Commercially grown cut flowers are treated after they have been harvested so that they last longer. If you buy from a reputable outlet and follow a few basic rules, there is no reason why you shouldn’t have your flowers for a week or more. Blooms from the garden are beautiful too, but don’t expect them to last as long. In either case, the transient nature of real flowers, I think, adds to their beauty. For me there is something rather sad about the fake versions, no matter how life-like they may look.
The flowers: If you’re buying loose cut flowers follow the basic design principle that things tend to look best grouped in odd numbers so buy three, five or seven stems. My favourite flower is the oriental lily and just three stems of this in a simple glass vase looks elegant and beautiful, proving that buying flowers needn’t be overly expensive.
The vase: I tend to prefer glass most of the time – because of its stark simplicity it goes with everything, making the flowers the star attraction. Other containers do, however, work well and here is where you can use your imagination because if an item has at one time contained liquid, then obviously it can be given a second lease of life as a container for flowers. Look for antique or vintage kitchen ware – jugs, teapots, tumblers or even little cups. Old jars, rinsed out and painted with glass paint can look good. If you have children around you could get them to paint a vase for you. Even tin cans can take on a new lease of life. Soak off the labels, clean them thoroughly and make sure there are no raw edges left around the top. Again, group in odd numbers for maximum impact – three shiny tin cans, lined up in a row and filled with cottage-type garden flowers would look very pretty.
Whatever you use, it should be squeaky clean to begin with as bacteria kills flowers.
Preparing the flowers: Cut flowers bought from the shop should ideally be dealt with as soon as you arrive home with them. Unwrap them carefully and trim the stems – take off at least an inch but you can take more if a certain height suits your container better. (In short containers like cups and tumblers flowers tend to look best if the head appears to float at the level of the rim). Cut the stems at a slant using sharp scissors or a knife. I keep a pair of small garden secateurs for this in the kitchen drawer as pre-prepared bunches of flowers often contain flowers with woody stems which play havoc with ordinary scissors.
Remove all leaves that will sit below the water level otherwise they will start to rot, make the water cloudy and bacteria will begin to grow.
Flowers look equally beautiful whether ‘arranged’ or cut roughly to one length. You don’t need to be an expert to make a pretty display. I tend to take pot luck, trimming the stems, individually, to about the same length and slotting them into the vase where I think they look best. About the only bit of advice I’d give is not to make them look too regimented. Keep in mind how they would look in the garden, and let your creative eye be your guide.
Once you have arranged them, fill your vase with lukewarm water into which you have dissolved some commercially prepared flower food – your bunch of flowers should come with a sachet of flower food, either in powder or liquid/gel form. If you’re buying loose stems, make sure that the supplier gives you a sachet.
Positioning flowers in your home to make them last longer: Avoid direct sunlight, heat and draughts. Remove faded flowers as they occur.