Keep your cut flowers looking good for longer

Whether you’ve been presented with a bouquet, bought them or grown them yourself we all want to keep our cut flowers looking good for as long as possible. Here are some useful tips on how to get the best from your blooms: 

  • Cut flower stems at an angle to prevent the stem resting on the bottom of the vase and sealing itself over. Angular cuts also create a larger surface area for water uptake.
  • Strip any leaves from stems that would sit below water level in a vase as these will simply decay, becoming slimy and smelly – ugh!
  • Always use a thoroughly clean vase as bacteria can survive in dirty vases and reduce the life of your cut flowers.
  • Cut stems at an angle.Always use tepid water in your vases. Cold water has a higher oxygen content, which can cause air bubbles to form in the stems of your flowers, blocking their water uptake. Spring bulbs such as tulips and daffodils are the exception as they prefer to be placed in cold water.
  • Add a splash of bleach to the water to inhibit bacterial growth and make your flowers last longer… I know it sounds odd, but… You only need to add about ¼ teaspoon per litre of water.
  • Try adding a tablespoon of sugar as this will help to nourish the flowers.
  • Position your vase carefully. The vase life of your cut flowers will be reduced if you put them too close to heat, draughts or direct sunlight. 
  • Keep cut flowers away from fruit bowls as fruit produces ethylene that causes cut flowers to die prematurely.
  • Remove any dead heads or fading blooms to prevent bacteria damaging the healthy flowers.
  • Change the water every few days, refreshing any flower feed and preservatives at the same time.

 

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Blooming good ideas – floral top tips from the trade!

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time working with flowers. As some of you may know, in a ‘previous’ life I worked exclusively with pressed and dried flowers. I’ve also trained with Constance Spry (many years ago!) so I’ve picked up all sorts of tricks of the trade for fresh flowers, so I thought I’d share a few of them with you…

  • Florists use the juvenile foliage of eucalyptus which is more rounded and attractive than that found on mature plants. Grow your eucalyptus as a coppiced plant, pruning hard each year to encourage a constant supply of immature stems for cutting.
  • Although they may come into flower at the same time, never be tempted to mix tulips in a vase with daffodils. Narcissus species exude a substance that prevents your tulips (and other cut flowers) from taking up water.
  • It’s important to cut sweet peas regularly to encourage more blooms. Cut the flowers just as the lowest bloom is opening and put them in water immediately for a longer vase life. 
  • To avoid problematic pollen stains on clothes and furniture, try gently removing the stamens from lilies as they open. When cutting lily stems from the garden it’s important to leave a third of the stem intact in order to feed the bulb for the following year.
  • When growing gladiolus specifically for cutting, plant them in rows in the vegetable patch. This makes them much easier to harvest. 
  • When growing roses as cut flowers, be ruthless and remove any poorly placed flower buds that are unlikely to make good cut flowers to direct energy into the best blooms.
  • Avoid standing carnation arrangements in direct light as they will quickly fade.
  • Sunflowers are best cut with sharp secateurs early in the morning or late in the evening while temperatures are cool.
  • Gladiolus flowers will generally all reach maturity at about the same time, but if you want to prolong the cutting season then try to stagger planting at two-week intervals so that they mature at different times.
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Julia’s Wild Garlic Soup

When I wrote about wild garlic last year (or it may have been the year before!) it aroused a lot of interest. Well, it’s that time of year again and, depending where you are in the country wild garlic should already be out, or emerging any day… 

It is such a pretty flower (a member of the allium family of course!) and gives off such a gentle garlicy scent – it’s quite magical. It seems to be a very good year for it and pathways through woodland here are lined thickly with it. I have lots of wild garlic growing on the banks of the stream in our garden too. It’s not as strong as cultivated garlic but it’s edible and free and adds a lovely soft ‘oniony’ tone to salads. Unlike common cultivated garlic, it’s the leaves that are eaten rather than the bulbs. The taste is more delicate too, similar to the flavour of chives.

My foraging pal Julia Horton-Powdrill, who really knows her onions (and garlic – ha ha ha!), has a lovely recipe for wild garlic soup that you might like to try.

Serves four

Ingredients 

  • Knob of butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 large potato, peeled & chopped
  • 750mls chicken stock
  • 500g wild garlic leaves, washed
  • 100ml double cream
  • Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Melt the butter and add the onion and cook until soft but not browned.
  2. Add potatoes and seasoning and stir, and then add the chicken stock.
  3. Simmer until potatoes are almost cooked.
  4. Add the wild garlic and continue to cook for a few minutes more.
  5. Blitz the soup to blend, add the cream and reheat gently
  6. Serve with warmed sourdough bread.

Serve with warmed sourdough bread, plus a little swirl of cream or creme fresh on the top as the finishing touch!

WILD GARLIC (Allium ursinum)

Leaves can be used in sauces and soups

Flowers and leaves can be used in salads

And never fear, my loyal readers… it is also supposed to ward off vampires!

And finally – I would advise caution in the garden. Wild garlic spreads by the production of underground bulbs and can become a problem. It will also carry on growing quite happily in your compost heap, so beware!

