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keeping fresh flowers fresh

First Cut Fables
The first step to fresh-looking flowers is stripping all leaves from stems that will be below the water line. Submerged foliage encourages bacteria growth in the container water. Remove at least 1 inch from the bottom of any flower stems that have been exposed to air. Legends abound as to the best way to cut, slice, or crush stems before placing them in water. Cutting stems at a 45-degree angle really does help most flowers absorb water. Some woody stemmed flowers benefit from slicing their stems, but you can’t go wrong with a diagonal cut. Use garden shears or a sharp knife to cut stems. Common household scissors can crush the vascular systems of the flower stem, inhibiting water uptake. As soon as you make the cut, plunge flowers into a vase or container filled with lukewarm water.

Vase Water Demystified
Aspirin, vitamin pills, vinegar, and pennies are just a few of the more common folklore additives used unsuccessfully to preserve flowers. What works are ingredients that prohibit bacteria, feed the flower, and encourage water uptake. Commercial flower preservatives contain a blend of these ingredients that can extend the life of cut blooms by days. The Brooklyn Botanical Garden recommends a homemade mixture that works as well as the commercial variety. Mix 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 teaspoon bleach, and 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice in a quart of warm water. Warm water is important because it’s more easily absorbed. However, cold weather blooms, such as tulips, thrive in cold vase water.

Keep Petals at their Peak
All living things wilt a bit with age, but there are steps for maintaining cut flowers in their prime.

• Keep fresh flower arrangements away from heat, direct sunlight, and ripening fruit.

• Check the water level in the vase every day.

• Recut the stems of limp blooms and discard any that do not recover.

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