A GROWING CONCERN: Make your arrangements a cut above

YAY! WARM WEATHER finally is back!

Summertime is almost here on the Olympic Peninsula (Wednesday, June 21, at 11:4 a.m. PDT). For many of us, it is about gorgeous weather, long days, weekend barbecue and beautiful flowers everywhere.

Often, however, the delight of having lovely arrangements from our yard has dissipated by the next day as a container’s water turns cloudy, developing a less than appealing odor and the flowers themselves wilt.

Fear not! A few tricks and fundamental understanding of your freshly-cut flowers can turn those bouquets into a week of gratitude.

Haste makes waste.

A big mistake some gardeners make is thinking that the faster you cut and get the blooms arranged, the longer they will last. Not so.

Flowers and ornamental greens require a period of conditioning if you want them to last for days rather than hours.

Conditioning, a treatment you do to the cut flowers after they are harvested and before they are arranged, isn’t difficult but does very greatly from one flower to another.

For the most part, it involves immersing the cuttings in water for a 12- to 24-hour period, but it also involves other nuances.

Carry water out to the cutting fields and, immediately upon harvest, put them into this first drink tank.

Cut at 45 degree angle.

Always cut your flower stems and greens at a slant, preferably at a 45 degree angle.

This angle cut not only opens up a greater surface area for water absorption, but also keeps the just-picked stems from resting flat on the bottom of the container.

Don’t pack your flowers in too tightly. A loosely placed bunch of flowers can breathe and potential disease problems won’t occur immediately.

Remember the plant when you cut your flowers, too. Don’t cut the flowers or leaf (for greens) at the desired length for the arrangement. Instead, cut it at the best location for the plant to encourage more blooms and tighter compact plants. This is crucial — cutting too short or long can damage the plant severely and lengthen its time to rebloom, or bring a premature death or dormancy.

After you have harvested the blooms and moved on to arranging, you can select the long stems or cut them back to achieve the ideal length.

Be sure your containers, buckets and vases are cleaned well between uses. Use soap and water, and scrub and rinse them out. If containers are dirty, bacteria starts to breed at phenomenal rates and they will quickly plug up the small conducting tubes that transports the water upward.

Keep your knife, scissors and pruners extremely sharp. A nice surgical cut won’t crush the smaller water tubes. And again, water can flow more easily.

Use lukewarm water.

After the flowers are cut, placed loosely in lukewarm water and carried into the house or shed, the conditioning starts.

Take the blooms one at a time and leaf strip them. This involves removing the leaves low on the stem that eventually will be down in the water of the vase or will obscure other flowers in the bouquet.

As a general rule, only the top few leaves are left. This is very crucial, for not only are the lower leaves first in line to suck up the water, but they also are the first to rot away and can cause clogging bacteria and stench.

Your next move is to strip away any plume-type flower such as delphinium, snapdragon, gladiolus, celosia, salvia, lupine, laitris or astible. By completely removing the last few buds on these, you eliminate the curl-over or droop associated with these blooms. This also allows the rest of the buds to fully develop into magnificent flower heads.

Splitting stems.

In the case of woody-stem plants such as ornamental fruit, hydrangeas, wisteria or willows, split the stem up ½ inch with a sharp knife. This helps water rise up the stem.

In the case of milky or very sappy plants, such as milkweed, daylily or peonies, char the ends in a flame immediately upon cutting, again if the stock is trimmed for an arrangement.

After these tests are done, again place the flowers into water — generally cold water this time — and fully up to their necks.

Of course, there are exceptions to these rules, but these few tricks will give you a summertime (and fall) full of lovely flowers and bouquets to be proud of.

And of course … be well all!


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email news@peninsuladailynews.com (subject line: Andrew May).

More in Life

A GROWING CONCERN: As fall starts, think spring

SO SORRY TO have kept you waiting for the list of “must… Continue reading

Counties from across the state send their top exhibitors in the intermediate and senior divisions to compete at the Washington State Fair in Puyallup during September. Pictured are Clallam County’s 4-H members Ava Hairell and Banjo, left, Taylor Maughan with Ru and Katelynn Sharpe with Sophie. (photo by Katie Newton)
HORSEPLAY: The 3 amigos of Neon Riders 4-H compete at state

THE THREE AMIGOS from Neon Riders 4-H club were excited they got… Continue reading

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “From Where Comes Joy?” at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. Schellink is the guest speaker at Unity in the Olympics, 2917 E. Myrtle Ave.
Weekend program scheduled for Unity in the Olympics

The Rev. Larry Schellink will present “From Where Comes… Continue reading

Joseph Bednarik
Bednarik will present ‘Content Warning: Buckle Up!’ at service

Joseph Bednarik will present “Content Warning: Buckle Up!” at… Continue reading

Yom Kippur services slated

The Olympic B’nai Shalom congregation will observe Yom Kippur… Continue reading

Shaye speaking at Unity in Port Townsend

The Rev. Saul Shaye will present “Let Your Light… Continue reading

ISSUES OF FAITH: Days of Awe offer fresh start

AS THE DAYS shorten, and the nights become cooler, we wish we… Continue reading

Matthew Nash/ Olympic Peninsula News Group

Ellen Dryke and Kassie Montero examine salmon eggs while learning about the American Dipper at the 2019 Dungeness River Festival. After a hiatus, the festival returns Friday.
River Fest returns on Friday after hiatus

One-day free event set in and around Railroad Bridge Park

Most Read