A cut above the rest
Kiran Narain

To make cut flowers last longer, pick them from your garden in the morning or evening
To make cut flowers last longer, pick them from your garden in the morning or evening

The use of cut flowers has increased in the last couple of decades as everyone seems to be "saying it with flowers", be it for a birthday, wedding anniversary or any other occasion.

Flowers come with a big price tag and it hurts when they soon wilt. Here are a few tips for enjoying them for a longer period:

If from your own garden, cut them either in the morning or in the evening but never during the day. Use a sharp knife or securers and cut the stalk at a slant so that it has more surface area to absorb water. Most flowers should be cut when they are still half-open.

A cut flower takes in water only from the cut end, whereas it gives off moisture from its entire surface. So, remove the surplus leaves, including those on that portion of the stem which is going to be submerged. Now keep the flowers in a deep vessel with water and let the flowers drink in the water for an hour or more before arranging them in the vases.

Wide mouthed and broad-based vases are much better than the tall and narrow ones, as the former hold more water and are easier to clean. To keep bacterial activity in the water at a minimum, all the foliage that goes under the water should be removed.

Mizukiri or cutting a small portion of the stem under water will help them last longer, as this is the simplest way to avoid air blockade in the lower stem. It is most effective with lilies, gladioli, daffodils and other flowers with soft juicy stems and also for most of the branches.

For hard stems like blossoms, roses and chrysanthemums, a simple and effective treatment is either to scrape their bottom or their stem at least up to two inches, or crush the clipped ends. You can also split them vertically into four parts with a sharp knife. This also increases the stemís water intake.

The boiling water method is also particularly effective for flowers like roses chrysanthemums, daisies, hydrangeas and dahlias. After the stems have been cut, immerse them in about two inches of boiling water for about five minutes. The boiling water forces the air in the stem to expand and escape. The submerged portions of the stems tend to lose colour. After they are immersed in the cold water, they start absorbing the fresh water and become sturdy again. Its success however lies in how quickly you transfer them from hot water to cold water.

There is also the burning method, by which about one inch of the stem is held over the hottest part of the flame till it glows red. The flowers that can stand these two treatments are poinsettias, clematis, poppies, maiden hair fern and firm woody stems. For protecting flowers form heat during the boiling and burning methods, take care to wrap the upper portion of the plant in a wet cloth or old newspaper.

To avoid rearranging flowers every time, change the water with the help of a large syringe or pichhkari. Marigolds and poppies, however, react better to snipping off of small portions of their stems rather than to the change of water.

For pansies, violets, gladioli, narcissi, peonies, daffodils, chrysanthemums and carnations etc., about three inches of water will suffice, whereas for roses, tulips, lilacs and snowballs more water is better.

Donít put a flower arrangement in a draught or in full sunshine. Spring flowers particularly love cool conditions, but all flowers generally love fresh air. Avoid keeping them near smoke or gas or directly under a fan.