In the Garden

Michael Miyashiro

Friday, May 7, 2004

Mother’s Day cut flowers

Mother's Day is just around the corner, and this is the time to expect to see a wide variety of cut flowers available in your favorite florist. Choose something different and perhaps seasonal for the occasion. Sunday is Mother's Day, and although many of you will get flowers for her on that day, you might consider buying them earlier. A national poll showed that mothers didn't stay put on Mother's Day last year. Most were too busy shopping, or being treated to a brunch or dinner, and thus had to make time for her massage, spending the day at the salon getting manicured, polished and so on. Other moms were out with their friends comparing gifts from their kids.

I have compiled a list of cut-flower care guidelines for some unique and some traditional flowers available at florists for the season.

Roses. The King of Flowers comes in several hundred varieties. Most are grown in Ecuador, but a small amount is also grown in the United States and locally. If you're buying a bunch, make sure the leaves are removed from the stem area that will be submerged. The stem ends should be clean and not black. Any water-soaked coloration suggests the flowers were sitting in water too long. The flowers' first drink should be warm water to acclimate and rehydrate stems that might be shriveled due to handling or travel.

Do not remove the outer petal covering prematurely. This leafy petal may be unsightly, but it contains hormones and food necessary to ensure the long life of your flower. Removing this petal could make your rose shatter quickly or die. Roses should last five to 15 days, depending on the variety and stage of development.

Peonies: The Queen of Flowers is a common sight in florists at this time. The small gumball buds open into huge magnificent flowers in a few days. For those who don't believe they will, you can also buy a semiopened bloom and watch them unfurl quickly into imitation-looking blossoms. The water should be clean at all times. Remove leaves that become submerged in water because they will foul the water. Flowers tend to last three to seven days, depending on the stage of bloom.

Tulips: These are favorites that are best maintained in clean, clear water. It is not necessary to add pennies, bleach, sugar, vodka or use bottled water for the blooms. When you get your tulips home, remove all but the uppermost leaves. Clean the sheaths between the leaves of mud or other contaminants, and place in a deep vase of clean water. Do not use ice cubes or chilled water. Change the water daily, and trim the stems slightly every few days. Tulips usually last five to 10 days when properly cared for.

Lilacs: These are a perennial favorite. It is best to obtain them when the buds are mostly closed. This will allow the stems and buds to acclimate to your environment. When bringing them home, recut the heavy stems with a good pruner, and make split cuts into the stem ends to open up the water-absorbing tissues. Expose as much surface area to the water for easy drinking. Mashing the stem ends is also beneficial in keeping the pathways clear and open. Use warm water initially, cooling with fresh, cold tap water.

The plant's fragrance is best observed in the early mornings and again in the evenings, especially on still, humid nights. Lilacs should last seven to 15 days, depending on the stage of bloom.

Lilies: These are also easy to care for. Remove as much of the foliage as possible. It's too warm in Hawaii at nights for the leaves to remain green here. It's important to remove unopened pollen capsules as the flowers open each day. The pollen can leave stains that are difficult to remove. Cut flowers will last as long as small buds are available on the stems. Expect about 10 to 15 days of vase life.

Lily of the Valley: Is a rare, seasonal flower. Choose blooms that are no more than 50 percent open, but not less. This stage is ideal for enjoying the flower's heavenly fragrance and visual beauty. The best way to keep these flowers is to place them in a shallow vase of water, making sure that each stem is submerged. Refrigerating the arrangement will increase its life to 15 days if flowers are not completely open when purchased. Change the water daily.

Gerbera daisies: These are popular at this time. Nothing says "I'm happy!" more than a gerbera daisy! If the stems are cut at a slant and initially immersed in warm water, the flower head will naturally stand erect without the use of green straws. Keep the room temperature cooler than the warm vase water for best results. Flowers usually respond best when cut at a strict slant and given a warm soak in the evenings. The cut daisies last about seven to 18 days, depending on the variety and age.

Gardenias: Can safely be said to be tied with roses for its popularity. Gardenias are best kept in cool temperatures to keep their buds and fragrance in dormancy. The flowers usually last about three days but can last longer if you chill the buds nightly. Keep the buds in a humid atmosphere by placing a small baggie over the buds at night in your refrigerator.

Hopefully this will help you prolong your flowers for Mother's Day, even though she'd appreciate them earlier, when she can relax and watch them open.

Michael Miyashiro is owner of Rainforest at Ward Warehouse. Contact him at 591-9999 or e-mail

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