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Best of the Webflowers

How to Make Fresh Flowers Last with Erin from Floret + Best of the Web

by Grace Bonney

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I’m thrilled to wrap up the week with some helpful advice from Erin Benzakein of Floret. Erin published her very first book this week (congrats!), Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden, and we’re so thrilled to share not just a peek inside the book, but some practical advice from Erin on how to make your fresh cut flowers last longer. I thought I knew the main rules, but several of her insider tips (like conditioning flowers before arranging) are new to me and so helpful. Fresh flowers are one of my favorite indulgences, so anything I can do to make them last longer and look fresher, I’m up for. Read on after the jump to hear about all of Erin’s tips and her new book, which you can now order here online! xo, grace

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Beauty in bloom
Tips for harvesting, designing and getting the longest vase life from seasonal blooms

There’s nothing quite like having a few fresh flowers for the house or to share with family or friends. Whether you have your own cut garden or simply want to arrange some fresh flowers from the farmers market, Erin Benzakein shares her expert advice for making the most out of your seasonal blooms.

An award-winning floral designer, flower farmer and past D*S Life and Business contributor, Erin just released a beautiful new book that provides both inspiration and information on growing gorgeous cut flowers. Full of dreamy photos by Michèle M. Waite, Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden: Grow, Harvest and Arrange Stunning Seasonal Blooms is a feast for any flower lover’s eyes and soul.

Erin joins us today to share a few of her top tips for harvesting, designing and maximizing the vase life for your flowers. After seeing all the beauty she creates in the book, you too will be fighting the urge to convert your yard or patio into your very own micro flower farm.

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Harvesting tips:

Harvest in the coolest parts of the day. Early morning or in the evening are the best times to cut flowers and foliage because this is when they are the most hydrated. Blooms harvested during the midday heat wilt faster and have a harder time bouncing back than those cut during cooler times of day.

Cut blooms before they’re fully open. A good rule of thumb for most flowers is to cut flowers when they are between one-third to halfway open and before they’ve been heavily pollinated. Once the bees get to your blooms, the flowers will fade much faster. For foliage, it’s important to wait until the stems are mature and firm. If picked too young, they won’t last long in the vase, often wilting immediately.

Clip the unconventional. Look around your yard or landscaping for possible unusual ingredients. A few stems clipped from your pot of herbs or crabapple tree can be a great addition of fragrance and texture to your bouquet.

Allow flowers time to “rest” prior to arranging them.  This process is called conditioning and it is a key step that is often overlooked. After cutting your flowers and foliage, place them into deep, cool water for at least a few hours to allow the stems to drink up water. You’ll be amazed at how some of the more wilt-prone flowers will perk back up after being conditioned.

Use clean, sharp clippers. Rusty, dull flower clippers are not only frustrating to use, but they can damage stems and reduce the vase life of your flowers. Be sure to invest in a pair of high quality clippers (I always have a pair of my favorite snips close at hand) and keep them clean and sharpened.

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Vase tips:

Always utilize clean vases. Dirt and bacteria can cause your flowers to wilt prematurely, so be sure to wash vases thoroughly with hot soapy water prior to putting fresh cut flowers into them.

Choose the right vase for the space. Before you reach for one of those common clear glass vases you have lurking in a kitchen cabinet, first consider where you plan on putting your finished bouquet. If you’re making a centerpiece, skip the tall cylinder and instead choose a low profile vase or vessel that will allow an unimpeded view across the table. Tall vases have their place, but the flowers only have one way to go: up. If you have any “shorties” (the pretty, but short-stemmed flowers and side-shoots) they’ll easily get lost in a tall vase. Look for shorter, low profile vases or any vessel that will hold water. The bigger the opening, the more it will allow the flowers to stretch out horizontally to create a wide bouquet shape.

Add stem support. With most vases, particularly wide-mouthed vessels, you will need some sort of structure to support the flower stems. Traditionally, this can be accomplished using an antique flower “frog,” floral foam or using waterproof tape to create a simple grid across the opening of the vase. My favorite technique, however, is to use a small piece of coated chicken wire. By folding and balling up a piece of wire inside the vessel, the wire provides multiple places for the stems to “catch” on the wire and stay in place. This technique creates a more natural look to your design than floral foam. I find that foam makes bouquets look “stiff;” plus it is not very eco-friendly.

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Design tips:

Remove bottom leaves from stems. Leaves that have been left on the stem and then submerged in water will dirty the water very quickly. The bacteria created during this decaying process can prevent the stems from taking up water, making your flowers wilt faster.

Re-cut the stems. Prior to arranging your flowers in a vase, re-cut the stems at a 45-degree angle to ensure the stem has maximum surface area to take up water. This also prevents blunt-cut stems from resting on the bottom of the vase, which can impede water uptake.

Start with a solid base of foliage. Start your bouquet by choosing foliage with sturdy, slightly arching stems in order to create the overall bouquet shape.

Mix flowers with varying forms. I always look for three types of flowers when doing design work:

•Focal: These large blooms are usually the stars of the show. Think: peonies, garden roses and dahlias.
•Filler: Don’t overlook these smaller blooms. They are the supporting actors that make the leading ladies look good.
•Textural elements and airy accents: This is where you can incorporate uncommon ingredients such as crabapples, fruit on the vine or ornamental grasses to add visual interest and texture.

Add flower food or change water frequently. If you have one of those little packets of flower food, mix it with water according to the directions. One of the biggest benefits of those packets is the disinfectant it contains to clear the water of bacteria. If you don’t have flower food, don’t fret. Simply changing the water every other day can be almost as effective as commercial products for making your flowers last longer.

Enjoy your flowers!

Ready to grow and design more of your own cut flowers this season? Get detailed growing advice plus more floral design inspiration in Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden. Learn more or order the book right here.

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Comments

  • Love the points about the angle to cut the stem and the chicken wire! I never even think of supporting the stems, so I love these tips!

    xo, Sofia

    • Hi Sarah,

      We don’t do that! We don’t have any ad positions within our content, so I’m curious about what you saw.

      Can you share the advertisement brand name or any details about the ad? Did you happen to take a screenshot? Can you tell me if it was on a device or your desktop computer?

      Please email me if you can! caitlin@designsponge.com

      Thanks so much,

      Caitlin

  • Love these ideas- especially the easy to implement rule of replacing the water every second day. I have one question though- would you recommend using Tap water or Mineral water (or RO water)?

    Thanks!
    -Sneha

  • The chicken wire support is having something of a rebirth. The pioneering British floral designer Constance Spry recommended using chicken wire for this purpose decades ago. Holly Heider Chapple and Hitomi Gilliam also make great use of it in innovative ways. The plastic-coated chicken wire can be re-used, so make up a few different sizes for your containers and keep them around.

  • This is oneof the best and most helpful post I’ve read! And it’s no wonder, Erin is a great professionalist at what she does – the flowers in her farm are aways gorgeous and her flower designs aremore than devine. Greets!

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