The sweeping bow of the tulip may be one of its most alluring charms, but it presents a challenge to the flower arranger. To arrange tulips to the best effect, first straighten curved stems by rolling the entire bunch of flowers inside newspaper or brown paper and plunging it into cool water. Because cut tulips will droop, either pack them tightly in an arrangement or give them room to move gracefully in a bigger vase.
Hybrid tulips, such as parrot tulips, make outstanding cut flowers. (Species, or nonhybrid, tulips tend to grow low to the ground, like crocuses, and are best enjoyed outdoors.) Parrot tulips bloom mid- to late-season with brilliantly colored petals that are feathered and scalloped. Martha uses the pink-petaled 'Erna Lindgreen' parrot tulip and the antique rose-colored 'Rai' for a springtime arrangement.
- Cut-flower food, or sugar and liquid bleach
- Sharp knife
Start with a very clean vase. Fill it about 1/3 full with fresh, room-temperature water; tulips last longer in shallow water. Add cut-flower food to the vase. You can also nourish flowers with a solution of one teaspoon sugar and two drops liquid bleach per gallon of fresh water.
Hold each stem next to your vase to gauge how much you'll need to trim. Using a sharp knife, cut stems at a 45-degree angle so they won't sit flat in the vase. Cut away any white stem tissue for better water absorption. Remove any leaves under the water line to prevent rotting.
Recondition your tulips daily: Recut the stems, change the water, and add nourishment. Keep in a cool area; heat reduces bloom time. If tulips droop once arranged, try this: Insert a pin through the stem just below the head; then pull it out. The holes let air escape to expedite the water flow. Keep in a cool place for longest life.