Gathering and Conditioning Garden Flowers

                                  by Ellen McEwan


  1.  Familiarize yourself with the show schedule now and put marks beside anything you might enter.  Keep touring your garden so that you will have a good idea what plants should be in prime condition by the day of the show.
  2. Plan to cut your blooms and foliage early in the morning, one or two days before the show, when everything is cool and fresh, before the sun reaches them, or at the other end of the day when the sun has gone. If you are using blooms and foliage for the decorative section, cut in the morning so that material will have had a long drink before you begin your arranging. (The longer the better!)
  3. Take various sized containers including plastic buckets out to the garden and fill to top with fresh water.
  4. Using your sharpest scissors and clippers cut good long stems on a slant, strip all but top leaves and immediately immerse in water up to flower level. Try to group by size and type, always cut extra to allow for a final choice and also to have spares in case of mishap.

Stem Types

  1. Before cutting any plant with a hollow stem, i.e. angelica, dill, trollius, large dahlia, place a water-filled bucket or wide-mouthed container beside the plant. Cut a long stem and immediately immerse it in water making a second cut under the water removing about another inch of stem. Treat each stem with the same care. Sink up to height of first flower.
  2. Woody stems, ie lilac, camelia, rhodo, scrape 1″ – 2″ bark from cut and slit up 1″ with knife or clippers. A hammer works well on really tough wood. Place in warmish water.
  3. Plants  such as poppy and euphorbia contain a milky sap which oozes from the cut stem and will soon self-seal allowing no water absorption. To prevent this, hold cut end over a burning candle until blackened and only then immerse in water.
  4. Spring bulbs such as hyacinth, tulips and daffs should be cut with a good length of stem but avoid cutting into very bottom white part. Some bulbs have a sap which shortens the life of other flowers so condition separately (daffs only with daffs, tulips only with tulips, etc.).
  5. Place all filled containers in coolest and darkest available area and allow your cuts to take up water as long as possible.

Posted in Flower Show Tips