Floral school flowers and foliage

Take the bucket of water into the garden with you. Use a sharp pair of cutters and cut the flower stems on an angle - a slanted cut allows a better intake of water. Remove all foliage from the lower portion of the stems that will stand under the water line. Place the flowers immediately in the water.

Never overcrowd flowers. Allow enough air to circulate between each flower head. Too many flowers crowded together in a bucket may cause the petals to become squashed and bruised. Place the bucket in a cool dark place and allow the flowers to have a long drink before being arranged. When picking short-stemmed flowers, use a smaller container.

Conditioning Flowers and Foliage
Allow flowers to have a good drink for four to five hours, preferably overnight before arranging. This step is called conditioning. It allows the stems to fill up with water and the flowers will become crisp. These flowers will last twice as long as those that have not been conditioned properly.

Bought Flowers
Bought flowers should be placed in warm water as soon as possible. Remove the wrapping paper, as paper can bruise the flowers and cellophane can cause them to sweat.
When cut flowers have been left out of water for any length of time, cells start to form over the cut ends of the stems, which will prevent the stems taking up water readily. To remove this sealed portion, snip off about 2.5cm (1") from the stem ends and then place them in water, preferably with preservative added and allow the flowers to have a long drink before arranging.

You may be given flowers when you are away from home. It may well be several hours before you are able to place them in water. The best way to keep flowers fresh is to place them in a strong plastic bag with some water in the bottom. Secure the bag with a rubber band.  Another method is to wrap flowers in damp newspaper. If travelling by car, place the flowers in the coolest spot. As soon as you get home, recut the ends of the stems, place them in water and allow them to condition for several hours before arranging.

A flower preservative helps destroy bacteria in the water. Flower preservatives such as "Flourish" are available in garden centres or supermarkets. Another alternative is to use a capful of household disinfectant bleach in the water. If a preservative is not used, the water needs to be changed and the stems cut on an angle daily. If a preservative is used, the stems do not require recutting and water needs changing only about twice a week. Flowers like freesias, spray carnations and liliums have lots of buds. By using a preservative in the water, it helps develop the buds so they will open more readily.

Special Treatment
Special treatment should be given to certain flowers to give them the longest life possible. Flowers with woody stems do not take up water readily. Woody-stemmed flowers include lilac, hydrangea, and rhododendrons. To help break down the thick fibres, you can split the ends of the stems upwards for about 5 cm. (2"). After this treatment, place the stems in a container filled with warm water with preservative added and give the flowers a long drink before arranging them.
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