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How to handle fresh flowers like a pro

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15 Feb 2013

Fresh cut flowers brighten any mood and are a great way to spruce up an empty space in your home. Unfortunately, they can wither and die quickly if not treated properly, making them feel like a waste of money.

Freshly cut flowers that are not treated correctly will wilt and die in a matter of days, making them seem like a waste of money and effort.

So how do you get the best out of your flower display for as long as possible?  Here are a few tips...

When you are buying flowers, be sure to scrutinise them before you pay. Try and buy flowers in bud because they will last longer. Check that the stems are not slimy or discoloured and make sure the foliage isn't wilted. Jackie West-Evans from Country Flowers in Kensington, Johannesburg says you should be careful when buying from a retailer who doesn’t get fresh flowers every day, as they tend to mix old and new flowers.

Tip: When buying roses, check that the bud is firm by pressing it between your thumb and forefinger. If it is, you are getting fresh, quality flowers.

Prepping the vase

Any size vase is suitable for flowers as long as it holds them while leaving a small amount of room around them. Make sure the vase is clean and use florist preservative and clean tap water. If you don’t have preservative, mix in one cap of bleach for every three litres of water. This stops the water from smelling bad and prevents bacteria growth.

Tip: If you want to give your display a different look, she suggests you crunch up a piece of clear cellophane and put it in the vase before you add the water. This holds the flowers in place and lifts them if you are using a tall vase.

Arranging your flowers

West-Evans says the rule of thumb when it comes to displays is that the flowers should be one and a half times the height of the vase and therefore, the length of the stem is determined by the vase being used.

Cut the stems at an angle and sear them in boiling water for 30 seconds to extend their vase life.

Cut the stems of the flowers at an angle to maximise exposure and ensure they absorb as much water as possible. Cut different flowers to different lengths but don't cut them too short as you will have to trim them in order to keep your flowers fresh. Consider the height of the vase and then strip any leaves that fall below the water line.

Searing the stem of your flowers will extend their vase life. After trimming the stems, stick the ends in boiling water for 30 seconds and a few seconds longer for woody stems. Don't leave them in too long or they will cook and fall away. Make sure you keep the flower heads away from the steam, so carefully wrap them in a sheet of newspaper.

Add the large, heavy flowers to the vase first, turning the arrangement so you get even spacing. Don't be afraid to experiment but make sure the width of your display is balanced with the height, otherwise it will look overcrowded.

Add texture by placing greenery in your display, this can give your arrangement a home-made feel. You can use leaves that you cut off the flowers or cut some from your own garden. Foliage makes a great filler for an arrangement, especially when it is artistically placed to hang over the side of the vase. The green makes the vibrant colours of the flowers pop, giving your arrangement a fresh look.

Add texture by placing greenery in your display, this can give your arrangement a home-made feel and mix in one cap of bleach for every three litres of water to stop bacteria growth and keep the flowers looking fresh.

West-Evans says cut flowers should always be placed in a room with moderate temperature and not in direct sunlight or in a draught. Placing your arrangement close to your front door will ensure that you are in a good mood whenever you leave or enter the house or you could put it in the kitchen to give it a fresh country feel.

Keeping them fresh

If you have not used preservative or mixed bleach in the vase water, you will have to change it every two to three days or as soon as it gets cloudy. Make sure you trim the stems again once you have done this to prevent the flowers from dehydrating due to bacteria clogging the stem.

Fun ideas and tips

For a dinner party, West-Evans suggests you cut gerbera daisies at the base of the stem and float the head in various glass bowls filled with water. Place these on the table or you can carry the theme outside by floating the flowers on the pool and fish ponds.

You can choose to add fruits like lemons, oranges or pomegranates to your displays. This gives them an interesting twist and adds to the scent given off by the arrangement.

You don’t have to use fancy vases for flower arrangements. Mason jars, drinking glasses, bowls and wine bottles make unique, eye-catching vases at half the cost.

Herbs like mint, rosemary, sage, basil and even lavender make different fillers for small arrangements and add another fresh scent to the flowers. Victoria Taylor

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