Sunday, February 14, 2010

Savvy How To: Floral Design Savings

 Savvy How To:
A Bouquet of Savings

Happy Valentines Day! I truly love this amorous holiday; not because of expensive gifts and baubles, but for the flowers! (Now, lest you think my dear hubby only brings them on holidays or to mend fences - I must say he is as thoughtful as a woman could ask for and brings them often - and he's taken!) I love flowers, and have from my youth. I even helped support myself through college working as a florist. I have done weddings, funerals, dances and bouquets off and on for years. There is nothing like transforming what is already amazingly beautiful in nature to something even more spectacular.

However, one thing's for sure - they can be expensive and you want them to last as long as possible.
One way to cut costs is to buy pre-packaged "cellophane" bouquets from stores like Costco or other retailers and design your own arrangement. But whether they come already in a vase from the florist or as more of a do-it-yourself arrangement project, here are some of my favorite tips for preserving fresh flowers and even arranging them yourself!

Re-cut Flowers: If you have been given flowers that need to be vased, re-cut all stem ends under water before arranging. Cut approximately 1 inch from each stem. Cutting flower stems on a counter etc. can allow air to be sucked in and cause stem blockages (embolism), preventing vital water and food absorption. Immediately transfer flowers to a vase filled with water after cutting. (This should have already been done at the florist for pre-made arrangements.)

Cut Flower Stems: When cutting flower stems for arrangements make sure to cut the ends on an angle. Leaving stems with a "flat" cut can prevent full water absorption and the flowers can die prematurely from dehydration.

Use the Right Tools: A sharp knife - NOT SCISSORS, is the key to a successful cut! Scissors can crush stems and cause significant damage to stem structures, again inhibiting water absorption.
Remove Excess Foliage: Removing any leaves that will be below the water level is a key. If these leaves remain under water they will start the process of decomposition quickly. This promotes the growth of bacteria, which is the cause of those bad odors you may have experienced previously. But, even worse, the bacteria clogs stem ends and impedes water intake - thus leading to premature wilting. When removing excess leaves make sure to not scrape and damage the stem. Use your fingers when possible, instead of a knife.

Check Water Quality: Whether from a florist or arranged at home, water quality and temperature is vital! It is best to use clean, lukewarm water in floral arrangements. Warm water contains less oxygen and thus reduces the risk of air embolisms. Never use hot water! If you notice cloudy water and wilting flowers in your arrangement after three or four days, rinse and refill your vase again and even consider re-cutting the stems. You'll notice a quick improvement in flower quality!

Feed your Flowers: There are many home remedies for promoting flower life. Adding anything from mouthwash to lemon-lime soda can be used to extend the life of cut flowers. However, commercial preservative packets are readily found in almost all pre-wrapped flowers and also from florists and should be used when possible, as they are the most reliable in delivering an effective combination of ingredients.

Keep Away from Fruits & Veggies: Ethylene is a gas naturally produced by ripening fruits, vegetables and even flowers! However, too much ethylene is bad for flowers. To reduce ethylene absorption, keep fruits (especially apples) and ripe vegetables away from your floral arrangement.

Arrange Your Own: Arranging your own flowers isn't that hard! In fact it's as easy as making a triangle. The most basic shape of floral design is geometric and symmetrical. This will generally be a one-sided design and is the simplest to create. Just envision an imaginary triangular outline and fill in the space. First, fill your vase with any greenery you desire. Next, stage your main (and most expensive) flowers in three's when possible, one in each side of the triangle at staggered heights. It is not necessary to repeat all the remaining flowers in this "mirror" image. This would make your arrangement appear too unnatural. Last, add any "filler" flowers like Baby's Breath or Wax Flower. Try to re-create how flowers would grow in nature, grouped together with the smallest buds at the top and the fullest flowers near the base. 

Floral design can be very rewarding and ultimately save you money! Try these simple tips to extend floral life and create more beauty in your home!

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