Appreciating and cutting flowers from your garden
Of course as the British Florist Association we encourage the purchasing of flowers and foliage from your local professional florists, however picking flowers from your own garden is such a pleasure we’re happy to pass on our expertise and advice to you, our tips and tricks will give you the best ways of cutting and enjoying your flowers so they’re in optimal condition and last longer.
Cutting flowers from your garden can be a quandary – you want to see and enjoy the flowers in the garden where they grow naturally. However, cutting a few stems and bringing them inside allows you to enjoy the sights and scents of the flowers in your home as well. Another reason to cut some of your flowers occasionally is that the process of cutting your flowers will often promote more flowers to develop – delaying the flowers natural process of turning into fruit.
Your local florist will have a selection of seasonal summer flowers available that will add potentially longer lasting varieties that will compliment your garden flowers very well.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty when – the advice below will help you enjoy your own cut flowers for longer and as you’ve grown them more than ever you’re going to want to treat them right.
WHEN TO CUT
Early morning is the ideal time to cut fresh flowers. The flowers have had the benefit of cool night air and morning dew. Their stems are filled with water and carbohydrates and so are firm to the touch. As the day warms up, flowers gradually dehydrate. Midday being the worst time to cut, as transpiration rates are at a peak and plants are rapidly losing moisture through their leaves. Flowers become limp; their necks become bent. If cut, they will not recuperate well and their vase life will probably be short.
The ideal scenario is to have a bucket of water on to put the flowers straight into. metal containers can affect the pH balance of the water; so plastic buckets or vases are best.
Different types of flowers must be harvested at the appropriate stage in their development. Flowers with multiple buds on each stem and spike flowers such as Gladioli, Delphiniums, Stocks and Larkspur and also cluster flowers such as Agapanthus, Alstroemeria, Lilac, Phlox etc. should have some buds showing colour and one flower (if not more) opening before being cut. If the flowers are cut too early, while they’re still tightly in bud they may will not open in a vase of water.
Flowers that grow on individual stems such as sunflowers, asters, chrysanthemums, dahlias, marigolds,) should be cut when their heads are fully developed and almost entirely open.
When selecting foliage, look for firm leaves and stems with strong colouration, the new growth of foliage can be particularly challenging in the summer time. If you have shrubs that are large you may wish to cut the foliage and remove the new growth, as very new foliage won’t last.
HOW TO CUT
When cutting flowers always use clean, sharp tool, not just when cutting them from the garden but always! If you are confident a knife is ideal giving a clean cut without crushing the stem, clippers, snips or shears can be used it best never to use ordinary household scissors they’re just not designs for cutting flowers stems, using scissors that are designed for the task will crush their vascular systems and prevent proper water uptake.
Flower and foliage stems that have been left out of water, even for a short period of time, seal up and inhibit the absorption of water. The stems also can have air bubbles sometimes enter the stem and prevent a steady flow of water, they simply breath in air rather than water. In order to prevent this from happening immediately place flowers into water.
When flowers and foliage need to be re-cut do so about one inch from the bottom of a main stem at an angle of about 45 degrees. Cutting at an angle provides a larger exposed area for the uptake of water. It also enables the stem to stand on a point, allowing water to be in contact with the cut surface.
Flowers and foliage that you buy from a florist should also always been recut also, however they have been specially treated in each stage of their journey, during harvesting, transport, and conditioning when arriving at the florist and then again when storing.
Remove all the lower foliage that would be submerged in water. This will help the water stay fresher for longer and reduce bacterial growth, which shortens the vase life of flowers and makes the water smell foul.
CUT FLOWER FOOD
Using a cut flower food definitely increases the longevity of cut flowers. To survive, flowers need three ingredients: carbohydrates, biocides, and acidifiers. Carbohydrates are necessary for cell metabolism; biocides combat bacteria and are necessary for maintaining plant health; acidifiers adjust the pH of water to facilitate and increase water uptake.
Under normal circumstances, flowers get what they need from the plant. When removed from the plant, however, flowers are deprived of these essential substances. But they are present in ready-made commercial cut flower foods, it’s an exact science but in short the cut flower foods contain sugar for nutrition, bleach to keep the water clear of bacteria, and citric acid to gently acidify the water. When using cut flower food, be sure to follow recommended measurements for different container sizes.
You may hear the suggestion of placing an aspirin in the water to keep flowers fresh. It is likely that aspirin’s limited effectiveness is simply the result of the drug’s carbohydrate content.
Another old Wives tale suggestion is to drop a penny into the water. Apparently, the copper in the penny works like an acidifier, decreasing the pH of the water, however there are two problems with this not only would it only help with one of the needs of the flowers but also solid copper pennies are no longer being minted!!
Finally, lemonade is sometime suggested, this would be due to the sugar and acid of the lemonade, but again it’s not ideal – speak with your local florist, they’ll be pleased to sell you some cut flower food to have on hand when you need it.