No matter the time of year, I must have fresh flowers in our house for it to feel complete. Houseplants, too, lend a dimension of loveliness and of the outdoors to the rooms of our home, but not as luxuriously as cut flowers. I am fortunate to have a garden, so for much of the year, I can snip the flowers I grow whether it’s tulips and daffodils in the spring, peonies or hydrangeas in summer, or the dahlias of early fall. As the garden goes dormant for a few months of the year, I rely on the supermarket for bunches of simple roses or Peruvian lilies. I can usually count on my bouquets to last a week or so before they must be turned out on the compost pile.
When selecting flowers from the market, look for the buds that are most tightly closed and show little or no wilting. When cutting flowers from your garden, do so in the coolest part of the day in the morning or evening when the they are at their least stressed.
Always start with a clean, sterilized vessel. I usually use clear glass vases and run them through the dishwasher, or hand wash with very hot water to rid them of bacteria from previous bouquets.
Fill your vase with cool water and add a little flower food. Stir to dissolve before adding flowers to your vase. I reserve the packets that come with grocery store flowers and decant them into a sealed jar I store under my kitchen sink so that I have flower food all year round when I’m harvesting my own flowers from my garden.
Use sharp, sterilized snips to give flowers a fresh, 45º cut before adding to the water. I use rubbing alcohol to keep my snips clean. For woody-stemmed flowers like lilacs and blossom branches, make several completely vertical snips to fray the stem to maximize water uptake.
Remove any leaves that would be otherwise submerged in water to further prevent bacterial growth.
Change the water often and monitor daily. In the winter, I may only need to change the flower water once or twice before the flowers are done, but in the summer when it’s much warmer inside, I change the water daily to help slow the grow of bacteria in the vase. While I’m at it, I give the flowers a fresh snip.