After walking a few people through the cut-flower garden today, I thought it might be a good idea to share some information on how to choose flowers for cutting.
First, here is the entrance to the cut-flower garden of 2011. Please stay on the path, and proceed to the center archway to find the individual flower rows. Please don’t pick from the pathways because I have little marigolds planted there, and you’ll actually have a better selection if move between the rows.
The most important thing to avoid are flowers that have already bloomed. It’s ok to have some instant gratification, but you really want flower buds that are JUST ABOUT TO BLOOM. You want to see color, but not a fully-open flower. Open flowers will not travel home well, they will wilt quickly, and they will not last long once they are home. However, stems still in-bud will travel well, and will greet you tomorrow morning with a cheery, perky blossom.
The next most important thing is where to cut on the plant. I see people trying to be sparing with the plant, cutting a single stem, way up high. You want to bend down and find a major joint on the stem. You can always trim them up when you get home, or even after you get all the stems collected. Not only will this give you a full bouquet, but it will make the plants produce more buds and blossoms. You are pruning the plants while you cut flowers. You will not hurt the plant, you will actually encourage it to make more stems and flowers.
This is what you want to take home—long, stems with lots of buds and just one or two open blooms.
Once you’re finished cutting, keep the flowers cool, fill a bag with water if possible, or wrap wet paper around the stems to keep them moist. Then, when you get home, fill a vase (or jar, or glass) with warmish water and RE-CUT the stems before you put them in the water. While in transit, the ends of the stems will dry up some, and they won’t be able to suck up much water, which will make them wilt and die sooner. A fresh cut invites water into the stem.
After you get them home, you can cut the rough bunches into tidy stems so that you can arrange them thoughtfully.
Cut lots of flowers each week!
SPECIAL NOTE ABOUT POPPIES:
It’s especially important to remember not to cut poppies if they are open blooms. They must be in full bud, with just a hint of color peeking through or they will not open and last. You also need to do one more step: after you get them home, re-cut the stem and burn the end with a match, torch, or stove burner. This seals the sticky, milky sap and prevents the stem from clogging up. If you don’t burn them, they will quickly wilt and die, a sad and preventable fate.