A little extra time and care can give your flowers a longer lease of life. Ideally, you should take precautionary measures before giving the flowers their long drink but, if this is not possible, make sure you do so before arranging them.

Any leaves growing down stems which will be below water level should be stripped off. They take up space in the container or vase, and also make the water discoloured and smelly. This is true of most garden flowers, particularly Brassicas (the Cabbage family), Wallflowers and Stocks.

Hard woody stems
Plants like Lilac, Roses, Chrysanthemums and most flowering shrubs have hard woody stems. These should be hammered or split about half an inch up the stem.

Stems which bleed
The stems of flowers such as Poppies, Dahlias and Euphorbia (Spurge) which bleed or exude a white juice, benefit from being put for 10 to 30 seconds into two inches of boiling water. This treatment disperses the juice and helps them to drink. Protect the flower heads from the steam by wrapping them in a dishcloth. And if the stem ends look unhappy after this treatment do not worry and, above all, do not trim them off.

Sticky stems
Daffodils, Narcissi, and similar flowers exude a sticky substance. Hold the stem ends under warm running water to remove this, as it makes it difficult for them to drink.

Always arrange flowers in tepid water. If you put a small piece of charcoal in the bottom of the
container, the water will remain pure. Most flowers, with the exception of those such as Daffodils and Narcissi which exude a sticky substance, will last longer if you add sugar to the water (two teaspoons to one pint). Few flowers have a definite preference for a particular depth of water, but it is worth remembering those that do. Hellebore, for example, last better if they are arranged in deep water or floated in a bowl; Daffodils and Narcissi can last a very long time in a little water as long as they do not go dry; and Holly is best if it is not in water--leave it dry or arrange it in a plastic foam.

If you are cutting flowers which will be going on a journey, first put damp tissues or cotton wool around the stems, then newspaper and, finally, aluminium foil. This should ensure that they keep as fresh as possible.

Most flowers which have wilted in their travels can be revived if you recut the stems diagonally, place them up to their necks in a bucket of warm water to which sugar has been added (two teaspoons to one pint) and then leave them in a cool dark place for a couple of hours. Remember that all flowers, even if they travel no further than across the lawn, benefit from a long, undisturbed drink before being arranged.

Certain flowers will last appreciably longer if you cater to their individual needs. Below are listed some tried and tested hints on how to deal with them.

Begonia and other hot-house plant leaves which are going to be used in an arrangement, should first be submerged for a few hours in water to which a spoonful of sugar has been added.

  • If you cut Broom when it is in flower, put the stems into very hot water for half a minute before arranging it.
  • Touch Camellia and Gardenia flowers only rarely, they bruise very easily.
  • Break Carnation stems between the joints if possible.
  • Put the ends of Dahlia stems in boiling water for 10 seconds. Avoid picking the larger blooms as they do not live long in water.
  • Delphiniums will last longer if you dip the tips of their stems in boiling water for 10 seconds, but even so the lower florets will probably still drop.
  • Delphiniums and Lupins benefit if their hollow stems are filled with water after they are cut, then plugged with cotton wool and left overnight in deep water.
  • Freesia lasts fairly well if the individual flower-heads are removed as soon as they die.
  • Cut Hydrangea on the new wood. Before arranging it place the stem ends in boiling water for a few seconds and then soak the flower-heads. Hydrangea absorbs water through the flower-head. Spray the flowers frequently to give a longer life in the vase.
  • Iris stems contain a lot of water which evaporates and causes the flower to droop. When gathered, each head should be wrapped in soft paper, and the flowers placed in deep water. Leave them in a cool place for an hour or more. This treatment hardens the stems and gives the flowers a longer life.
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