TAKING FLOWERS INDOORS
TAKING FLOWERS INDOORS
Flowers and pot-plants are not frivolous luxuries. They are one of the cheapest ways of making a home look good.
As well as a link with or a reminder of the changes seasons, plants and flowers are a vital ingredient f successful interiors and can play a major role in making them work.
They can clinch a room's color statement with related color or introduce the element of surprise with a contrast. They are an instant way of filling a bare corner, or bringing interest to boring areas. They have a softening effect on stiff surroundings. But above all, they introduce a spontaneity and freshness that makes a room come alive. So don't wait for people to give you flowers and pot-plants as presents, or treat them as occasional extras in your home. On the contrary, take advantage of their enormous versatility all year round.
GETTING THE BEST FROM FRESH FLOWERS
Flowers suffer from shock when they are abruptly taken from their natural environment and put in new and artificial surroundings, so aim to make the transition as smooth as possible. They will reward your efforts by living much longer.
When to pick.
If you have a garden of your own, take full advantage of having fresh flowers on the doorstep. Cut flowers early in the morning when they have had a good night's rest to recover from the warmth of the previous day. Failing that, cut them in the evening. At all costs, avoid cutting them while the sun is strong and hot-they will be limp and vulnerable from loss of moisture.
Although everyone talks about picking flowers with the exceptions of cyclamens and iris stylus (where stems need pulling right out) it's absolutely essential that you cut them. Whether you use scissors scatters or a knife, it is vital that the cutting tool is sharp to minimize the risk of bruising.
Always cut flowers stems at an angle-this increases the area that can take up water-and if feasible give them a drink immediately Ideally take a bucket of water round the garden with you-preferably water with the chill taken off, rather than icy-cold water straight from the tap.
What to pick.
Choose flowers just as they are coming into full bloom. Any earlier and they will be too immature to develop in water; any later, and they may already be on the downward path. Roses are an obvious example of this truth: young buds shrivel instead of opening up and fully-blown flowers promptly drop their petals. Use stamens as a guide as well as the state of petals. If they are dusted with pollen, blooms are already past their best. This is daisy-type flowers such as dahlias, marguerites and Michaela's daisies where the centers should be firm at the time of picking.
With long spires of flowers-like lupines foxgloves and delphiniums-cut when the lower flowers are fully open but there are a few inches of top buds yet to burst. Then you can snip off the lower blooms as they die and the upper blooms will happily take over.
As always, there are a few exceptions. Blossom and daffodils should be picked while still in tight HUD, because they will soon Hurst open in the heat of the house. So also should pussy willow and branches of horse chestnut. Poppies should be picked just as their buds are bursting open; peonies the instant their petals begin unfurling. But chrysanthemums-which last the longest of all cut flowers except orchids-can be cut when the flowers are fully open.
How to condition.
All flowers live longer if they are left to stand in a bucketful of water for several hours before being arranged. Put the bucket some where cool and dark-or at least away from the glare of the sun.
Again, the water should have the chill off, and chrysanthemums and carnations prefer warm water; peonies dahlias, stocks and some foliage enjoy a long drink of fairly hot water. But first make sure they can absorb the moisture.
Flowering shrubs like rhododendrons, mock-orange (Philadelphia) roses and lilac, and woody-stemmed blooms like wallflowers, should have the last 2 cm (1in) of their stem crushed. You could lay the stems on a wooden pastry board and crush them with a wooden rolling pin, using a series of small taps rather than one shattering blow, or if you have only got scissors to hand, you could snip a couple of slits up the stems.
Bulb flowers like hyacinths, daffodils, narcissi and tulips should be re-cut under water once you get indoors, to prevent the possibility of an airlock forming. Cut at an angle in the usual way, making sure to cut back to where the stem is all green, because the white end of the stem is unable to absorb moisture. Some people re-cut all their flowers under water but this is really a counsel of perfection.
Lupines, foxgloves and delphiniums-those tall spires that look so triumphant in the garden-often give disappointing results in the house drooping after only a couple of days. One simple way of making them last up to a couple of weeks is to is to cut the stems straight rather than at an angle, hold the spires upside down and using a houseplant watering can (which has a long, narrow spout.) fill the stems right up with water. Then plug the end with a dampened twist of cotton wool.
Some flowers bleed after they have been cut and have to be sealed to keep in their sap. These include poppies, dahlias, tulips, Christmas roses and all members of the spurge family. To seal pat the stem-ends dry with a tissue and hold them over-a lighted match for a second or two. Don't be alarmed by the horrid sizzling noise-it's a case of being cruel to be kind. If you find you need different lengths when you come to arrange the flowers, re-cut the stems and seal them again.
If you wish to make your tulips stay upright instead of swooping at different angles wrap the stems up to the base of the flowers in a chimney of stiff non-absorbent paper during their first long drink in deep water. They also benefit from a pin-prick through the top of the stem. just below the base of the flower.
Incredible as it may seem, some flowers really benefit from being stood in a little boiling water for a few minutes. These include campanula, Christmas roses camp ion, primal and columbine. Place the angle-cut stems in about one inch of boiling water, wrapping newspaper around the rim of the container to prevent steam reaching the actual flowers. This method can often revive any wilting flowers or blossoms-and once they have wilted you have nothing to lose by trying it.