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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Blue hydrangeas to make you feel better!

One of my favourite summer (and edging into autumn) flowers are blue hydrangeas. Gorgeous colours, fun to dry for winter displays and all round fabulous plants!

This card uses some toppers from our latest Barbara Mock CD which we are launching on Create and Craft on the 21st May – 8 in the morning for the first programme if you fancy an early start! Barbara is a very talented artist and the CD has so many pretty country scenes and images.

The lace backing paper is also from the CD and as you can spot in the bottom right hand corner has a matching blue hydrangea. I have a real fondness for lacy backing papers so in various designs they appear on many of our CDs because I feel they go with so many subjects and I am all for multi purpose papers!

This is quite a large card measuring about 9” x 7” but you could easily use the same combination of backing paper and just one of the toppers to make something smaller if that suits your project better.

I know if I were sent this as a get well soon card, it would make me smile and perk me up!

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The amazing avocado!

Well, where do you start with something as amazing as the avocado? They look exotic, have a totally unique taste and texture and are incredibly good for you too! Yes, I know they are high in calories but, if you are sensible and don’t gorge on them, they are packed full of good things that far outweigh their ‘bad’ reputation.

Glance at the fruit bowl on my kitchen table any day of the year and you’ll see avocados in among the apples and bananas as I absolutely adore them. I use them in vegetable smoothies, slice them in a salad and, if you follow some of my beauty blogs, will know I sometimes even slap them on my face as they make a terrific moisturising mask!

It’s one of those foodstuffs – rather like the butternut squash – that I can’t imagine how we ever managed without it. Avocados first arrived in the UK in the 1960s and I can well remember them being regarded as highly exotic, rather decadent and ever so slightly odd! How could it be a pear and yet not be sweet?

Avocados have a much higher fat content than most other fruit, and it’s mostly monounsaturated fat… which means it’s fatty but in a really good way! This makes them  really popular with vegetarians who can sometimes struggle to get enough good fats in their diet.

Generally, avocado is served raw but you can cook with it. I used to serve a dinner party dish where the flesh had been scooped out and mixed with prawns and cheese and then put back in the avocado shell and grilled but, to be quite honest, it’s a rather rich dish and, as avocado so lovely on its own, why bother?

And, of course, they are terribly good for you too. Not wishing to bore you with too many statistics, but here are a few of the more impressive ones:

  • About 75% of an avocado’s energy comes from fat, most of which is monounsaturated fat
  • On a weight basis, avocados have 35% more potassium than bananas.
  • They are rich in folic acid and vitamin K, and are good dietary sources of vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E
  • Avocados have a high fibre content of 75% insoluble and 25% soluble fibre.
  • High avocado intake has been shown to lower blood cholesterol levels.
  • Extracts of avocado have been studied to assess potential for lowering risk of diabetes
  • The avocado is also being researched for potential anti-cancer activity
  • The ability of avocado to help prevent unwanted inflammation is widely accepted and many arthritis sufferers swear by it.

And if that weren’t enough… it’s also great fun to grown an avocado plant from the stone, or pit. It won’t fruit but it does grow into an attractive houseplant!

What more could you possibly want from one fruit? If you want to find out more, there’s lots of information online… but do be wary of crank sites!

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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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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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