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Caring for your Flowers

After purchase, ideally flowers need to be kept in water all the time, but they can be left for a couple of hours providing they are kept cool. If they do make a long journey, they should be placed in a bucket of water, but if that is not feasible, then wrapping the stem ends in damp paper will help reduce water loss.

Once home, give the flowers a long drink in deep, tepid water after removing the lower foliage and trimming an inch from the bottom of the stems by making long, clean, diagonal cut with a sharp knife. This provides the maximum surface area for water intake.

Stems should never ever be mashed – even the woodiest ones. Extensive research has proved that crushing the stem destroys the delicate structure of the stalk, making it less efficient at taking up water and encouraging bacterial infection.

Flowers that wilt and fade quickly, and flower heads that droop mysteriously in a matter of hours, have been affected by blocked stems. This is caused either by air being tapped in the stem or, and far more commonly, by bacterial infection. To avoid this problem it is essential to use perfectly clean containers or vases, remove all leaves below the water level, and add specially prepared flower food to the water. Ask for flower food with your purchase. This special preparation contains a measured amount of mild and harmless disinfectant – to inhibit the growth of bacteria in the water – and a sugar, such as saccharose or glucose, which feeds the flowers and encourages the buds to mature and open. Adding flower food also means it is unnecessary to change the water, although containers often need topping up for those flowers that are particularly thirsty, and, of course, when the environment is very warm.

Many people have their own tried and tested remedies for prolonging the lives of flowers, and these range from adding coins, aspirins, lemonade, household bleach, and even white wine to the water.

For consistent results, flower food is the best and the most economical solution.

The temperature of vase water is important. Tepid water is preferred as it contains the least amount of air– which can also block stems and thereby reduces the flow of water. Finally, the longevity of cut flowers does vary between varieties. Chrysanthemums, Dianthus (carnations), and Alstroemeria are renowned for being long-lasting, whereas other flowers may only survive a few days, but all flowers will appreciate being kept away from extremes of heat or cold, draughts, or full sunlight.

Some flowers are also susceptible to ethylene gas, which is emitted by mature fruit, vegetables, and other flowers, and which speeds up the ripening processes in plants.

Exhaust and household fumes also produce ethylene. Some flowers such as Dianthus and orchids, are more affected by it than others, although they are usually treated by the grower, wholesaler, or florist in advance, to alleviate the problem. Placing flowers in a cool and well-ventilated atmosphere where the levels of ethylene gas are at their lowest, and keeping them away from the sources of ethylene gas mentioned above, will help to avoid the problem.

Important Tips When Caring for Cut Flowers

1. Do not allow flowers to remain out of water after purchase.

2. Trim the ends of stems, making a long diagonal cut with a sharp knife (or with secateurs on more woody stems). For those flowers which "bleed" latex from their stems, sear stem ends in boiling water for a few seconds to seal them.

3. Remove any foliage that falls below the water level in the vase.

4. Use clean vases or containers and fresh, lukewarm water. Avoid metal containers that are hard to clean and can neutralise the effects of flower food.

5. Add flower food to the water.

6. Avoid ethylene gas damage by keeping flowers away from ripening fruit and vegetables and dying flowers.

7. Keep flowers in cool, well-ventilated atmosphere away from draughts and direct heat or sunlight.

8. Remove any flowers or leaves that wilt or are damaged.

9. If you are not using flower food, change vase water and re-cut stem ends every couple of days. Do not re-cut the stem ends of those flowers that have been seared.



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