Making flower arrangements with homegrown flowers is a pleasure from start to finish. Growing them adds beauty to your yard. Cutting them gives you time to appreciate every blossom, and arranging them is an opportunity to be creative with colors, shapes and textures. Here are some tips to make sure your homegrown bouquets last for as long as possible.
1. No foliage in the water. When you put your flowers into a vase, there should be no foliage below the water line. Submerged foliage encourages microbial growth that will clog stems and prevent them from absorbing water. Make the job easy by removing most of the lower leaves outdoors, as you’re picking.
2. Use a squeaky-clean vase. Wash your vase with soapy water and rinse it well. Fill with warm water and if possible, add a packet of commercial flower food. This time-tested mixture contains sugars, a pH acidifier and anti-microbial agents. It feeds the flowers and also minimizes the growth of bacteria and other microbes in the water. If you purchase the packets in bulk, they are inexpensive and will last for years.
3. Make clean cuts. Use a sharp knife or scissors to re-cut each stem right before it goes into the vase. Cutting on a slight angle will increase the surface area for water uptake. If you wish, you can make the cuts in the sink under water. This will ensure air doesn't block the water-conducting tissues at the end of the stem. Do take care not to crush or tear the stems as it will restrict water uptake and give microbes more points of entry.
4. Condition the flowers. When making a large arrangement, take a little extra time to super-hydrate your flowers before arranging them. Submerge the stems -- almost up to the flower heads -- in a bucket of warm (110°F) water that contains dissolved flower food. Place the bucket in a cool, dark, humid location (like a basement) for at least 2 hours or overnight. Then arrange the flowers as usual.
5. Keep them cool. Florists store most cut flowers in a refrigerated space where the air temperature is 34-36°F and the relative humidity is 90-95%. It's unlikely you can provide these conditions at home, but your arrangement will last longer if you keep it away from heat and direct sunlight, and move it to a cool room overnight.
6. Refresh the water. Flowers absorb a lot of water the first day they’re in a vase, so watch the water level and replenish it as needed. After a couple days, check to see if the water looks cloudy. If so, remove the flowers and dump out the old water. Rinse the stems under running water and cut about an inch off the bottom. Clean the vase and refill it with fresh water and flower food.
7. Edit as needed. Some types of flowers last longer than others. To keep your arrangements looking good, just remove any spent flowers or wilted foliage. As the size of the arrangement shrinks, you can transfer it into a smaller vase.
If you like flower arrangtements that smell as good as they look, check out this slide show of 11 fragrant, easy-to-grow flowers: Fragrant Flowers for Homegrown Bouquets.
The Garden Club of Brookfield Connecticut has compiled detailed instructions for how to condition hundreds of different types of annuals, perennials, bulbs and woody plants. You'll find that list HERE.