If you’re lucky enough to get a gorgeous bunch of flowers, just remember your beautiful blooms come with responsibility. To keep them looking primed and petalicious for as long as possible we’ve asked Julie Davies – creator of the FLOWERSTART online arranging course – for her very best advice on how to make your flowers last.
What should you do as soon as you receive your bouquet?
First of all you’ll need to find yourself a vase – is it clean? A quick rinse out with some hot soapy water should do the trick. Was a sachet of flower food included with your bouquet? If so, read the instructions (they’ll be in tiny print – so grab your glasses) – you’ll either need to add your flower food to half, or a full litre of water.
Once you’ve filled your vase unwrap your flowers, undo (or cut away) the ribbon and take off any layers of cellophane and tissue paper. You’ll need to re-cut your flower stems – you can do this with a sturdy pair of kitchen scissors. Cut the ends at a slant – so your flowers look like they’re standing up on tiptoe in your vase.
Depending on the height of your vase and the length of the flowers in your bouquet you may need to chop quite a bit off the end of your flowers – you’re aiming to get your flowers nestling neatly into the mouth of your vase.
Does it really matter if you use the flower food?
Flower food has bee scientifically developed to provide the right balance of nutrients and antibacterial agents for your vase of water; if you’ve got it I’d use it. However, if a sachet of flower food wasn’t included with your flowers don’t worry – just make sure your vase is really clean.
You could add a drop of bleach (do take care) to the water to keep it free of gunk. Personally, I don’t do any more than that – but you might like to try out those old wive’s tales of adding a penny, aspirin or lemonade to your water.
Do different flowers require different treatment?
The short answer is yes. However, if your bouquet has come from a reputable florist they’ll have gone through the correct process for ‘conditioning‘ your flowers. The key is to re-cut your stems – and as the days pass, make sure your vase is kept topped up with water. Without ample water your flowers won’t last!
How can I keep my roses looking gorgeous?
If you’re lucky enough to be given a bouquet of roses check and see whether the guard petals have been removed. These are the small, slightly crinkled petals that protect the rose bud as it develops, and might be a different colour to the rest of the petals on your rose. If you carefully pinch them off (between your thumb and forefinger) it’ll allow your rose to relax a little and fully open.
Place your bouquet where be able to see it and enjoy it. This is probably going to be your living room, however, this is probably also the warmest room in your house – which can dry out your flowers and reduce their vase life. Try not to display your flowers in direct sunlight, next to a hot radiator or a draughty window.
Don’t be afraid to try out various spots around your home and find your flowers’ ‘happy place’ – then you’ll know where to display your flowers next time you’re given a bouquet
Any tricks to reviving wilted flowers?
The secret to longer lasting flowers is to keep them cool and make sure they’ve got a supply of fresh, clean water. Remove your flowers every two or three days, clean out the vase and add fresh water. While you’re at it, take this opportunity to look through your bouquet and pinch off and leaves and flowers that look like they’re starting to die.
If your roses are starting to nod over your can revive them by re-cutting their stems and plunging the cut end into a cup of boiling water for a few seconds, before putting your rose back into your vase: this squeezes the air bubbles out of your rose stem so it can starting taking up water properly again.
If you’re gifted a spring bouquet of tulips you’ll find the flowers will twist towards the light and keep growing! One way to address this is to tame your tulips by cutting them back down to size when you notice them starting to do their own thing. To get your tulips to stand upright wrap them tightly in newspaper and leave them sit in a vase of water overnight.
Do you have any simple tips for flower arranging?
My top tip for arranging flowers it to re-cut your flower stems and make sure your vase has always got water in it. Have fun and try out lots of different combination of flowers and vases to see what you like best.
It’s a great idea to fill out your bouquet with greenery from your own garden – not only will your flowers look unique but you’ll give them volume and added ‘oomph’. You know your garden best – you can pretty much add anything to supplement your flowers; just make sure you strip of any leaves that sit in the water in your vase or they’ll start to rot, turn your water smelly and shorten the life of the flowers.
I love using bushy stems of berried ivy, silver birch twigs and eucalyptus – which is really fast growing and needs to be ‘cropped’ to be kept from growing too tall. You’ll also learn LOADS of professional tips and tricks on my online flower arranging course, FLOWERSTART.
Any tips for drying roses for people who want to preserve their bouquets?
It’s lovely to be able to have a keepsake from your bouquet, and drying your roses is a great way of doing this. You have two options here :
Take out the roses from your vase, tie them together and hang them upside down to dry. The downside of this is that it depletes your bouquet and you don’t get to enjoy the fresh flowers for as long. Or, you can deliberately forget to add water to your vase and allow your roses to dry out in your warm living room. The downside of this is that you’ll end up with a vase of dead flowers…
In all seriousness you’ll find that over time the look of your bouquet evolves as you pinch off the leaves and remove stems that past their prime. After 4 or 5 days I usually deconstruct my bouquet and make up small bud vases of flowers – at this stage you could remove your roses and dry them.
Do bear in mind that they won’t look exactly like commercially-dried flowers – which are dried when in peak condition – but they do make a lovely keepsake, especially when added to pot pourri. Keep your rose heads whole, or allow them to shatter and add the individual petals to your mix.
• read about how we made lavender pouches for teachers’ gifts
Find out more about Julie and her flower arranging courses: