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The Joys & Challenges of Fresh Flowers

Jan 14th, 2013

I admit it…I LOVE flowers. I like them in pots; I like them on trees; and I love them in my house. Nothing cheers me up like a fresh vase of flowers in my home. (Well, maybe a hug from the person I love when arriving home or the happy lick greeting from my dog at the end of the day!) There’s just something about the smell and look of fresh flowers or a plant that can brighten up any space.

My challenges are finding them at a reasonable price (a girl has to eat, right?) and making them last when I get them home.

Let’s discuss the price challenge first. There are plenty of resources for finding flowers at a low price during the spring and summer months. In fact, if you stay with flowers that are naturally blooming when you buy them, you’ll get the best price of the year. One example of this is tulips.  The best price that you’ll find is always during the spring months when they are plentiful in the stores. The same goes for hydrangeas (summer) and mums (fall).

Local resources such as farmers’ markets are a fun place to find flowers. If you go this route though, make sure that you have some water to put the flowers in until you get home. I recently bought the most beautiful bouquet of assorted summer wild flowers, and was sad that they didn’t make it through the rest of my short shopping trip while I purchased pasta, honey and vegetables.  They couldn’t take the heat without the water…and I wasted my money. I had to write that bouquet off as a “lesson  learned” and won’t make the mistake again!

Another source for the cost-conscious flower buyer is shopping club stores such as Costco or Sam’s. It’s always surprising to see the wonderful choices that they carry. Also, because of the volume of business that they do, the flowers don’t stay on the shelf for too long so you are almost guaranteed to get a fresh bouquet. They usually stock the flowers near the cash register so that you can pick them up just before you leave the store. Make sure that you don’t overlook the plastic flower bags that are on-hand as these will keep the stems moist during the drive home.

Now, on to the second challenge: making the flowers last. There are many recommendations about this and some old wives tales too!  Here’s a list of tips to help.

1.  As soon as you get home, cut the flowers on a slant with a sharp knife. Keep the end of the stem under cool water when you are cutting it. The slanted cut will help expose more of the stem to the water.If you hold the stem under water while cutting it and then move the flower to your vase with a drop of water on the end of the stem, it prevents air bubbles from forming on the tip, which will harm the absorption rate.

2.  Remove any leaves that will be underwater in the vase. Not only do they look messy, but they will add unwanted bacteria into the water as they decay.

3.  If your flowers came with florist preservatives, use them! This packet typically contains chemicals to reduce bacteria growth, acid to help water move up the stems, and sugar to feed the plant. If you prefer to make your own, you can try adding non-diet lemon/lime soda to 3 parts water. To each quart of the mixture, add ¼ teaspoon of bleach. Or, you can try 1 quart of water, 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of sugar and ½ teaspoon of bleach.

4.  Use the proper water temperature for the flower type. Bulb-type flowers (daffodils, tulips, etc) last longest in cold water. Most other flowers do best in lukewarm water.

5.  Change the water every two days — don’t top off the water that is still in the vase.  You’ll want the flowers to get a fresh start. While you’re at it, give the stems a fresh cut as described in Step #1.

Now that you have your arrangement home, make the most of it! Put it in a central location so that you can enjoy the bright colors and the fragrant smells. When the blooms do eventually start to fade, you can add edible (partially faded) ones to herbal vinegars or use them as salad garnishes. This way you’re getting double use out of just the one bouquet.

Then, it’s time to plan your next arrangement. I know I’ll soon head back to the farmer’s market (with a container of water!) and see what’s in stock. And maybe I’ll try something exotic this time…hmmm, decisions, decisions!


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