How to pick, prepare and arrange flowers

Which flower to pick

Never pick flowers which are in full bloom. Their petals will soon fall. The best ones to choose are those which are half open or just beginning to open.

When to pick

The best times to pick garden flowers are early morning or early evening, but never in the heat of the day. This is because at these times transpiration (plant language for sweating, when the excess water drawn from the soil is evaporated through the plant leaves) is lowest.

How to pick flowers for cutting and drying

Do not gather flowers without the aid of a good pair of secateurs or sharp flower scissors. Some stems are very tough and you can do a lot of damage pulling and tearing. Rough treatment gives the plant a severe shock, and may even partially uproot it.

Always cut the stems at an angle, so that they present the widest possible area to water. One of the few exceptions to this rule is the Lupin, which should be cut straight across.

If you are going to cut enough flowers to fill several different jugs and vases, it is a good idea to have a bucket of water in a shady place and put the flowers into this as they are picked. Many flowers, naturally enough, dislike being carried all around the garden and increasingly smothered by others. All flowers and plants prefer rain water but if you do not possess a water butt, tap water which has been allowed to stand outside for a few hours to reach ‘garden’ temperature is nearly as good. At all costs avoid giving warm growing things an unpleasant shock by plunging them into icy cold water. In autumn or winter it may, therefore, be necessary to warm the water slightly.

Always leave freshly picked (or bought) flowers standing in deep water in a cool place for a few hours before you arrange them. If you pick them in the evening you can leave them overnight in a bucket to have a good drink. Spring flowers benefit from standing for a few hours right up to their necks in water as this helps to stiffen their stems. Leaves and greenery, apart from those which have woolly leaves – for example, Stachys Lanata (Lamb’s Ear) – like being totally submerged in water for a few hours before being arranged. Gerbera (Transvaal Daisy) and Tulips have a will of their own and tend to twist around or droop when arranged. Before giving them a long drink wrap their stems up to the heads in news-paper. This should stiffen the stems and encourage them to take up a fixed position. (There is no need to wrap each flower separately, but do not put more than six into one bunch.)

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