Kate's Garden Flowers

Rooms in Bloom: Kate's Tips to Make Your Fresh Cut Flowers Last Longer

Deconstructing a Store Bought Bouquet into Rooms of Bloom

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Fresh Cut Flowers:  Nature’s Stress Releasers

This week, treat yourself to some fresh cut flowers!   Nothing perks up a room like flowers in bloom.   More importantly, our brains are pretty much hardwired to automatically relax in the presence of flowers.   Flowers, especially fragrant ones, are nature’s stress relievers!

Rooms in Bloom

No need to blow your budget to do it.   A $25 bouquet of fresh cut flowers, often purchased at the grocery store, should provide you with five to seven rooms worth of bloom.   An even bigger benefit, most budget bouquets are usually composed of flowers that are long-lasting…especially if you know just a few tips and tricks to make them last.

Floral Conditioning:  Make ‘em Last!

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Techniques to make flowers last longer are referred to as the Conditioning step of flower arranging.   Instead of plopping your flowers into the vase as pre-arranged by the shop, take just a few extra rather pleasurable minutes to ensure that your cut flowers endure days longer.

Water Temperature for Fresh Cut Flowers

Place your fresh flowers into lukewarm water as soon as possible after arrival. Leave the flowers in a bucket of lukewarm water for an hour or so prior to arranging to allow them to straighten up.   This is called "soldiering up" the stems.   A lukewarm water temperature absorbs more quickly.

Clean, Proper Flower Arranging Tools

Make certain that your floral bucket, floral shears or knife and the vase chosen for flower arranging have been rinsed with bleach.   Remember bacteria kills flowers.   Clean tools and vessels make a huge difference to floral longevity.    Believe it or not, denture cleanser has proven to be our most effective vase cleansers at the shop.   Denture cleanser can even get rid of stubborn lines.   We use two other cleansers at the shop.   One is called C is for Clean and the other is called Universal Stone.   Between these two green cleaners, we can pretty much clean anything.     

Regular scissors crush the stems so treat yourself to a decent pair of Floral Shears or Knife reserved only for flower arranging.

The Slanted Cut

Always cut the base of the stem with a sharply-slanted cut.   The slanted cut ensures that additional stem is exposed so that the flower drinks up even more water.   Trim the stem at least one inch to remove the scab that inhibits water flow.  If possible, it is best to cut the stems underwater to prevent air bubbles…especially with roses and tulips.

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“Jacketing” your Fresh Cut Flowers   

“Jacket” your flowers, particularly roses.  “Jacketing” means removing any of the outer petals that become damaged or bruised in travel.  Even local, seasonal flowers bruise in shipment.  If they have come all the way from Holland, Israel or Central America,  just imagine how all that jostling will damage tender petals.  Removing just a few outer petals uncovers the perfection within.

Removing Excess Leaves

Remove all leaves that will remain below the water line in the vase. Excess leaves just steal the nutrients and water needed for the actual flower.   Remove any leaves that will not add to your arrangement.   For instance, those large leaves just under the heads of sunflowers wick away hydration from the bloom that you want to show off.   Also remove excess buds that are unlikely to bloom within a week or anything that is broken, browning or wilted.

Floral Food:  Use it or Lose It

Always use those tiny packages of floral food.   Those tiny packets are basically the chemical equivalent of bleach and sugar need to keep the water clean and the flowers fed!  

Recut the Stems Every Two Days

Last but not least, be sure to tend to you fresh cuts every few days.   Every two to three days, recut the bottom of the stems and replace your lukewarm water with fresh floral food too.   Shortening the stems every couple of days decreases the height of your arrangement.  Not a problem as it gives you an opportunity to change up your look too.  


See our photo to see how we used a $25 bouquet to get enough flowers for seven rooms:

The lit look using a Water Lite and Foliage for the Mantel

The Twined Vase with the single lily for a Shelf for the Family Room 

The Kitchen Counter Arrangement with the bright yellow mums and the Molca Floater Candle. 

The Sunflower centrepiece for the Dining Room Table. 

Three small frosted vases to use in the powder room and guest bedroom. 

The low bowl using the remaining scraps to float flowers and Molca Floater Candles. 



Greetings from France

Researching the Elements of French Style 

It is amazing to be able to say that this blog comes to you direct from Lyon in France.  My daughter Silken is spending a year here as part of the International Business programme of Carleton University in Ottawa.   Helping Silken to settle in has given me yet another excuse to continue my love affair with France.    Several times a year at Kate’s Garden, we run a seminar called The Elements of French Style which we often couple with our passion for sharing information about the world’s most wonderful plant; Lavender.    So as much as I am assisting Silken, this has been yet another opportunity to update my research on a few elements of French style and lavender!

