Deb Babcock's gardening column appears Thursdays in Steamboat Today.
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Cut flowers that seem to last longest in a container include:
A splash of color during this monochromatic time of year brightens our spirits as well as our homes. And what better way to add a fresh splash of color than with some colorful tulips, Alstroemeria or daisies?
Whether your flowers come from the florist, your own greenhouse or the local grocery store, here are some tips for making the blooms last.
Before arranging the flowers in a container, condition them by cutting about an inch off the stem - on a slant with sharp scissors or a knife - and placing in lukewarm water for a couple of hours. This gives the stems time to absorb water before being handled again.
Because flowers are comprised of 90 percent water, they respond to water temperature quickly. Warm water encourages closed blooms to open while cool water slows down their development, making the flowers last longer.
Some flowers benefit from sealing the stem so sap doesn't leak out and wilt the flower prematurely. Stems of sunflowers, celosia and zinnias can be sealed by placing the fresh-cut stem in boiling water or over a candle flame for about 20 seconds before setting it in the water.
The container holding your flowers should have a water reservoir large enough to comfortably fit all your flowers. Consider unusual vessels such as teapots, watering cans, or a decorative tin, bowl or box that is leak-proof. If the container has a wide opening, use floral foam soaked in water and cut to fit the shape of your vessel.
If the florist provided a packet of preservative, use it. A homemade preservative can be made by using a mixture of half 7-Up and half water with a teaspoon of household bleach per 4 cups of mix. The sugar in the soft drink gives the flowers energy while the bleach controls the growth of bacteria.
Water should be checked daily and refreshed every 2 to 3 days to extend the life of your flowers. When some flowers begin wilting, rearrange the display by cutting the remaining stems and reducing the size of the arrangement.
Flowers should be kept in a fairly cool location for longest life. Keep the bouquet away from drafty areas, direct sun or atop appliances that give off heat. The flowers also shouldn't be stored near fruit or vegetables because they release a gas (ethylene) that will hasten aging as will leaving decaying leaves and stems in the bouquet.
Want to add some color, aroma and freshness to your indoor living areas? Choose some fresh-cut flowers.
Deb Babcock is a Master Gardener through the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Service Office in Routt County. Questions? Call 879-0825 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.