The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Flowers for a long lasting pick-me-up

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
State Master Gardener Coordinator
slmason@illinois.edu

Despite the exuberant display of joy by actors in sleep aid commercials, few people wake up with a beaming smile. Many of us need to be plugged in and charged before we beam. A research study revealed cut flowers may be the perfect morning pick-me-up so we can shine all day.

The study by Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 2006 found that people were happier and more energetic after viewing fresh flowers first thing in the morning. And for all you silk flower devotees, non-living decorative items did not elicit the same response.

The study showed people received the most benefit by placing flowers in the kitchen or dining room, wherever they spent the most time in the morning. Evidently gazing at flowers as we sip our morning cup of coffee can be an immediate, as well as, long lasting pick-me-up.

Fresh cut flowers at home can also have a positive impact on our mood at work. The study found that people were more likely to feel happier and have more enthusiasm and energy at work when fresh cut flowers were in their homes.

The effect of fresh flowers doesn't require a fancy design. Just a few flowers in simple containers can evoke happy thoughts in happy places.

Valentine's Day or not, there are excellent reasons to add fresh flowers to your home. Here are a few tips to keep flowers looking nicer longer:

  • As soon as flower bouquets arrive, cut stems under water by removing about an inch at an angle with a sharp knife. Place in vase of warm water and flower preservative.
  • Always use flower preservative. It reduces bacterial growth in the water, improves flowering, and prevents leaves from prematurely yellowing. Follow package directions.
  • You can make your own flower preservative by mixing 2 tablespoons white vinegar with 2 teaspoons sugar and one-half teaspoon bleach in 1 quart water.
  • When arranging flowers remove any leaves that will be submerged in water.
  • Never place or store cut flowers near fruit. Most fruit releases ethylene gas which quickly ages the flowers resulting in a shorter vase life.
  • Never place cut flowers in direct sunlight.
  • Lilies are dramatic, long-lasting, and fragrant flowers. However, they have one drawback: their pollen can cause staining on clothing and tablecloths. The good new is a little maintenance will alleviate the problem. Florists remove the anthers of open flowers, but lilies often arrive with many immature buds for a long lasting display. It is essential to remove the anthers from the new buds before they shed pollen. As soon as the buds start to open, gently remove the anthers with your fingers. The anthers are the dark yellow-brown structures balancing on long filaments. If you perform an antherectomy early, you won't get pollen all over your hands or clothing.
  • If your clothing gets pollinated, remove any pollen with a dry brush first. A damp cloth will make the stain worse. Another method is to press a piece of sticky tape over the pollen several times to pick up the pollen and remove it from the clothing.
  • If flowers arrive in an arrangement, be sure to add water immediately and add water daily.
  • To keep arrangements looking nice, recut stems and replace water and flower preservative every 2-3 days especially when water becomes cloudy.

As flowers are recut, downsize to a smaller vase. Or rearrange and regroup flowers into smaller containers. Use a grouping of decorative bottles, votive candle holders, or coffee mugs.

As flowers reach the end of their useful life, cut stems to half inch from the blooms and float in champagne glasses or bowls of water. Arrange loose rose petals around the grouping. Do yourself a favor any time of year. Pick up some flowers today for a pick-me-up tomorrow.

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