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Thursday, Feb. 9, 2006 11:38 am

Care of fresh-cut flowers

Keep those Valentine's Day roses looking fresh

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Flowers are a great way to celebrate a special occasion — holiday, birthday, anniversary, new baby. Of course, you don’t need a special occasion to enjoy fresh-cut flowers or a flowering potted plant: Sending flowers shows thoughtfulness and is a good way to brighten a person’s day. At Valentine’s Day and year-round, roses are the most popular flower purchase. In 2005, nearly 180 million were bought for Valentine’s Day, and 1.3 billion total were bought in 2005. How can you get the most life out of your cut flowers? Start by purchasing flowers with green, healthy-looking, undamaged foliage. Look for well-formed flowers and avoid wilted or discolored petals. Be sure to purchase tulips and daffodils in the bud stage. A little care for your cut flowers will help them last. The basic needs of fresh cut flowers are water, food, sanitation and cool temperature. Keep in mind that certain types of cut flowers last longer than others. For example, carnations may remain vibrant for one to two weeks, whereas roses have a shorter life span. Flowers are 90 percent water. As a flower transpires, or breathes, it gives off water, so extra water is needed to supplement the loss. When you get a gift of loose wrapped flowers, cut the stems with a clean, sharp knife, clippers, or shears, removing about 1 inch of the stem. Avoid using household scissors, which will crush rather than cut the stems. (Roses should be cut under water.) Remove any foliage that will be under the water level to discourage bacterial growth, then place stems in a clean, sanitized container containing warm water to which a floral preservative has been added. Avoid overcrowding flowers in the vase. Replenish water daily, keeping it fresh and clean at all times; cloudy water indicates bacterial growth, which may clog stems and shorten the life of your flowers. Try to replace the water every two or three days. When you replace the water, recut the stems. Flowers that go limp are not taking up enough water and need to be recut. Always discard wilted blooms. Commercial floral food (preservative) consists of several ingredients. Most preservative solutions contain sugar for nutrition, bleach to discourage bacterial growth, and citric acid to gently acidify the water. Be sure to follow the packet directions — too much preservative can do more harm than good. For arrangements in floral foam, keep the foam soaked with water containing floral food. Flowers are sensitive to heat and drafts, so avoid placing them near heat sources such as registers, radiators, and television or in full sun. Most fresh-cut flowers prefer cool temperatures, 65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit.

Register now for Gardeners Day
Get ready for the 2006 gardening season by reserving a seat today at Gardeners Day. This event, presented by the University of Illinois Extension Sangamon-Menard Unit Master Gardeners, will be held Saturday, Feb. 18. Registration begins at 8 p.m., the first seminar starts at 8:45 a.m., and the event concludes at 12:05 p.m.
Nine one-hour seminars will be offered by U of I Extension specialist and local horticulture experts in three sessions.
Session 1 topics and speakers: “Flowering Trees and Shrubs,” David Robson, U of I Extension; “Great Picks for the Cutting Garden,” Sue Ellen Weitekamp; and “How to Install a Dry-Laid Brick Patio,” Kent Douglas and Marc Miller, GreenView Design-Build Group.
Session 2 topics and speakers: “Uncommon, Unusual, and Underrated Landscape Plants,” Chris Hilgert, U of I Extension; “Landscape 101: Where to Start?” Heather Miller, GreenView; and “Container Gardening,” Karen Grant, master gardener.
Session 3 topics and speakers: “Pruning,” Chris Hilgert; “Landscape 101: Four Seasons of Interest in the Landscape,” Heather Miller; and “Annuals for Color,” Jennifer Fishburn, U of I Extension.
Preregistration is highly encouraged. The registration fee is $8 in advance (before Feb. 10) and $10 at the door. The event will be held at the U of I Extension Building, on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. To request a brochure with the preregistration form, call 217-782-4617.
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