The upcoming spring and summer weather brings us the opportunity to enjoy flowers (forsythia, lilacs, bulbs), as well as the emerging leaves of shrubs and trees (magnolia, pussy willow).
Bringing nature's masterpieces into your home as a stunning floral arrangement is easy and inexpensive. This article outlines how to collect, transport and arrange your floral bounty.
Prior to collecting your flora and greens, walk through your garden.
Assess which flowers and greens are appealing to you and are in various stages of maturation (buds, bloom, full bloom). Try to select from plants and shrubs that may be in need of pruning, so you are pruning and collecting flowers and greens at the same time.
Once you survey your flower possibilities, select a container to display your arrangement.
For a wild, natural look, try a porcelain vase, mason jar or vintage container. For a formal arrangement using roses or hydrangeas, try a bud vase or a cut glass vase. Use a small creamer or pitcher for a nosegay arrangement.
Make sure the container you select is clean and holds water.
When you are ready to cut your flowers and greens, obtain your small pruners or cutting scissors, gardening gloves and a bucket of cold water.
Using clean equipment prevents transmission of diseases and pests among plants, as well as bringing them into your home.
Try to cut your flowers and greens during early morning or evening when temperatures are cooler and the sun is not drying out the flowers.
Decide upon the flowers and greens you want to collect. The order of collection is not important.
When cutting flowers that do not require pruning, cut the stem straight across. Cut the stems longer than what you anticipate needing for your arrangement; you can always cut the stems to the preferred size later.
Remove the leaves from the stem area that is placed in the water to prevent decomposition. Place the greens and flowers into the bucket of cold water and take them into the house.
Fill your vase about two-thirds full with cold water. Cold water helps to keep the water circulating through the stem, thus improving its cut lifespan.
If you wish, you can use a commercial floral preservative, which is comprised of electrolytes and other nutrients for cut flowers.
Starting with your greens, cut the height of the stem to about 1.5 times the height of the container. This height is variable, depending on the look you want to achieve. For example, nosegays are arranged to be shorter and tighter to the container.
Using clean pruners or floral shears, cut the stem on a diagonal to the desired length. The diagonal cut provides a larger surface area to take up water and nutrients. The diagonal cut also allows water to come up the stem when the stem is placed at the bottom of the container; a straight cut would prevent proper water uptake into the stem.
Let the stems fall where they may — you will arrange your flowers around these greens.
Once your greens are placed, add in your flowers. Turn your container as you place the greens and flowers to assure an even placement. Work with one flower group at a time until all of your flowers are used.
After your flowers are arranged, ensure that all of the stems are submerged in the water.
Keep the flowers in a cool area out of direct sun. Change the water and cut the stems every few days to keep the water flowing through the stem.
Using this process allows you to enjoy flowers and greens grown in your own garden floral shop.
Lisa Marie Bernardo has been a Penn State Master Gardner since 2003.