Picking and Maintaining the Best Blooms from Your Garden

Article written by Saturday6TM blogger Rochelle Greayer from Pith Vigor

One of the best things about flower gardening is picking fresh bouquets to bring inside. As the peonies start to bloom in my own garden and flower-picking season goes into full swing, here are some of tips for making the most of the homegrown flower garden.

Pick early in the day and carry water along with you as you move around your garden. I use the same bucket that I give water to my chicken with as it is deep and wide, and flowers can be picked with nice long stems but not run the risk of falling out of the water as I go. Flowers picked early will likely still have moisture from a cool evening on them and they will be fresher than those picked at hotter times of the day. Picking in full sun will immediately stress flowers and will lead to diminished vase life. Also, flowers that are just about to open will last longer than those that are already in full bloom.

Here are some other tips for getting professional results from your garden pickings:

1. Carry a bucket of water with you as you cut in the garden. This way, fresh stems can immediately be submerged, maximizing the water uptake of the flowers. Recut the stems when you arrange them in the vase - preferably under water - to further assist in water uptake.

2. Use a small amount of bleach in the vase water (about ¼ teaspoon per quart); this will prevent bacterial growth that diminishes vase life. Every few days, either change the water or add a little more bleach to keep the water clear.

3. Also add a small amount of lemon juice (a couple of tablespoons or the juice of a single lemon) and sugar (1Tbsp/ Quart) - this does the same thing that the little packets of powered food do when you buy flowers in a shop, but it actually works better. The acid in the lemon juice (use a real lemon or 'Real Juice') will improve water flow in the stems - as the main reason flowers fail is low water flow - and the sugar will help the buds open and last longer.

4. Lastly: There are many ways to arrange flowers, but arguably the best and easiest for home gardeners is the loose vase type of arrangement. To perfect this, make the arrangement in your hand, holding all the stems so that it is perfectly pleasing to you as you hold it. When you are done, cut all the stems to the proper length to fit your vase at the same time. Use a tie or string if needed to help keep it together and then put it in the vase. Trying to arrange the flowers in the vase, stem by stem, is much harder to perfect and often results in significantly more handling of the flowers, which also reduces vase life. It's much better to arrange in hand, secure, cut the stems and then put in the final vase.