Have you ever purchased a bouquet of mixed flowers, wrapped in cellophane, from the flower market or grocery store? I have seen many a friend plunk them in a vase and place them on a table with a “good to go” attitude. But there is more to it than that.
My thoughtful sister-in-law, Kim, bought this beautiful bunch of flowers at Pike Place Market for me a few days ago.
The flowers needed to be processed and rearranged. Processing includes: freshly cutting the ends of the stems (so they can get lots of water and stay alive longer); stripping leaves, thorns and flowers from stems; and getting rid of any dying or damaged flowers to keep the arrangement fresh as long as possible.
There is a proper way to cut the stems and there are improper ways. Improper ways include using scissors and cutting them with a knife on a cutting board. Those ways squeeze the stem, causing it to take in less water. The proper way is to cut the stem at an angle, allowing the most area for water to be absorbed. When I am not rushing, I like to cut the flowers under hot water.
This is the way I process the end of plant stems.
This is how the stems looked BEFORE I processed them.Depending on the type of flower/plant, this is how the stems looked AFTER I processed them.
If you don’t cut the stems under hot water, it’s important to immerse freshly processed stems in hot (not scalding), clean water immediately. Strip stems of any leaves or flowers that would touch the water in an arrangement. Floaters, leaves and flowers touching the water cause bacteria to grow quickly, which will greatly shorten the lifespan of a flower arrangement.
I clean my vases with bleach to make sure there is no lingering bacteria to shorten the life of my flowers.
You can add a small amount of bleach to vase water to keep bacteria from developing. I usually add a tablespoon or two of lemon juice to the water. If you have a package of flower food, use it. My aunt insists that flowers do well with a few drops of vodka.
I just found this excellent and informative article called, “Extending Life of Cut Flowers”. Read it for tips from an expert!
Once I have all of my flowers and greens processed, I see what I am left with. I then try to create either one cohesive arrangement or multiple arrangements. Often, I find that what I am left with, after throwing away the damaged flowers, is not enough to create a balanced arrangement. So I go hunting in my yard for any plant or weed that I think will work with what I have.
After I processed the flowers Kim brought me from Pike Place Market, I divided them into bunches that I felt worked together. I had to throw quite a few of the flowers away because they were wilting, which was unfortunate because they were beautiful.
I usually set the vases and containers that I am thinking about using to the side and when I begin to make arrangements I see what will fit where.
The vases with the frogs (grates) were given to me by Val who happens to not only be a successful interior designer, but has a booming floral design business. Typically, if I want information about flowers, I ask Val, but this is her high season, so I’m on my own right now. The retro green pitcher was given to me by my friend Dawn.
This isn’t exactly a proud floral design moment, but this is what was left of these flowers after removing the most battered ones from the original bunch. I found the matching peach colored berries on a plant in the back yard, they did make a good filler.
Everything, but the yellow flowers in this arrangement, is from my back yard.
Everything here is from the original bunch of flowers from Pike Place Market, except for the variegated schefflera.
While I was looking for good fillers for the flowers above, I cut the tea roses, sage and interesting wispy plant from our yard and made a tiny arrangement in an old glass aspirin bottle.
A Few take aways from this story:
Be creative and don’t feel committed to the way flowers are arranged when you get them.
Remember to process flowers that come wrapped in cellophane, newspaper or from your yard, so they will last longer.