The holiday of love is just around the corner, and the most popular presents are bouquets of tulips, roses, and other cut flowers. Throw in a bottle of Champagne or a lovely dinner, and the evening will be yours. Remember, too, that both women and men appreciate a beautiful bouquet!
To give the perfect Valentine’s Day bouquet, select the freshest flowers, protect them from the cold when transporting, and provide proper care.
Whether you purchase your flowers from a florist, winter farmer’s market, garden center or grocery store, look for bouquets with lots of buds that are just starting to open. These will continue to open over time extending the beauty of the bouquet.
Avoid flowers that are fully opened or with loose pollen. This indicates they are past their prime.
Tall varieties of lisianthus (Eustoma spp.) can sometimes be purchased at florists or bucket shops, or you can grow them in the garden. Look for seeds from online retailers.
Flowers from shops
Make sure to wrap the purchase before leaving the store. A plastic or paper wrapper will protect the flowers from cold weather.
Once home, remove any of the foliage on the bottom of the stems. Submerged greenery decays and rots, releasing fungi and bacteria in the water. This plugs the vascular system of the cut flowers, preventing them from absorbing needed water.
Remove the bottom inch or two of the stem just prior to placing in the water. Cut the stems at a 45-degree angle with a sharp knife. Cutting on an angle prevents the stems from sitting flat on the bottom of the vase, providing maximum exposure of the water absorbing vessels.
Place freshly cut flowers in a clean vase with warm, about 100 F, water that contains floral preservative. The warm water speeds the uptake of water by the flowers while the floral preservative feeds the flowers and prevents fungi and bacteria from forming.
Keep the vase filled with the preservative and water mix. Recut stems every few days to keep the flowers fresh. Remove faded flowers and rearrange the remaining blossoms to maximize enjoyment.
Further extend the life of Valentine bouquets by displaying them in a cool location away from direct sunlight, hot spots, and drafts inside the home.
Make a fresh cut on the stems of roses before arranging them in a vase.
Roses, especially red, are a favorite Valentine’s flower. There is nothing more disappointing than when the stem just below the blossom bends, ruining the bouquet. Fortunately there is an easy cure. Remove the roses from their vase. Recut the stems and submerge the whole rose – stem, leaves, flowers, and all – in a sink or tub of warm water. Leave the roses submerged for 20 to 60 minutes until they revive.
In the meantime clean and refill the vase with fresh water and floral preservative. Recut the stems on a slant, under water if possible and arrange the roses back in the vase. The now perky roses will last for a week or more.
Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) are easy to grow and are appreciated in the garden by bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. We humans enjoy them as cut flowers indoors.
Grow your own annuals
Don’t limit cut flowers to special holidays. Consider growing a few of your own to enjoy fresh throughout the growing season and in dried arrangements year-round.
Select a variety of annuals and perennials that bloom at different times. The choices are many and you may be surprised to find you already have many candidates already growing in your landscape. Here are just a few to consider.
Annuals are an easy group of flowers to start with. They bloom all season long providing an ongoing source of flowers to enjoy. Zinnias are heat and drought tolerant and look great in the garden or vase. Select disease resistant ones for maximum beauty and minimal care.
Grow a few dwarf sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) from seed for late summer and fall bouquets. Consider pollen-free varieties, such as ‘Chocolate Cheery’, ‘Pro-Cut’, and ‘Sunrich’, which are less messy and last longer as cut flowers.
Include cockscomb (Celosia spp.) varieties with crested, plumed, or wheat-type flowers. They are heat and drought tolerant. Just be sure to rinse away any insects that may be hiding in the blossoms before moving them indoors.
Increase the wow factor in bouquets with lisianthus (Eustoma spp.) also known as prairie gentian. It may be hard to find in the garden center but are commonplace in the florist’s cooler. The delicate flowers are one of the longest lasting cuts you can grow in the garden. Grow in full sun with consistently moist soil. Taller varieties will need staking in the garden but the extra work will be rewarded with beautiful bouquets. Look for seeds for tall varieties at online retailers.
There’s nothing quite as fragrant as a bouquet of fresh-cut peonies (Paeonia spp.). Many florists will have these in season, or grow your own for years of pleasure.
Grow your own perennials
Add a few perennials to the list. Include spring, summer, and fall bloomers for months of enjoyment. Peonies (Paeonia spp.) have long been grown for their spring blossoms in the garden and for the flower vase. Many varieties are fragrant, adding to their appeal. Grow these long-lived plants in a sunny location with moist, well-drained soil.
Irises come in a rainbow of colors and make great additions to spring bouquets. Purchase plants in spring or rhizomes in late summer. Follow planting directions on the tag for best results.
Harvest a few roses (Rosa spp.) to display in a vase or combine with annual or perennial flowers. Harvest a few of the rose hips for winter arrangements and displays.
Plant a few coneflowers (Echinacea spp.) for the bees and butterflies to enjoy and to use as cut flowers. And once the petals fade the remaining seed head, cone, looks great in dried arrangements.
Liatris, also known as gayfeather, is a popular perennial with florists and gardeners. The spikes of white or purple flowers are long lasting. Use these for a bit of vertical interest in the garden and arrangements.
Grow a few hardy mums (Chrysanthemum spp.) for fall bouquets. This last splash of color makes the perfect fall bouquet. Select from the many flower sizes, shapes and colors for the season finale.
And don’t overlook bulbs and herbs. The early blossoms of spring flowering bulbs provide a bit of winter relief. The fragrant flowers and foliage of herbs make them nice fillers in bouquets. And harvest a few evergreen sprigs, hosta leaves and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla spp.) for greenery. Force a few flowering shrub branches to add form and color to your spring bouquets.
Flowers from the garden
Extend the beauty of cut flowers from the garden with proper harvesting and conditioning. Harvest the flowers early in the morning when the plants are crisp and full of water. Use sharp shears to make the cut.
Collect flowers with buds that are just starting to open. When back in the house remove the bottom leaves, cut the stem and place in warm water for several hours or better yet overnight. Recut the stems before creating the arrangement.
Bottom line, if it is blooming in the garden it is worth trying a in a vase. You just might be surprised.
A version of this article appeared in a January/February 2017 print edition of State-by-State Gardening.
Photography courtesy of Pixabay.com, assy/Pixabay.com, Nile/Pixabay.com, Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, elm98/canstockphoto.com.