There are certain thing you can look for to determine whether a flower is fresh or not – and whether it is likely to stay looking good for several days to come, although the golden rule should always be that if you are in anyway in doubt about a flower’s freshness, don’t buy it!
- A flower head should never be limp, discoloured, broken or damaged
- If the bottom of the stems are soft or yellow, this generally means they have been stored for longer than necessary
- Any leaves on the stem should be green and not discoloured and the calyx should also be green and firm to touch
- If buds are too green it is unlikely they will open. Always pick flowers with some colour showing in the bud. Likewise if they are too open, they won’t last for long
- Cheap flowers often have bendy stems. Look for strong sturdy stemmed flowers.
Once you’ve bought your flowers you need to keep them looking fresh and certainly if you want to produce long lasting designs then you have to ensure that you flowers are properly prepared for the job. Poorly conditioned flowers look miserable, limp and will be dead within a couple of days – the last thing you want if you are creating an arrangement for someone else.
Conditioning to Keep Your Flowers Fresh
- Make sure the vase or bucket (or wherever you are keeping your flowers) is clean, particularly if it has previously been used to hold flowers. Flowers left too long in water can give off bacteria and these can attach themselves to the inside of the container where they will slowly grow.
- If the flowers are from your own garden, cut them the night before and put them in a bucket of Luke warm water filled up to about two inches below the flower head, this will allow the water plenty of time to get to the flower heads.
- Store them overnight somewhere cool. Flowers bought from a florist will already have been conditioned so are OK to use immediately.
- When you cut your stems, cut at an angle with a sharp clean knife. If it is left flat then there is no room for uptake of water when they are placed in a container.
Generally though, how you condition a flower depends on the type of stem it has. They can be woody, hollow, soft, firm, bulbous and latex producing. Flower/plant food is available at all florist wholesalers or good high street florist and should be placed in the water for added conditioning before the flowers are used.
Woody stems such as roses, pittosporum, lilac, azalea, virburnum, rhododendron and eucalyptus should always be cut at an angle and split. Remove all lower foliage which would lie below the water line and place in warm water.
Semi-woody stems include chrysanthemums, carnations and lilies. Again cut the stems at an angle, remove all lower foliage and place in warm water.
Hollow stems such as delphiniums, gerbera, lupins and alliums are well known for forming air locks when the stem is cut. So cut them at an angle; remove lower leaves before turning the stems upside down and filling with cool water. Plug the stem with cotton wool then place in water.
Soft stems include freesia, anemones, and hellebore should be cut at an angle and all lower foliage removed. Immerse flowers in water up to their necks overnight.
Firm stems such as hydrangeas and some roses should be cut an angle, all lower leaves removed and immerse in warm water overnight.
Bulbous stems like daffodils, tulips, hyacinths etc are generally pulled from the plant and not cut so you should cut off the end of the stem which is white and firm and does not allow the uptake of water. Condition in cool tepid water unless you want the flower heads to open whereby you should immerse in warm water.
Latex producing stems from poppies or euphorbia are poisonous to other flowers sharing the same water and can also be an irritant to human skin. The stem ends should be cut (wear gloves), lower foliage removed and then the stem end should be quickly passed through a flame to seal it. Place immediately into tepid water.