A Parc in Avignon

A Parc in Avignon

Birth of a Francophile

I was lucky enough during my corporate career to have worked for Connaught Labs, a world class biotech company.   During that period it was owned by Pasteur Mérieux which is headquartered in Lyon.   For almost a decade, as part of my responsibilities, I was allowed to travel to France several times each year, most frequently working near Versailles, in Paris and in Lyon.   In addition to this key formative period in my life, several previous and subsequent trips to France have made me a self-proclaimed Francophile.

Dressing Like a French Woman 

What have I learned this time?  I continue to love the simple elegance of the way French women dress.     Style is important but comfort is key.  For casual wear, boyfriend dressing rules i.e. understated colours,  loose shirts, rolled up jeans and flat shoes rule.  For women of a certain age, hair styles are simple, and makeup is low key.   It is both timeless and seems to be effortlessly elegant as they always look put together.    Even matrons as they shop in their flattering summer frocks seem somehow more elegant.   I am now vowing never to be caught again in my active wear as I run to Longo’s! 

Le Marais in Paris

This trip also allowed us to visit an area of Paris with which I was less familiar called Le Marais.   It is an historic district within walking distance of La Gare de Lyon, spreading across the third and fourth arrondissements of Paris.    Victoria magazine featured it in an article called The Secret Haunts of Paris so I followed their advice and decided to explore the Village St. Paul with Silken as my willing accomplice.   It is street after street of antiques, collectibles, brocante (second-hand treasures) and vintage finds.  Well worth another visit, or six!

The Colours of France

Getting to know Lyon better was our primary goal this trip.   It goes without saying that it is tough to find a bad meal in Lyon as it is the gastronomic heart of France.    It is as well a beautiful city astoundingly clean for such a cosmopolitan centre.   As soon as you see the colour of the Rhone, one of the two rivers that dissect the city, you can understand the French obsession with the colours of blue and green.   We have walked a minimum of twenty kilometres each day here, exploring several of the arrondissements crossing back and forth over the various bridges over the rivers that are the colour of the sea. 

Lavender goods sold near Le Palais des Papes in Avignon

Lavender goods sold near Le Palais des Papes in Avignon

Avignon and Lavender

A personal highlight for me was our time spent in Avignon which I am determined to visit for a much more extended period.   It is cliché to attempt to describe anywhere in Provence but sun-drenched seems most apt.   This trip advanced my knowledge of Lavender as well.   Having run some form of Lavender Fair for more than 15 years, I thought I was pretty well-informed.  I learned so much more by visiting a shop in Avignon owned by Le Chateau du Bois.  The company is owned by the Lincele Family who have produced fine lavender and its products since 1890.    An hour spent viewing a documentary and discussing Lavender with a very well-informed store manager made me understand the important distinction between fine lavender and lavandin.   The purest essential oil with the strongest qualities in terms of its medicinal, cosmetic and antiseptic properties comes from fine lavender as opposed to lavandin.   My next trip to France, I hope to visit their Lavender Museum which is located in the heart of Provence.   I just have to make certain that I get there in July during the actual harvest as I would love to see the distillation process to convert lavender to hydrosol and lavender oil on such a massive scale.   I have visited several lavender farms in Ontario and, of course, the biggest Canadian producer of Fine Lavender in the Eastern Townships of Quebec in Fitch Bay called Bleu Lavande.   Still, I would love to see this process when they are distilling three tons of lavender every hour!

You may not be current on your exchange rate but trust me flowers are less expensive in France!

You may not be current on your exchange rate but trust me flowers are less expensive in France!

Avignon Weddings

And what can I say but weddings are such a thing for me.   They seem to find me when I am not even looking.    Silken and I stopped for a cool drink at a bistro in La Place d’Horloge in Avignon and watched wedding party after wedding party tumble out of L’Hotel de Ville on a sunny, Saturday afternoon.   It was lovely to see the happy groups of family and friends and to discern the distinctly retro vibe for the brides, their flowers and the bridesmaid’s dresses.   Allowing the bridesmaids to wear dresses in the same hues but suited to the individual size and shape of the woman is not just a North American trend.   I was, however, struck by the number of brides and their parties garbed in very flattering styles reminiscent of fashion from the forties and fifties.  Tightly fitted tops with very full skirts and lots of floral prints.    

Flowers in France

Speaking of flowers, the easy access to inexpensive flowers makes it clear why flowers seem to be such an intricate part of French life and style.  There are so many flower shops and floral vendors and flowers in little supermarkets.   They are inexpensive compared to the prices we pay in Canada!  It was, however, reassuring to see how current we are to European styles.    Part of the reason that Kate’s Garden was recently voted the Best Florist Shop in Markham is our unrelenting desire to stay on top of floral trends in both our shop and in the workshops we provide.  


Related Links 

Le Marais Paris

More Information on Dressing Like a French Woman

Carleton International Business Program

Le Chateau Du Bois Fine Lavender

Bleu Lavande, Eastern Townships of Quebec

Victoria Magazine