Making the Most of Valentine’s Flowers

img_5514If you should receive some lovely flowers for Valentine’s Day here are some tips on how to show them off to their best, and how to ensure they last.

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Hand-ties and Aquapacks

handtie-vaseA hand-tie simply means the florist has arranged the flowers in their hand, spiralling and angling the stems to create the rounded design you see above.  To show off this type of design to its best choose a vase which is wider enough for the stems to remain angled – the more squashed the stems the more the flowers will push together at the top.  I find a fishbowl vase works well, or you can buy a specific hand-tie vase like this.  If your flowers arrive not in water, remember to recut the stems before placing in the vase of water.

Some hand-ties come in an aquapack – which is a cellophane wrapping that holds a ball of water around the stems.  This has the advantage of keeping the flowers constantly in water, with no immediate rush to get the stems into water.  This is how my flowers were packaged.

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It is possible, but not ideal to keep the flowers in the aquapack – but remember to top up the water level by holding the bouquet over a sink and slowly pour water into the centre of the flowers.  It is better if you can to remove the aquapack and put the flowers in a vase.

To remove the aquapack hold the flowers over a sink and pierce the ball of water – let the water drain away.  Remove the outer cellophane packaging, but do not cut through the twine underneath that binds the actual flowers. You will only need to recut the stems if they are too long for your vase.

All Roses

img_5517Whether you receive a bouquet like those above or a single rose, the general care advice is the same.

  • Recut the stems using sharp scissors/secateurs ideally on an angle
  • Remove any lower leaves
  • Use rose flower food if possible – diluted in lukewarm water
  • Find a clean vase that suits the shape of the flower arrangement
  • Keep away from direct heat and sunlight, drafts and fruit
  • Keep the water level topped up
  • Enjoy their rich, velvety beauty

 

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Simple Quick Gerberas

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This week I wanted to create a quick versatile design using Gerberas.  I bought my flowers at Springtime Nurseries, Crews Hill near Enfield, North London.  This garden centre has a refrigerated room full of quality and affordable flowers and foliage as well as some floristry equipment and accessories. It is worth a visit if you want to find something different or if you need to buy a bigger quantity for an event or party, and unlike the wholesalers it is open to the public.

Springtime Nurseries

I wanted to create a natural prairie look so added some grass from the garden to add movement.  You could alternatively add some dried accessories, in this photo I have used the bizarrely named “ting ting”, which comes in numerous colours – you can sometimes find it or similar dried accessories in Wilkinson’s or other household shops.

img_5409You can display these vases in numerous ways, in a line down the centre of a table, on a windowsill, mantlepiece or clustered together in a group.

How to Create

Find a group of vases, bottles or other containers and make sure they are clean – Gerbera are sensitive to bacteria more on this below.

Cut at various heights on the diagonal each Gerbera stem, cutting some just above the rim of the vase. I put 2 in each vase but there aren’t any rules. Cut your grasses or dried accessory, add to the vases.  Dilute flower food and add to each vase, not too deep.  Arrange the vases to suit your home or occasion.

Gerberas – how to look after them

gerberaThese daisy like flowers come in a wide range of vibrant colours, also available as Germini – mini Gerberas.  They do have a tendancy to wilt with a “bent neck”- to avoid this,

Look at the stems not just the flowers when you are buying them, check they look strong and undamaged.

Make sure your vases are clean, after using vases wash with warm water and very diluted bleach.  Keep your scissors clean, put them in the dishwasher occasionally.

Use flower food if possible, it contains anti-bacterial agents.  Don’t make the water too deep, but keep the level topped up.

As with all flowers they will last longer if kept out of direct sunlight, in a cool room away from fruit (which release ethylene which speeds decay)

Wiring Gerberas

If you buy your flowers from a florist they may offer to wire the Gerberas for you.  This is to support and strengthen the stem to help prevent the “bent neck” problem Gerberas are prone to.  I would say this is worthwhile if you want to display the flowers with long stems or use them in a floral arrangement which needs precise placement of the flowers, but outside of this should not be necessary for a more casual design.

Blooms Inside the Vase

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As Gladioli are still cheap and easily available I bought them again this week, but wanted to do something different with them.  Instead of arranging them so the focus is above the top of the vase, I made the vase itself part of the design, by having some of the blooms inside the vase with extra interest of mini shells and pebbles.  By arranging flowers inside a vase – the vase acts as a magnifying glass forcing your eye to focus on the individual blooms.  I chose soft colours of peach and green that would suit the colours of my pebbles and shells but of course you could make this more dramatic with strong purple and red gladioli and darker pebbles.  Any stones, gravels, glass can be used in the vase, but make sure they are clean.  I loved the feel of looking into a cool pool on a hot summers day.

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How to create

I chose a vase that would be wide enough for my gladioli, leaving space for the flowers to open.  I started with a layer of pebbles in the bottoms of the vase.  I cut the gladioli a couple of inches below the bottom flower and pushed each stem into the pebbles, turning each stem so the bottom blooms could be seen through the glass.  The stems maybe still fall over a bit at this stage, but don’t worry.  Once all your flowers are in add more pebbles or in my case the shells.  If some stems needed more support, I dropped in more pebbles around their base while holding them upright.  I then mixed the flower food with a litre of water and poured into just below the bottom blooms.

