I am sure that I am considered by churches and wedding flower arrangers to be a ‘conditioning’ bore because I am always, as my children say, ‘nagging on’ about it: but I must stress that it is useless taking time and thought in arranging beautiful vases of wedding flowers if the material is not properly conditioned, for it will not last and heartache and irritation will be caused to all concerned. It really is important to allow enough time for the conditioning process.

There follows a list of flowers suitable for wedding flower displays and of foliage of trees and shrubs which I find most useful in church flower arranging and some of which needs to be specially conditioned or preserved. If it is to last, material should have stems cut or hammered as the case may be and be given a long drink of water before being arranged. I have not in the following list referred to these steps in the conditioning process: I assume that they will always be taken. In this list I have generally followed my usual practice of giving the botanical name with the popular name, if there is one, in brackets: trees and some plants, on the other hand, will be much better known to the reader by their common names, so I have given these alone. Many lesser known flowers are omitted: the list is intended as a guide to only the more usual material. Give long warm drink.

If picked in January and put into warm water in a warm atmosphere the catkins will develop.

Anemone: These make for beautiful wedding flower displays. Give very long warm drink. If necks become limp, cut stems a second time and give another long drink in cold water.

Angelica: Boiling water treatment: dien long drink in cold water.

Antirrhinum (snapdragon): the forced variety needs boiling water treatment and long drink. If dead flowers are removed, new ones will open. If it is desired to give them a shiny appearance and to make them last longer, float them for 24 hours in a weak solution of starch.

Azalea: give long warm drink.

Beech: give long warm drink.

Berries: give long warm drink. Boiling water treatment: then long drink. To stop splitting, spray with hair lacquer.

Calendula (marigold).

Camellia: the foliage is wonderfully long lasting: I have had it over three weeks. Put in warm water. Care should be taken not to touch the flowers as they bruise easily. Remove any dead heads as they appear.

Chamaenerion augustifolium (willow herb: epilobium in USA): the flower does not last well but is helped by being put into boiling water. When going to seed and slighdy fluffy, it is an excellent addition to autumn arrangements, but do not cut when too fluffy as the fluff spreads everywhere.

Cheiranthus (wallflower): give long warm drink. Try to arrange in deepish water.

Cherry: give warm drink for at least six hours, preferably longer. Boiling water treatment: then long drink. Strip off some of the leaves.

Convallaria majalis (lily of the valley): the outdoor varieties do generally reasonably well. The cloche and forced varieties do not last at all well. Give long warm drink. Boiling water treatment: then submerge in a bath of cold water for several hours.

Cytisus (broom): foliage on its own lasts well and needs no special treatment. When in flower, the ends should be put in very hot water.

Daffodil: see narcissus.

Dahlia: put ends of stems in boiling water: then give long drink.

Delphinium: put ends of stems in boiling water; or fill ends with water and plug with cotton wool.

Delphinium ajacis (larkspur): give long warm drink. Give long warm drink. give long warm drink.

Digitalis (foxglove): put in warm water for a good six hours.

Endymion nonscriptus (bluebell or wild hyacinth: not in USA): remove white ends. Use massed in deep water. Some will last well, but most of them for only a few days and some for only a few hours. (This is not the same as campanula rotundifolia, the harebell or Scottish bluebell).

Eorsythia: put in warm water for several hours. To force blossoms, put sprays in warm water in the kitchen or airing cupboard. Depending upon the amount of heat, the flowers take about a month or more to open.

Gerbera (Barberton daisy): boiling water treatment: then long warm drink. If the stems seem limp at the flower head, wrap the stems in paper while the flowers are drinking. The lasting time varies, but sometimes they last well. If you want to hold them back for a special occasion, put them out of water on a stone floor or in a box with a lid. I have known them to open beautifully after a fortnight of this bold treatment. Then cut the ends and give long warm drink. Remove lower foliage. Give long warm drink.

Helleborus: all hellebores need their stems pricked at intervals from The green variety needs boiling water treatment and the flowers need to be in water up to their heads overnight. If they flag after arranging, take them out, cut the ends, and float them for an hour. All hellebores are better arranged in groups in deep water: then they will last reasonably well. If in shallow water, they quickly flag.

Holly: this lasts best if arranged in Oasis. If it has to be cut in advance, leave it on the lawn, but protect it from the birds.

Hydrangea: boiling water treatment. Submerge whole head and stem under water for a few hours. Needs to be sprayed often as it absorbs moisture through the flower heads.

Iris: cut the stems and put in cold water: one of the exceptions to the ‘warm water’ rule.

Pare ends of stems to a tapering point. Make criss-crosses up stem, one way and then the other, and put into cold water.

Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea): arrange in shallow water. g. longiflorum, the Easter lily) are long lasting and excellent for church arrangements. Cut the stems at a slant and give long drink in cold water.

Lonicera (honeysuckle): put in hot water.

Lupinus (lupin): put the ends in boiling water, wrap them in newspaper, and give long warm drink. Keeping them wrapped will help to keep them stiff.

Magnolia grandiflora : pick in bud. Give long drink in very hot water. Leave for several hours.

Maple: young branches should be submerged under water for some hours.

Mattbiola (stock): give long warm drink.

Acacia dealbata (mimosa): Give warm drink and spray twice a day. If buying in large quantities and it is in a cardboard pack, leave it unopened until you are ready to use it. I have kept it for 48 hours in this way. It is now sold treated with a preservative which helps it to last. Cut stems at a slant. Give long drink.

Narcissus: prefers shallow water.

Paeonia (paeony): if for immediate use, hammer ends well and give long warm drink. If you want to hold them back for a special occasion, pick and place on stone floor for three or four days. When wanted, hammer ends and give long warm drink.

Papaver (poppy): Cut when colour is just beginning to show and put ends in boiling water. If the stems are then re-cut, put into boiling water again.

Philadelpbus (mock orange): remove most of the foliage. Put in warm water.

Phlox: put stems in boiling water. Then give long drink in warm water.

Poinsettia-. Better with the roots and some soil left on and tied into polythene bag: otherwise it bleeds. If only used for a short time, it can be re-potted.

Polyanthus (primrose in USA): give long warm drink. They last better if kept massed on shortish stems.

Pyracantha atalantioides

Pyre thrum-, give long warm drink.

Rhododendron: give long warm drink. If it seems to be wilting at all, put the stems in boiling water and then give them long drink.

Rosa (rose): slice the ends for about half an inch up the stems. Give long warm drink. They are better arranged in fairly deep water. If you have forced flowers out of season and the heads start to droop before they have opened, cut the stems fairly short and give long warm drink. If in hot weather you want to prevent the buds from opening too quckly, wrap them, and place them in water with blocks of ice until required.

Rudbeckia: boiling water treatment: then long drink in warm water.

Senecio greyi.

Symphoricarpos albus laevigatas (snowberry): give long warm drink. If you want the natural foliage, use it separately. Forced: the longer the stems, the less time the flowers last.

Tulipa (tulip): cut off the white ends: Give long warm drink. If you wish to keep some straight, wrap heads in newspaper. In a large mixed vase it is better to let some find their own shape and to have some wrapped before you arrange them. If they are at all limp, they will perk up if sugar is put in the water, about a dessertspoonful to an average vase.

Viburnum opulus (guelder rose: snowball in USA): give long warm drink.

Vinca major elegantissima (periwinkle): boiling water treatment: then long drink. Only suitable for foliage.

Zinnia: put the ends in boiling water. In the case of large-headed varieties a wire can be pushed down the middle of the flower into the stem to prevent the stem bending with the weight of the head. The big flowers do not last particularly well.

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