Which Flowers Are Best Suited to Cutting For Indoor Enjoyment?
Not every flower is suitable for cutting and taking indoors. Some wilt almost as soon as they see the pruning shears or a pair of scissors while others wait till you've spent ages getting them arranged nicely only to droop as soon as you turn your back.
It is even more difficult for commercial florists to keep an arrangement looking fresh and beautiful until well after it's sold. Blooms which last well and lend themselves to the art of floral arranging include tulips, chrysanthemums, gerberas, carnations, roses, gladioli, lilies, alstroemerias and anthuriums. There are of course others. There are also the fillers which add volume and appeal to an arrangement or display such as fairy statice, dianthus, gypsophilia, hypericum and the lush greens of various ferns and other greenery.
The rose is the most popular of all the cut flower varieties. Roses come in all shapes and sizes. Their perfume is beautiful and not all have the vicious thorns that counteract their beauty.
To be suitable as a cut flower, the bloom needs appeal and beauty. It will be long stemmed, normally have a fragrance, and an extended vase life. Cut flowers should be placed in water as soon as possible after they are cut. Take a bucket with a few inches of water in the bottom and place the stems in the bucket as they are picked. Stems left in the open will soon have their water-conducting cells plugged with air. This can be corrected by cutting off a small portion of the lower stem immediately before placing in water. It is even better if the stems are cut underwater thus preventing air from entering the stem.
There are commercial floral preservatives which increase the life of cut flowers. There are also many tried and true measures which supposedly lengthen the life of cut flowers. Commercial preparations consist of a complex mix of sucrose or sugar and an acidifier. There are also substances which inhibit the entry of air and the growth of micro-organisms. Always put your flowers into a clean vase. Remove any leaves that will be below the water-line as they will break down and contaminate the water. Place the container somewhere cool for an hour or so.
The water level should be checked daily and water and preservative added as necessary. Place in a well-aired position, away from drafts and heat sources.
Roses are available in a multitude of colours with some showing splashes of several colours or blending of several shades. The red rose is the flower of lovers and sell by their thousands on St Valentine's Day. The rose is a woody perennial. Climbers, standards, miniature are all available. David Austin roses are a favourite having a strong perfume and beautiful form combined with long-lasting qualities. Roses are large and showy as bushes and equally spectacular in arrangements. Roses may be grown in glasshouses in temperate climates. Commercial growers may harvest the blooms when in bud and they will be held in refrigeration until displayed for sale.
Gerberas are native to South Africa and have become a favourite in the world of gardeners. It is sometimes known as the African daisy. They are bright and colourful and add zing to a bouquet. They range from 5 to 7 inches in diameter and may have a red, green or black centre. In the full crested double variety the petals curve over the central disc hiding it completely.
Chrysanthemums come in a variety of forms, all of which are attractive and showy. The blooms are mostly large although the pompon has a small button type which is very suited to bouquets or sprays. Chrysanthemums should be picked when fully open. One source says to crush the end of the stems and stand in boiling water for a minute.
Tulips are perennial and bulbous. They are also synonymous with the Netherlands which is the world's largest producer of commercial tulip blooms. Holland produces up to 3 billion bulbs a year with most of them being exported.
Grown from seed, tulips can be five to eight years old before they bloom, however if grown from offsets the time is greatly shortened. Commercial tulip bulbs are harvested in late summer with large bulbs being sorted and sold and small bulbs replanted.
Carnations (dianthus caryophyllus) are sweetly scented and are a favourite in the world of cut flowers and floral arrangements. It is an herbaceous perennial with flowers 3 to 5cm in diameter. Carnations are said to last longer if you stand the stems in deep water for an hour then dip the flowers in water for a few minutes.
Today, carnations are available in pink, red, white, yellow and green. Genetic manipulation has enabled the production of a blue-mauve carnation using material from petunias and snapdragons. Like roses, lilies, chrysanthemums and gerberas, 'blue' is not a colour that occurs naturally in the carnation palette.
The carnation has a number of traditional meanings according to the colour. It is said that carnations first appeared on earth when they sprouted from the place where Mary's tears fell as Jesus carried the cross through Jerusalem. It is the symbol of many organisations and is the national flower of Spain and Slovenia and the State flower of Ohio. Colombia produces the most carnations on a world-wide scale.
The gladiolus is a stately bloom and a bulbous perennial like the tulip. There are a number of colours available from pink, cream, orange, red, mauve and white, some with contrasting markings. The flowers appear on one side of a large flower spike. They make very good cut flowers. In fact they are better cut as their height makes them susceptible to being blown over.
Alstroemeria is perhaps more commonly known as the Peruvian Lily or Lily of the Incas. There are around 120 species of this South American genus. It is a long-lived perennial with very showy flowers and a huge range of colours and markings available. There are around 190 cultivars. Most alstroemerias now bloom for much of the year and have a flower resembling a miniature lily. It is very popular in floral arrangements and bouquets as it has a vase life of about two weeks.
Liliums are herbaceous flowering plants which grow from bulbs. There are around 110 species. The flowers are large with a diverse range of colours. Spots and 'brushes' of colour add to the attractiveness. Many are fragrant. The most important cut flower is Lilium longiflorum which may be forced on for eg the Easter trade and then called the Easter lily.
While these form the main flower varieties used in the commercial cut flower trade, they are by no means the only ones. For the home gardener, there is a great variety of flowers which can be brought inside to prolong the pleasure and joy of their beauty and fragrance.