Helping Cut Flowers Last Longer (Part Two)

July 31st, 2015 | Plant Talk with Graham Rice | 0 Comments

OK, time for another look at some of the most popular cut flowers in our gardens and how to ensure that they last as long as possible once we’ve cut them.

The simplest thing you can do with all cut flowers is to change the water every day or two – that really makes a difference. But each flower has its own needs: different flowers are best cut at different stages and each has an individual treatment that will help it last.

Last time I looked at cut flowers from Achillea to Cosmos, let’s take a look at some more with some advice from two award-winning books on cut flowers: The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven and The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley.

Dahlia 'Karma Choc'Dahlia
One thing about dahlias that’s worth remembering is that some varieties are much better cut flowers than others; some hold their petals well, some drop them in a day or two. The Karma Series, now in nineteen colours, are the ones to look for.

Here’s what Sarah Raven has to say about making sure that cut dahlias last: “Only pick dahlias in full flower. The buds tend to wither and die without opening. Recut the hollow stem ends under water to avoid air locks.”

Order Karma Series cut flower dahlias when they become available later in the year.

Delphinium
Perennial delphiniums make spectacular cut flowers but it’s worth remembering that the more petals in the flowers – that is, the more double they are – the longer they’ll last.

Again, Sarah Raven has some good advice: “Pick delphiniums when most of the flowers on the spike are open. They are very sensitive to ethylene gas, which is emitted as fruit ripens., so do not put them near a bowl of fruit.”

Order delphinium seed to sow next month or in spring.

Dianthus (Sweet William)
These are amongst the most naturally long lasting of garden cut flowers but, like delphiniums, are especially sensitive to ethylene. Avoid varieties with very short stems and choose taller types such as ‘Monarch Mixed’ and especially ‘Electron’.

Cut them when about 20% of the individual flowers in the head are open and be sure to strip off most of the leaves from the stems.

Order seed of ‘Electron’ cut flower sweet William.

Books on cut flowers
These two books give useful cut flower advice, though the focus is mostly on how to grow them with relatively limited advice on how to treat them once they’re cut.

The Cutting Garden by Sarah Raven

The Cut Flower Patch by Louise Curley

Sweet William for cut flowers

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Is one of our best known gardening writers. A graduate of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Graham was previously Gardening Correspondent of The Observer.
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