In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
December, 2003
Regional Report

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Cut flowers make a special gift during the holiday season.

Special Ways to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

The holiday season is a special time to give cut flowers to loved ones, friends, and relatives. Everything from roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, alstroemeria, baby's breath, heather, holly, and greens can be found in mixed bunches. Arranged in a bouquet, cut flowers can last for a week or more. The secret to making flowers last their longest is to give them special treatment. Whether it's a sip or a total bath, water is the key that will make a difference.

Carnations are among my favorite winter indoor blooms and can last for a week of more. They will last even longer if you break their stems at one of the many joints, rather than cutting them. Sensitive to gases given off by decaying greens, carnations will start to close and wither. It is therefore, wise to avoid all but the cleanest containers when arranging carnations.

Woody Stems
Flowers with woody stems have a special problem transporting enough water to their blossoms to keep them fresh. You can help by cutting a 2-inch-long slit into the cut end of each stem, which will expose more capillaries for absorbing water. Submerge the stems in hot water for a minute or so, then place the arrangement of flowers in a cool place.

Roses can be finicky, and they have a short life span. The major water-conducting tissues are between the pith or central core and the bark. If these tissues are injured in preparing rose stems, water will not be able to freely move to the flowers, and they will wilt.
Here are a few tips for extending the life span of your roses.

Begin by removing the thorns and leaves from the lower part of the stems. Wear heavy gloves and grasp the stem between your thumb and fingers at the top of the length to be cleared. Pull your gloved hand down the stem, gently but firmly, to strip off the foliage and thorns as you go. This technique seems to cause the least amount of damage to the rose stem's precious water-conducting tissues.

After removing the leaves and thorns, place the rose stem in warm water (100 degrees F) to which a flower preservative has been added. Be sure the level of water in the container is below the lowest leaves left on the stem. When the water has cooled, place the rose bouquet in a cool location out of direct sun for four hours.

If you receive a bouquet of roses in which one or more blooms is wilting or has a droopy neck below the bud, don't toss it. Florists recommend some simple steps to revive the "wilter":

1. While holding the stem under water, cut about 1 inch from the stem base.
2. Submerge the entire rose bloom --- stem, foliage, and all --- under water for 30 minutes or so. The water should be about 100 degrees F. Carefully straighten the angle of the head while it is soaking. For a long-stem rose, a couple of inches of water in the bottom of the bathtub will accommodate it nicely. Once the rose has revived, it can be replaced into an arrangement.

Cool it
Cut flowers will last their longest and look their best if they are placed in the proper climate. To extend the life of your cut flowers, keep them in a cool location and out of warm drafts. Higher humidity also will help prolong bloom of cut flowers. As temperatures rise, the life expectancy of cut flowers will decline. Keep the arrangement away from bright sunlight. Heat and sun stimulate the evaporation of moisture from the blooms, foliage, and stems.

You can add humidity to the immediate environment by misting them with water a couple of times a day. At nighttime set the flowers in a cool room or on the floor where temperatures are generally cooler.

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