There are two contradictory things you should know about me. One, I love having fresh flowers in my home; and two, I have absolutely no skill when it comes to arranging cut stems.
It's quite an upsetting combination, as I'm sure you can imagine.
Since I moved out of my parents' house and into my own apartment, I've made it a priority to always have something blooming in my home. (Jon doesn't understand this from a financial perspective. Why would I choose a bouquet over happy hour with friends? It's just that important to me!) Winter's options were a bit repetitive, but it's been so much fun to pick and choose different flowers now that spring is here.
I learned relatively quickly, though, that I can't get carried away when at the farmers market or flower shop. My sixth grade art teacher told me that I have a vivid imagination but my hands can't keep up; because I am horrible at arranging mixed bouquets, I have to give myself some strict parameters to ensure I don't come home with a riot of flowers that I'll wouldn't be able to display.
First of all, I generally only buy one type of flower and I usually choose quantity over quality so I can fill a vase - no great sacrifice in spring when everything is pretty, to be honest. Second, if I do get creative, I stick within one color family so that my lack of skill isn't as evident once the flowers are out of their paper wrapper. My apartment is small enough that I have to take the color of my dining room walls into consideration when choosing blooms that will live in my living room, further limiting my options. I might not end up with the most exciting flowers, but they always make me happy!
I've learned a few things about keeping cut stems vibrant for as long as possible...
1. Once you get home, trim the stems on the diagonal before putting them in water - this provides more surface area for drinking - and cut them under running water so that air doesn't get into the stem. Use a sharp knife rather than scissors, which squish the stem while cutting. (That's a bad thing.)
2. Make sure to remove all of the leaves that will be below the water line. Leaves rot quickly, and your flowers won't last as long as they might otherwise if they're in yucky water.
3. Cut flowers keep longer if placed in a cooler part of the house out of direct sunlight, so avoid putting vases next to appliances that emit heat or on windowsills.
4. Change the water in the vase every other day rather than just when the water gets low, and cut the bottom of the stems again before you put them in the fresh water.
5. Use flower food every time you change the water. There are lots of old wives' tales about tinctures made with aspirin, vinegar, and bleach, and we've all heard that you're supposed to drop a penny into the bottom of a vase, but those little packets of mysterious white powder really do provide the best nutrients for your flowers. Don't be afraid to ask for a few extras when buying your bouquet!
Also, your florist (or the guy at the farmers market) might have suggestions specific to the type of flowers you're buying. I was advised on Friday that hydrangeas last longer if you put them in warm water, and someone told me last spring that tulips won't flop as much if you keep them in their paper wrapper for the first few hours after you put them in a vase.
You get 1,406 hits if you search for "arranging flowers" on Martha Stewart, so maybe I'll be brave enough to try my hand at that next spring. For now, I'm just enjoying my simple bouquets - and beaming with pride when they live longer than I'd expected!
*That's what Professor Higgins and his mother call Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.