It seems like every year Punxsutawney Phil, our official forecasting groundhog, sees his shadow and forecasts an extended winter. It’s hard news to hear when you are eager to get outdoors and start gardening.
So what’s a gardener to do? One way you can defy Old Man Winter is by forcing blooming shrubs such as quince, forsythia and pussy willow into flower indoors. The process is simple and the results will brighten your home while you wait for spring. Here is how you do it.
As soon as you see the flower buds on your spring flowering shrubs start to swell, clip a few branches to bring indoors. Select branches that are heavily loaded with buds. You will usually find these towards the top of the shrub.
Once you get the branches inside it’s important to re-cut the ends at a slight angle. Then make a few slits about 2 to 3 inches long around the base. Both of these steps will help draw more water up into the stems.
Put the branches in a bucket of water and keep them in cool dark place for a few days, misting them occasionally. Then move them into a well-lit room and watch as the warmer temperatures coax the flowers into bloom.
I like a plant that’s flexible. For instance, Virginia Sweetspire ‘Little Henry’ will grow in shade or full sun and sweet potato vine is suited for containers or as an annual ground cover. Oxalis is a beautiful plant for the garden and for indoors.
This arrangement takes about 10 minutes to put together and you can place it indoors or outside.
- Four 4-inch pots of Proven Winners® Charmed™ Wine Oxalis (More or less depending on the size of your container.)
- Sheet moss
- Green apples
- Wire container (The basket seen here is approximately 6-inches wide and 18-inches long.)
Press sheet moss into the bottom and sides of the wire basket.
Line the sheet moss with a plastic bag. This is optional, but I recommend it to keep moisture away from tabletops.
Arrange the pots of Oxalis in the basket.
Nestle green apples between the pots and you are done!.
Valentine’s Day is a special holiday for gardeners because fresh flowers are on the top of the gift-giving list. It is nice to be surrounded by blooms just when winter is beginning to grow weary.
If you are the recipient of long stemmed roses or another type of cut flower, there are a couple of things that you can do to extend the enjoyment of this romantic gift.
The flower preservative packets supplied by florist shops can be added to the water to keep the flowers looking their best. If those aren’t available, you can mix up your own recipe. Begin by preparing a solution of equal parts lukewarm water and lemon lime soda, one aspirin, and half a teaspoon of bleach. Even after a flower’s been cut, it still needs to be fed. The sugar in the lemon lime soda provides nutrients to the flower and the citric acid in the solution allows the nutrients to be taken up more efficiently. The bleach keeps the water clean. Whether you use a preservative or nor, you should replace the vase water every 3 to 4 days.
Before you slip the flowers into the solution, recut the stems under water at a slight angle; this is particularly helpful for roses. Also strip away any leaves that fall below the water line.
Follow these steps for any flowers you may receive as Valentine’s gifts as well as those you prepare to give as presents. And remember to keep the flowers out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat.
With these techniques you can expect your cut flowers to last an extra four to five days.
Professional flower designers use their imagination and design know-how to create beautiful arrangements but it’s the insider techniques that help turn their visions into a reality. Here are a few helpful tips that I have learned from florist friends that help with the mechanics of flower arranging. With these pointers you too can get the most out of your efforts.
Get an Early Start
Gather flowers from the garden early in the morning when they are fully hydrated. Place them in a bucket of water for an hour or two before you begin working on your arrangement.
Use a sharp pair of scissors to cut the stems. A clean cut increases uptake of water and helps your blooms last longer.
Tall Vase, Short Stems
If you have a bouquet of flowers with stems that are too short for your vase place clear marbles in the bottom. This will raise the flowers and the marbles can be used as a floral frog to keep the stems in place.
Try floral water tubes and floral picks as an aid to short stems.. A floral water tube has a rubber top with a hole where you can insert a flower. Attach the tube to the floral pick with florist tape to add height to the floral tube. Fill the tube with water. Snap on the rubber top and then insert the short stemmed flower. Now you can use the flower in your arrangement.
Straighten a Slouching Flower
Flowers with weak or bent stems can be hard to manage in an arrangement. You can keep them straight with a 21 or 22 gauge floral wire. Cut the wire to the desired length and insert it into the stem just below the flower petals. Wrap the remaining length down around the stem.
Create Big Impact with Small Flowers
If you find that small blooms get lost in your arrangements, bundle these blooms together. Hold the stems close to the flower heads and wrap them with a rubber band or florist wire. Push the rubber band/florist wire up the stem close to the flowers.
Keep Them Cool
To prolong the life of your arrangement, keep it in a cool location out of direct sunlight. And change the water frequently using cold water.