It’s always such a long wait for spring’s first flowers. When they finally burst on the scene, the bounty of blooms combined with months of pent up flower energy is almost too much to handle! My favorite way to cope with this delightful moment of excess is to cut lots of stems and make lots of bouquets. Week after week, every room in my house is filled with spring flowers and I’m giving them away to everyone within reach.
To be honest, my go-to “arrangement” is a fistful of stems stuffed in a mason jar. But I got to thinking… don’t these beautiful blooms deserve a little more? So I put in a call to floral designer and avid home gardener Alicia Schwede of FlirtyFleurs.com and asked her to share how she gets the most out of her spring flowers. Here are some of her tips.
“Freshly cut daffodil stems release a clear, slightly runny sap,” said Alicia, “If you make an arrangement that contains only daffodils, there’s no need for concern. But if that sap comes in contact with other types of flowers, it will damage them. So if you want to combine your daffodils with tulips or any other plant material, you need to stop that sap from leaking out of the stems.”
Alicia went on to explain: “Conditioning daffodils is actually super easy. Just cut the stems to the desired length and put them into a container of cool water. After about a half hour, you can remove the stems, dump the water and your conditioned daffodils are ready to go. If you have to recut any of the stems, you’ll need to repeat the process, as a fresh cut will release additional sap.”
Alicia grows lots of tulips in her home garden and loves working with them in arrangements. “Unlike most other flowers, tulips continue to grow after they are cut,” said Alicia. “The flowers get larger and the stems can lengthen by several inches.”
I have to interject and say that this is actually one of the things I really love about cut tulips. Over the course of a week, the flowers become increasingly expressive as the stems twist and the blossoms splay open. But sometimes that’s not the look you’re after.
One option is to make your arrangement with tulips that have been cut slightly shorter than the other flowers. Tuck the stems deep into the arrangement, and as they lengthen, they will gradually grow into the correct position. Another option is to make adjustments midstream. Simply remove individual flowers that get too tall, shorten the stems and then replace them.
Alicia also offered a third option. She said: “If you reduce the stem’s ability to absorb water, the tulip will not continue growing. All it takes is a sharp paring knife. Make a small vertical cut right below the flower head, making sure to cut no more than 1/3 of the way into the stem.” (See her step-by-step instructions HERE.)
Another way to minimize the growth of cut tulips is to avoid using floral preservative/flower food. Alicia finds that nutrients in the food only encourage more growth. Instead, she recommends simply arranging your tulips in a squeaky-clean vase filled with cool water.
CUTTING SPRING FLOWERS WHEN THEY’RE IN BUD
“For the longest vase life, cut your spring flowers as soon as they begin to show color,” said Alicia. “This will give you several extra days to enjoy your arrangement.” Use this technique for daffodils, hyacinths and tulips.
ADDING BRANCHES FOR SUPPORT
Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths can be top heavy. Alicia suggests a creative way to give them some extra support. “Snip off a few branches from the shrubs around your yard and use them as a framework for your arrangement . These budded or flowering branches are beautiful as well as functional. I like how they echo the way the bulbs actually look in the spring landscape. Try using pussywillows, cherry, dogwood, forsythia or viburnum.”
It really doesn’t matter whether your spring flowers are displayed in a mason jar or a spectacular mixed bouquet. Just be sure to get out there and cut some stems, so you can fully enjoy them before they’re gone!
About Alicia Schwede: In addition to running her own floral design studio, Alicia is also a teacher, blogger, writer, publisher, social media maven, floral industry networker, specialty cut flower expert, and avid flower gardener. Follow her on Instagram @flirtyfleurs and at flirtyfleurs.com