Find out about Julia’s foraging courses here.

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The best blooms for saying ‘thank you’!

Dianthus – so pretty and such a gorgeous scent too.Goodness, don’t flowers make us feel good? As you know, I love having cut flowers in the house, and I love giving them as a gift too – just watch someone’s face light up when you hand them a bouquet!

So, I’ve been thinking about what would be my top flowers for creating bouquets and posies – some you can easily grow, others you’d probably go out and buy and then assemble your arrangement. I’ve also included a guide to how long they will last, if well-cared for. I’ve blogged about looking after your cut flowers previously too, so have a look back to make sure you make the most of them!

Sweet pea (Vase life: 3-7 days)

The ultimate ‘cut and come again’ cut flower! There are plenty of colours to choose from, but a good mix of shades makes the prettiest posies. Old fashioned Grandiflora types often have the best scent. If I could have a bunch of these in my house every day of the year – I would! 

Lily (Vase life: 8-10 days)

You only need a few lily stems to make a dramatic and exotic-looking cut flower display. There are lots of different lily species that you can grow as a cut flower, but oriental Lilies are the most popular for their fragrance and glamorous trumpet shaped blooms. 

Sunflower (Vase life: 7-10 days)

Sunflowers make the cheeriest cut flowers and always raise a smile. They’re very easy to grow and won’t Sunflowers – surely the cheeriest flowers?require any special attention – simply sow them directly into the ground where you want them to flower. For cutting it’s best to choose multi-headed varieties to give you lots of blooms.

Tulip (Vase life: Up to 7 days)

Tulips are among the earliest flowers for cutting in the garden. They come in such a range of colours that you’ll be spoiled for choice. Tulips are thirsty cut flowers so you’ll need to keep their water topped up on a daily basis.

Gladiolus (Vase life: 7-10 days)

The flamboyant, tall stems of Gladioli are superb for adding height and drama to flower arrangements. Cut gladiolus flowers just as the lowest two or three florets begin to open, but try to leave as many leaves as possible to feed the bulb for next year.

Dianthus (Vase life: 14-21 days)

Dianthus (including Carnations, Pinks and Sweet Williams) are some of the best known of all cut flowers. And don’t forget the lovely fragrance you get with Pinks, making superb posies.

Eucalyptus (Vase life: More than 21 days)

The silvery-blue foliage of eucalyptus gunnii makes fantastic filler for vases, bouquets and larger flower arrangements. Its attractive rounded leaves provide shape and texture that blends well with both formal and more relaxed displays. Eucalyptus has an amazing vase life, easily lasting more than 3 weeks.

Gypsophila (Vase life: Up to 7 days)

Gypsophila makes particularly useful filler for softening bouquets and adding a frothy haze of tiny flowers to your cut flower arrangements.

 

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How to keep your house full of flowers!

Stocks – pretty, long lasting and with a glorious scent!Home made or home grown is so much nicer in so many ways, and growing your own flowers is a really rewarding thing to do. I always feel shop-bought flowers are a bit of an indulgence and tend to think of them just for special occasions, but I love having flowers in the house… so what to do? Grow your own flowers specifically for cutting!

A dedicated spot
You could dot your cut-flower plants throughout your garden so they form part of an overall planting scheme but, if you have the space, it’s best to having a dedicated patch, however small. It is much easier to organise than to slot your cut-flower plants in among existing shrubs and perennials, and many annuals need some support, which is easier in a special patch.

Pretty much all cut flowers need a good amount of sunshine, so there’s no point in planning your patch in a shady spot. Shelter is also important as strong, gusty winds can do a lot of damage and they also dry everything out.

CosmosSmall is beautiful too!
Don’t be put off if you have limited space. You can still grown wonderful flowers for cutting in a few pots. Sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) climbing on a wigwam are a perfect example – beautiful blooms with stunning scent! Cut them regularly and they’ll keep going for ages.

Let’s get shopping…
Here’s a suggested shopping list that would be ideal for a flowerbed about 8ft (2.5m) x 4ft (1.25m). These flowers are easy to germinate from seedand you can buy some as plug plants from garden centres or by mail order. This mix of plants will give you, from late spring to mid-autumn, enough flowers to make posies and fill small vases. Doesn’t that sound wonderful? 

I have suggested the number of plants you would ideally have, but you don’t need to stick rigidly to this, it’s only a guide. Any new planting will look a bit ‘regimented’ to start with, but as the plants develop they will fill out, creating a patchwork of glorious colour.

  • Sweetpeas – a heavenly scent and easy to grow in tubs for anyone with limited space.Dahlia ‘Karma Choc’ x 1
  • Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Candy Stripe’ x 2
  • Ammi visnaga x 2
  • Biennial stocks (Matthiola) x 6 – replace with dahlias in early summer.
  • Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) x 12
  • Daucus carota ‘Black Knight’ x 2
  • Dianthus barbatus x 4
  • Scabiosa atropurpurea ‘Black Cat’ x 2
  • Narcissus ‘Tête-à-tête’ x 30 – plant these around the edge of the bed

 

 

 

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