Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Ladies

With everything covered in "Southern fairy dust", otherwise known as tree pollen, seasonal allergies are wrecking havoc in my life.  Just like Tinkerbell's pixie dust it makes you sneeze, but no flying is involved.

 I have a great love for beautiful, fresh flowers and this time of year brings the kind of joy only heavy doses of Zyrtec D can dampen, yet I have found a way to enjoy the lovely blooms without worry.

A couple of years ago I was asked to join my church's flower guild and I could not have been more excited. Two months of the year I am responsible for the altar flowers and I look forward to February and September as if they were my birthday months.

September altar flowers being prepared in the flower room.
Only fresh flowers are allowed, so I go to the flower market early on Friday mornings, taking great care in choosing the most appropriate and freshest flowers for Sunday's service.  Saturday mornings see me at the church by 8 AM making the arrangements and placing them on the altar.  I always take pictures to reference when I need inspiration. Today, I would share a few of these and some tips I've been lucky enough to gather from professional florists who've been kind enough to share their wisdom with a novice.

White rose, white hydrangea, and orchids with
steel grass caging.

 ~ Buy the healthiest flowers you can find.  Starting out with a good product is terribly important.  There is very little that can save blooms that have been deprived of water and are already showing signs of wilt.

~ Most flowers, especially roses, should have their stems cut under water.  When cut, air can get into the stem and create a sort of scab that will prevent water from being drawn up to the flower petal.  Cutting under the water prevents this from happening.  I learned this lesson the hard way after losing several hydrangea, so when in doubt cut underwater!

~ Place your flowers in a clean vase with fresh cool, not cold, water, and making sure to add more as needed.

~ Make sure there are no leaves below the water surface.  The leaves will quickly pollute the water and your flowers will not last long.

White and blue hydrangea, white roses, and white stock
for boy baptism.

~Speaking of cutting flowers, put away the scissors and clippers for all but the woodiest of stems.  The before mentioned hydrangea had an early demise due to not only where they were cut, but how they were cut.

 Scissors and clippers can crush the stem and, once again, prevent water absorption.  A floral knife is the best choice and is a relatively inexpensive investment.   If memory serves, I paid $7 for mine at a floral supply store.

No, a kitchen knife will not work...don't ask me how I know.  

Floral knives are incredibly sharp, allowing them to slice easily through most flower stems, so great care should be used when working with them. You have been warned!

As I'm sure you can tell, hydrangea are often in my arrangements. Not only beautiful, their size gives the bulk needed when doing large displays and I have found them to be relatively inexpensive....I guess you could say they give "bang for your buck."

Hydrangea, while big and beautiful, tend to be a little temperamental.  Too much direct sunlight...they shrivel. Not cut under water...they shrivel.  Not cut with a sharp knife...they shrivel.
 The wind blows westward that day....they shrivel.
 I think you get the picture.
While I said hydrangea are temperamental, they are not completely unreasonable.

Re-hydrating a fading hydrangea can (usually) be done with success, but it requires nerves of steel.  Okay, that is a slight exaggeration, but it will require you to do something completely contradictory to what logic tells you.

White hydrangea, pink roses, miniature pink carnations, and white stock.

First, get a tall saucepan and fill it with fresh water; bring the water to a rolling boil.
Second, fill a clean vase with cool water and have readily at hand.
Third, using your floral knife, cut at least one inch from the stem...underwater!
Fourth, immediately plunge the cut stem end (approximately 3 inches deep) into the boiling water for 15 to 20 seconds.  Take care that the steam does not damage the petals.
Fifth, quickly place the stem in the waiting vase of cool water.

In approximately one hour, your hydrangea will be re-hydrated and back to its big, beautiful self.

White roses, white tulips, pink stock, purple iris, and
blue delphiniums.
Tulips, for me, have always signified the end of winter and the start of spring.  I adore big bunches simply placed in a clear vase, with their long stems bowing gracefully.  Unfortunately, these graceful ladies become an ungainly sight, with stems twisting in different directions and their once lovely cup-like blossoms splayed out like a saucer.  But, I have a trick to prevent this from happening.

Altar flowers given in celebration of a dear couples anniversary.

Please be prepared, for this will sound crazier than boiling hydrangea stems!

~ Take a long straight pin and poke it through the tulip stem, about one inch from the bottom of the flower head. Remove the pin and cut stems....once again, underwater.

I have no explanation for why this works, but it does.  They stay lovely and reasonably straight with their tea cup tops staying tea cups.
Another lovely spring flower, daffodils, are just as lovely as tulips and make a striking display en masse.  The only problem I have encountered is upon trying to use them with floral oasis.  Their hollow stems are simply not sturdy enough to push through the dense oasis.  Of course, floral water tubes are an option to use, but then the very thirsty daffodils have their water supply greatly limited.

~ Take a green chenille stem, yes, the arts and crafts kind, and soak it in water.  Then feed the wet chenille stem up through the flower stem, all the way to the flower blossom.  Cut the chenille stem about 1/4 to 1/2 inch from the bottom of the flower stem.  Insert flower into the floral oasis.

The chenille stem, by sticking out a bit from the flower stem, creates the hole in the oasis and will carry water to the flower head.  

Lovely ladies in a row.

I am by no means a professional florist, but I hope you enjoyed today's post. 
 I would love to hear from you, so please leave a comment and share your floral tips.

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