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By Amy Conway
A pretty floral arrangement is an instant mood lifter, guaranteed to brighten anyone’s day. Keep that cheery feeling going strong with tried-and-true tips and techniques to help cut flowers last longer. With spring blooms like poppies, daffodils, tulips, and lilacs so bountiful and affordable this month, you have every reason to make your own bouquets (and how about one for Mom, too, while you’re at it?).
Show off the twisting, turning stems and ruffled petals of tall flowers like poppies in an airy, almost otherworldly arrangement. (To stand the stems upright, use a spiked frog in the bottom of the vase.) Rippling bird’s-nest fern leaves echo the texture of the poppies.
Medium round vase, in Mist, Mud Australia, 646-590-1964.
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Pair a tall vase with a riot of lilacs -- as many as you can fit! -- for a display with drama and movement. Parrot tulips in purple with white edges add texture and pick up both colors of lilacs. To assemble this arrangement, we used a narrow-necked vase; we added white lilacs, followed by the tulips, and then purple lilacs until the bouquet felt full and lavish.
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A variety of sunny daffodils shines even brighter in tiny nosegays, which allow you to appreciate the delicate silhouettes. We gathered small vases, tumblers, and pitchers, all in shades of yellow, and put just a few stems in each (an excellent way to stretch a handful of flowers into a charming still life). Daffodil stems release a sap that can shorten the life of other flowers, so it’s good to arrange them on their own.
Latte cup (far left), in Citrus, Mud Australia, 646-590-1964
French ceramic creamer (far right), lbeckerflowers.com
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While a tight, monochromatic dome is always in style, a flowing, exuberant bouquet -- with surprising combinations of colors and textures -- feels especially fresh. Case in point: this soft, gorgeous mound of painterly peachy-pink garden roses, pistachio carnations, grayish florists’ roses, and yellow-pink parrot tulips with an elegant cascade of fritillaria and jasmine. To give stiff stems (like those of carnations) a soft arc, leave them long and work them into shape with your hands. A spiked metal frog in the bottom of the round vase anchors the stems.
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This hue doesn’t often star in a bouquet, but why not? Green goes with everything in the garden, making it easy to pair with accent colors, like the hints of pink and yellow of the parrot tulips in this surprising spring grouping. We turned back some of the tulip petals for an unexpected look. The geranium leaves are as pretty as the green flowers, viburnum, and fritillaria.
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Caring for Cut Flowers
Whether you’re gathering flowers from your garden, a florist, or the supermarket, take a few simple steps to condition them. The process helps them stay fresh and beautiful, so you can enjoy them longer.
If you cut flowers from the garden yourself, it’s best to do so in the morning, before the heat of the day affects the blooms; bring a bucket of water with you to put the stems into right away. If you are buying flowers, it’s generally a good idea to choose ones that are more tightly closed (think roses); they will likely last longer. Once you get them inside -- from the garden or a shop -- fill a large, deep vase or flower bucket with cool water and add commercial flower food. Then follow the steps at right to prepare the flowers, and place the stems in the water immediately. If you have time, soak them in water for several hours and up to overnight to hydrate and fortify them. Then arrange them in clean vases with more water and flower food. Change the water every day or two, adding more flower food each time. If the water looks at all cloudy, scrub the vase well to kill any bacteria, and recut the stems before returning the flowers to the vessel.
For All Flowers
Make a fresh cut. Trim stems at a 45-degree angle using sharp shears, snippers, or a pocket knife. The angled cut provides more surface area for drinking up water and prevents stems from sitting flat in the vase. If flowers that grow from bulbs (like tulips) have thick white stem ends, cut them off.
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Remove foliage. Strip off leaves that would be underwater in the vase (leaves will rot if submerged, giving rise to bacteria that shortens flowers’ life).
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For Woody Stems
Split stems. With lilacs, dogwoods, azaleas, forsythias, crab apples, and other flowering trees, cut the stems vertically an inch or two from the bottom to let them drink up more water.
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For Milky Stems
Seal ends. With poppies, euphorbia, hollyhocks, zinnias, sunflowers, and other flowers with a milky sap in the stem, use a match to sear cut ends, or dip them in boiling water. This stops the flow of sap, which can clog the stem and prevent it from taking up water.
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Remove thorns. Working from the top down, pare them off with a small, sharp knife or a stem stripper.
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Revive blooms. If roses look limp, give them a good dose of hydration. Soak them in cool water for a few hours, covering the stems with a towel to submerge them. It’s fine for some of the petals to also be submerged.
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Keep them straight. Tulip stems tend to bend. To help prevent them from drooping before you arrange them, wrap them in paper, then place them in water for several hours.
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Perk them up. Inserting a pin through each stem just below the head will allow air to escape and encourage the flow of water.
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Snip at the right spot. Cutting the stem of a carnation (or baby’s breath or sweet william) above a node will help it draw more water.