The Beginner’s Guide to Picking the Freshest Flowers

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Part of the joy of fresh cut flowers is their fleeting nature; knowing they are here to bring beauty and joy for a short time, eventually to fade away with only the pleasant memory and lingering scent of their presence. Without the need for space and utility of other gifts, they delight everyone, match everything and are almost always the perfect thing to say in any situation. Buying fresh flowers is as pleasing to the giver as to the receiver and a few pointers on how to choose the stems that will last the longest and bloom the biggest will take the guesswork out of the process. Just like sniffing oranges and thumping melons, there are many techniques for picking out the perfect blooms. Try a few of these the next time you step into the floral aisle and bring home the freshest bouquet ever.

Sniffing Stems
Seems strange, but well worth the weird looks. Cut flowers have been removed from their root systems and must take up water and nutrients added to the water through the vascular tissue in their stems. Anything that blocks or damages this tissue will limit the amount and quality of the water brought up through the stem and into the flowers themselves, which can lead to wilting, bruising and early dropping of petals. When cut flowers are processed, buckets and water should be clean and sterilized to prevent any bacteria from developing and blocking the vascular tissue or causing it to decay early. Any mold or black, soft spots on stems are an indicator that this process has started. A quick sniff to the bottoms of stems (the part in the water) will alert you to the presence of any mold or bacteria. Stems should smell sweet and tangy, like grass, and be green and white to indicate the cut is fresh and absorbing water properly.

Squeezing Buds
Sounds naughty, but if you want those roses to last, pick ones that are firm and solid in the middle when you squeeze the sides of the flower. Roses that are open and wide look lovely, but are on their way out. If you choose ones that are still firm in the middle, they will open slowly over the next several days and last a week or more.

Keeping Cool
Even hot house flowers from sunny climates should be kept out of direct sunlight and in a display cooler (tropical stems like orchids excepted). Once flowers have been cut from the plant, they will mature more slowly in cooler temperatures and last much longer than those displayed outside. If you see a stem you like, ask the florist if they have some in the cooler in back and you can be sure they’ll be blooming long after the ones outside on display.

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