Floral designers want the flowers in their arrangements to stay in good shape as long as possible. However, we first need to understand why flowers die in order to keep them fresh.
CUTTING AND CONDITIONING FLOWERS
The stage at which to cut flowers. Each type of flower has a proper stage of development or maturity for cutting, which for most flowers is just before they are fully open or mature. That is, the blooms are more developed than tight buds but not so old that they are starting to deteriorate. Examples in this category include baby’s breath, chrysanthemum, carnation, pinks, cornflower, cosmos, dahlia,
delphinium, geranium, nasturtium, sunflower, and snapdragon.
Some flowers keep best when cut in the bud stage or when just starting to open, for example, daffodil, iris, peony, poppy, and tulip. Gladiolus may be cut when the two lowest buds are open or can be allowed to develop more fully. Some flowers keep best when fully open at cutting time; examples are daisy, marigold, orchid, violet, and zinnia.
The above suggestions apply to flowers that are cut in the garden. When brought from a florist, the flowers are usually somewhat more open. Note that the cutting and handling of roses requires special care and is discussed separately and in detail in a later section.
The best time of day. Late afternoon or evening is the best time, since the plant has more stored food then. Early morning is the next best, because the plant is turgid then. Avoid cutting flowers in the heat of the day when the plants are wilted.
How to cut the blooms. Cut the stems somewhat longer than needed, using a sharp knife or shears. The additional stem length is necessary for later re-cutting when the flower is placed in water or into an arrangement. As each stem is cut, remove all the leaves that will be in the water. Also, be especially careful to remove any leaves that are diseased, insect-damaged, or insect-ridden. In addition, take off damaged or diseased petals. As each stem is cut and the unneeded leaves are removed, the stem should be placed immediately into a pail of warm water. This is especially important if a large number of flowers are to be cut or if it is a hot day. To further prevent wilting, cover the flowers in the pail with a plastic bag.
Conditioning flowers after cutting. Regardless of how careful you have been in cutting flowers in the garden, a certain amount of wilting will occur. It is necessary therefore to condition the flowers so that they are again full of water before they are arranged.
Conditioning should last at least one and preferably several hours. Overnight conditioning is even better. For flowers brought in from the garden or purchased from the florist, do the following:
1. Have the containers of warm water ready (about 100o – 110o F., bath water temperature). Although warm water is better than cold, many flowers are not “fussy” and take up cold water readily. In case of doubt, use warm water.
2. The water should be about half the depth of the entire stem length, preferably containing a floral preservative or bacteriacide.
3. Recut the stems at an angle. Remove one to two inches with a sharp knife (or shears), under warm water, if possible. Probably the easiest way to do this is to make the cut while holding the stem under running warm water. Then immediately place the stem into a container of warm water with preservative before the stem end dries.
4. When the stem is handled for re-cutting, remove any leaves that will be in the water.
5. Keep the blooms dry and out of the water.
6. Store the containers of cut flowers in a cool, humid place, free from drafts.
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