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Preserving cut flowers

Brighten up any room with cut flowers from your own garden.

Fresh flowers have the power to lift our spirits. Even a tiny vase of pansies can dress up a windowsill. To get the most life out of our cut flowers, it's important to cut them at the right time and treat them with care.

Here are some tips for prolonging the life of your flowers.

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– Cut flowers. Cut garden flowers in the morning before the dew has dried, or in the early evening. With flower scissors or sharp pruners, snip above a node or dormant bud to spur new blooms on the plants, making the stems as long as you like. Cutting the stems shorter will allow faster growth of new buds.

– Put stems in a pail of lukewarm water as you cut them.

Certain types of flowers (including celosia, sunflower, and poppy) benefit from scalding the stem ends in boiling water for 20 seconds or over a candle flame to stop nutrient-rich sap from oozing.

When purchasing cut flowers, get them home into water as soon as possible. Ask the florist for water reservoirs for the stems if you can't get home quickly.

– Recut stems. Before you place flowers into water at home, recut stems on a slant to aid water absorption. Ideally, stems should be cut under water to prevent air bubbles from blocking the update of water, and then inserted directly into water. This is especially helpful with roses. To prevent decay, remove all leaves below the water line.

– Condition flowers. Set flowers in lukewarm water in a cool, dark place for several hours to condition them before arranging.

– Arrange flowers. Arrange flowers in a vase of warm (110∞ F) water. To prolong the blooms, keep the vase out of direct sunlight in a well-ventilated, cool location. Even moving the vase into a cool spot only at night will help. Don't place flowers near the fruit bowl because fruits produce ethylene gas that can speed aging of the flowers.

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– Add water. Freshly cut flowers have enough stored sugars to survive for a few days in a vase, but floral preservatives can help them last longer. You can make your own using equal parts 7-Up and water, with 1/2 teaspoon household bleach added. The sugar provides energy, and the bleach inhibits bacterial growth.

– Change water. Change vase water every couple of days. In mixed bouquets, some flowers, such as daffodils, may exude sap that shortens the vase life of other flowers, so refreshing the water frequently is important. Or better yet, keep these flowers in a vase by themselves.

– A former floral designer and interior plantscaper, Kathie Bond-Borie has spent 20 years as a garden writer/editor, including her current role as horticultural editor for the National Gardening Association.

– Courtesy of Family Features

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