Recycling and extending the life of your flowers

 

IMG_5389I like to get the most of my flowers, in a mixed vase you may find that some blooms last longer than others – rather than throw everything away look at what can be reused.  I was able to reuse the Carthamus from last weeks “Sunshine vase”, so just bought a bunch of Gladioli in the same orange to replace the Sunflowers.  I chose a narrower tapered vase to hold the stems in a fairly upright position.  The orange flowers would also look good contrasted with the dark purple or maroon Gladioli that are also easy to find and very inexpensive.  Of course as the gladioli flowers open there will be even more colour in the design to look forward to.
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One of the Sunflower heads from last week also was cut down and re-displayed in a chunky glass cube.

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How to Create

Look through your flowers from last week, most of my Sunflowers were losing their petals so had to go in the recycling, but I saved one Sunflower and all the Carthamus.  Some of the Carthamus blooms were shriveled so I cut these off and removed any dried up leaves.  I cut the Carthamus slightly shorter so the lowest flower was just above the top of the vase, then filled the vase with these.  Holding up the Gladioli to the vase to judge the height I needed, I cut the ends on the diagonal, get rid of any loose lower leaves.  Using the Carthamus as a support I was able to thread through the Gladioli stems where I wanted them, the natural curve looking best pointing outwards.  I diluted the flower food (I needed a litre for this vase) and added to the vase.

Notes on Gladioli

Gladiolus should last for 6-10 days in a vase.  When buying Gladiolus check that some of the lower buds show some of the colour, otherwise the flowers may not ever open. Gladiolus will grow towards the light so from time to time turn your vase.  Check the water level regularly as Gladioli need plenty of water.

Sunshine vase

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Sunflowers the ultimate sunshine flower mixed with Carthamus in a chunky glass vase finished with raffia.  I found the Carthamus on a market stall, but if you can’t find them you could use alstromeria, asters, solidago, chrysanthemum.  I have chosen a yellow/orange colour scheme, but sunflowers also look great with deep red-violet flowers, these repeat the reddish brown centres.

How to create

As sunflowers are quite a heavy thick stemmed flower I chose a solid chunky vase, you could use a pottery jug instead or for a dramatic look a dark ceramic vase.  Remove any lower leaves on the sunflowers and carthamus.  I then loosely arranged the flowers in my hand, distributing the flowers fairly evenly in a circle. Make sure the heads of the flowers are fairly level and no stems have slipped down inside, then cut the stems.  The sunflowers will need secateurs or a sharp knife rather than scissors.  Put the flowers in the vase then add diluted flower food.  Sunflowers are super thirsty flower and this is a big vase, so I added 2 litres.  Turn any flowers heads and tweek until you are happy.  I added a rustic element by wrapping some raffia around the vase.

You may need to refresh the water after 3 days.

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Introducing Flowerclippings

Each week I will add a simple flower design I have made for my home with tips on how to create for yourself and look after the flowers I have chosen.  The flowers will usually be from a supermarket or local market so should be easy to buy and affordable.  I try to use seasonal flowers or at least reflect the seasons in the design.  If I use something more unusual or from my garden, I will offer alternatives.

Vibrant Summer

IMG_5373This week, Summer finally arrived in the U.K. so I was inspired to buy some vibrant orange LA lilies,  I wanted to add some movement and height to the design so picked some ornamental grass from my garden.  If you can’t find this you could buy some grasses or palms from a florist, or add some dried accessories, anything to create height.  This design looks great on a kitchen island but could also go on the table – anywhere with some space around it.

How to create

I used a tapered square sided vase 30cm high, but you could use a column vase instead. Make sure your vase is clean.  I added some stones in the bottom of the vase this helps hold the stems in position and makes the vase more stable.  Just put a few in the bottom at first.  Remove all the lower leaves on the lily stems – any leaves below the water line create bacteria and reduces how long your flowers will last.  Recut each stem on the diagonal before placing it in the vase.

As my design was going to be mainly viewed from the front, I started with the stem with the least open flowers, this I placed centrally towards the back of the design.  I then added the other stems at staggered heights finishing with an open flower facing me.  (If your vase is also going to be viewed from the back, make sure some of the blooms face out this way too.)  I then added some more stones around the stems.  Again I removed any lower leaves on the grass and placed these around the lilies pushing into the stones.  I diluted the flower food that came with the flowers and poured into the vase.

IMG_5377A little extra…as one of the flower heads had bent over I cut it off and put in a small open vase with some the grass twisted around it. A nice neat centrepiece for the table or maybe a desk.  You can enjoy watching the bloom open up.

LA Lilies

These lilies are a hybrid of longiflorum lilies and  asiatic lilies, they don’t have any fragrance which some people find overpowering in other lilies and have big open flowers. You still need to be careful of the pollen marking fabric – although it adds a lovely contrasting reddish brown if left on the flower – it is best to remove the pollen just as each flower opens.  Just pick it off, if the pollen has gone powdery protect your fingers with a tissue to avoid staining.

Remember lilies are toxic if eaten by cats.