So often we see flowers and branches in our yards, from Spirea, Tulips and Daffodils in the spring to bittersweet branches, Marigolds, Salvia and Asters in the fall and don’t think of bringing a few to the table to brighten the house – or to add color to our appetizers. Think open gladiolus blooms stuffed with your favorite cream cheese spread.
To begin with, search a spare room, attic or basement for some interesting containers you might enjoy using to decorate your home. Anything from a Mason jar to a beautifully decorated vase will do. If they’ve been in storage a long time, I would run them through the dish washer to get the dust and stains off.
After a few weeks, after the leaves have aged and hardened, you might go into the garden from time to time and cut a mixture of different foliages and make arrangements of them in larger vases. Generally they will last three or four weeks, especially if you change the water regularly. It is important to decide, at this point what flowers you will be using. Glads and Delphinium and larkspur will require tall slender vases, while things like Cockscomb, Asters and Geraniums need scaled down containers. You might want to have a few low bowls for centerpieces if you are going to use Pansies, French Marigolds, or Geraniums. In my yard I will be cutting a branch or two from that large Magnolia for larger leaves and some branches from my privet hedge for smaller leaves, a few Hosta leaves, some leaves from my Daylilies and even a branch or two from the large burning bush. Yes, some evergreen branches will add interest. And, taking a few branches from here and there just isn’t going to hurt the plant and the supply is, seemingly, endless. If the vase is tall, you might add interest by cutting a few long, slender branches of Ivy to hang over.
Once you have gotten your foliage arrangements in place, when company is coming it is an easy thing to cut whatever is in full bloom in the garden to add color.
But wait, there is one more step before you start arranging. It is conditioning the flowers. Just think, once you cut that flower and removed it from its nutrition gathering roots it will be in shock. Once in the house, put six to 8 inches of lukewarm water in containers (different sizes for different stem lengths.) if the flowers have been out of water for any length of time, give them a fresh cut. Then strip the lower leaves, those that would be under water, away. Thusly we are removing breeding grounds for bacteria and other germs.
Now we are ready to put our flowers in water. Well, almost. You’ve removed those stems from their source of food so we need to give it a new source. Ideal, of course, would be a packet of flower food. Do you have some around the house? If not, a suitable substitute might be a can of a citric soda (i.e. 7Up.) mixed with an equal amount of water. It has ingredients similar to flower food, citric acid to bring the water to the proper acidity, sugar to feed the flower and something to help keep the germs at bay. Next week, a look at the flowers.Summer
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