How to Gather and Harden flowers If you go into the garden early to gather flowers, you are more likely to catch them just as they are breaking bud and before the bees have visited and pollinated them. After a long cool night, stems should be turgid and cells well charged with water. Roses are said to last longest in sunny weather if they are cut at midday. If roses are picked too tight in bud the petals will never expand properly. The calyx of sepals, which covers the petals and protects them when young, should be growing outwards and downwards. It is safest to wait until at least one of the petals has begun to grow away from the mass. Many of the daisy tribe will not take water well after cutting unless the flowers are at the right stage. The ray florets should have fully expanded, although the disc florets, those which form the centre 'eye', should still be immature. Almost all bulb flowers can be picked in bud when the colour of the bloom is beginning to show. If you want the bulb to produce flowers the following year, either cut the slem as short as possible, or in the case of the leafless stems like narcissi, try to cut as few leaves as possible. Take one Or two only from each plant. When narcissi buds crook to I he 'gooseneck' stage, they are perfect for cutting. Gladioli and other flowers which have a similar mode of growth should just be showing colour in the lowest floret. Lilies should just be breaking bud. Reflexed petals should not yet have begun to turn back. Some people remove the pollen bearing anthers as soon as the petals open. Rhododendrons may be cut as soon as the buds are sticky. Blossom and early flowering shrubs may be cut after the turn of the year on a moist not freezing day. If flowers are to keep their first fresh appeal they must not be allowed to wilt. All flowers and foliage should be 'hardened' before being used in an arrangement by being given a long deep drink. Sometimes they will wilt inexplicably after having been arranged. A way to avoid this is always to use tepid water, not only for the first drink but also at the time of arrangement. (Left) Cutting stems above the thick nod To put it in the simplest terms, a flower uses the same pores in give off moisture as it does to breathe. If, because of ii I verse conditions, it gives off water more quickly than it • .in be replaced, then the flower wilts. While any cut flower r. nut of water it still breathes but it is also losing essential moisture. It is not enough merely to stand the stem end in Water, but if the stems and leaves can be covered no water Can be lost and the stem cells will quickly conduct water to the flower. This is why it is good to give most flowers and leaves a lung, deep drink before arrangement. There are a few exceptions to this rule and these are dealt with later. However, before the stems are placed in water they need attention to insure that they can function properly. One of the main causes of wilting is an air bubble which forms in the stem when the flower is cut preventing the flow of water from the Item end to the bloom. In most cases, all that is necessary to remedy this is to recut the stem a little higher up before placing it immediately in water. Another method, good for hollow stems such as delphiniums, is to recut the stem under water. Both splitting the stem upwards and cutting it on a long slant are effective for many types of flowers. Where there are many leaves, and especially if the blooms have soft petals, it may be necessary to remove some to cut down the area from which moisture will be lost. Stocks and many others are improved if every other leaf is carefully cut Off. This retains the character of the flower which is lost if I he stem is completely defoliated. Certainly all leaves on the part of stem to go under water should be removed. Leaves very near a bloom, where they are likely to hide the flower, as with roses, should be cut away.
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