Gardening by Brian Minter
According to research, fresh flowers lift everyone’s spirits and are the gift that makes people the happiest, especially during these cool, dark days.
Fresh flowers add so much colour to the festive season, and they do not have to cost a great deal. Garden centres, florists and some larger stores all have great selections at this time of year.
With proper care, flowers’ lifespans can be almost doubled.Cleanliness is the single most important factor in making fresh flowers last. Vases should be clean, with a few drops of bleach added to the water to kill any bacteria.
The water should be warm, and the addition of a packet of floral preservative will extend the lifespan of your flowers. It is always a good idea to re-cut the stems on all fresh flowers the moment you receive them, but it is very important that you cut while the end of the stem is held underwater.
Another re-cut should be done in about a week to keep that water flowing. Exposure to constant, rather than fluctuating, temperatures increases the lifespan of flowers.
With so many great local growers in our region, the selection of fresh cut flowers is amazing. Fresh cinnamon-scented carnations and long-lasting chrysanthemums are very traditional, but I would suggest trying a few different flowers that have great keeping qualities as well.
Locally grown anthuriums are unique and look stunning when combined with Christmas greens and berries.They are also reasonably priced, as are cymbidium orchid stems, another long-lasting flower. Colourful, exotic alstromerias fit in nicely with any bouquet.
If you are really tropical-minded, South African proteas last and last.
Spring flowers are now here and ready to bring a breath of fresh colour to brighten our winter spirits. Tulips, pussy willows and iris push aside those winter blues. Some of the most fragrant flowers are Oriental lilies, polianthes tuberosa and freesias. Just a few stems are enough to fill your whole room with a delightful perfume.
To accompany these flowers, I suggest you use some traditional Christmas greens. Noble and silver fir boughs are very dark green, fragrant and classy looking. They are also flat and easy to work with.
The soft, wispy branches of white pine are certainly another favourite, both for perfume and longevity. A little trick florists use to spice up the greens even further is a light dusting of gold or silver glitter spray. This alcohol-based product can even be used on fresh flowers for some added festive bling.
Traditional holly is always nice at this time of year, but I suggest you try a twig or two of the deciduous holly, Ilex verticulata. Its very vibrant red berries last well indoors, and do they ever give your holiday bouquets that special festive pop!