Cut Flowers, A Necessary Luxury: How to Make them Last

Tulips-close-up

Tulips: one of the freshest, cheeriest flowers to have in a vase.

Fresh flowers add a note of grace and beauty to a room, even when the rest of your place looks like a bomb hit it. Flowers lift our spirits, especially now—at the end of a long winter—when many of us come down with a case of the winter blues. A Harvard study found that flowers can be the best prescription for happiness:

“The morning blahs, it turns out, is a real phenomenon, with positive moods — happiness, friendliness and warmth, for example — manifesting much later in the day,” says lead researcher Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D. “Interestingly, when we placed a small bouquet of flowers into their morning routines, people perked up.”

The saving grace of February is that many of us have fresh flowers in the house, due to a certain Love Celebration. Your Valentine bouquet may be looking a little droopy right now, but you can make it and any bouquet last longer with a few simple steps.

1. As soon as the flowers come home, get them into water. A deep bucket is perfect, or even a handy saucepan will do while you rummage for a vase. If you are pressed for time, don’t even worry about unwrapping the paper, just don’t leave them on the counter.

2. The next day, (or even a few days later—better late than never), take the flowers out of the vase, bucket, spittoon, or whatever, and cut off any lower leaves which will be under the water. Soft plant tissues rot first; that’s the source of the gag-inducing vase-water smell.
3. Re-cut the stems with sharp scissors or a knife. Even better if you do this under water. (Not you, the stem.) This can be tricky, but a shallow container (like a glass baking tray) and a small submerged cutting board makes this task easier. This makes a good combo to keep in your kitchen for cut flowers.
4. Use flower preserver if your bouquet came with it, but if it didn’t, you can make your own. Here’s a floral preservative recipe from Toronto Gardens blog:
What flowers need to stay fresher longer:
• carbohydrate for nutrition,
• an acidifier to improve water uptake
• a disinfectant to prevent bacteria from growing.

Easy Home Recipe:
• 2 teaspoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar and
• 1/2 teaspoon chlorine bleach

Mix all in 1 quart of water.

Keep a quart-sized container handy under your sink to mix up this potion. You may not want to mix your OJ or Koolaid in the same vessel. I’ve used bottled lemon juice and water in a pinch, and even a slug of lemon-lime soda works to acidify and feed flowers. Add your mix to your vase before you add your flowers. Yes, I’ve had experience trying to do it the opposite way.

Any vase of flowers can be refreshed this way, pulling out dead blooms and keeping the still-good ones. Re-make the bouquet into a smaller vase. Try it with your Valentine’s flowers if you’ve got ’em, and if you don’t, go and buy yourself a bouquet. Doctor’s orders!

Photo: Helen Battersby

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