We've all been there. You pick up the most glorious bouquet of flowers at the grocery store and lovingly arrange the blooms once you get home. You admire the cheerful colors and happy fragrance for a couple of days — making sure to keep the flowers watered because you've got this! You remember how much you love having fresh flowers around the house.
Then you catch sight of a lone rose petal that's fluttered to the table. You don't live at Downton Abbey so there's no staff to whisk away the offending petal or replace the flowers. You hope to get a few more days out of the bunch, but then the dried petals begin to multiply and the flower heads bend mournfully. You know what's next — your lovely bouquet from a few days ago is now just a depressing bunch of dead stuff. Sigh. You remember why you don't buy flowers that often.
Well, what if we're all just doing it wrong? If you're like me and don't know your dahlia from your day lily, you probably don't know which blooms you can count on and which ones are on expedited death watch the moment they're plucked. Like I do with Derby horses, I pretty much choose based on color. To find out how to make smarter decisions and help my flower dollars last longer, I found an expert to give us the scoop.
If you don't know about the Cooperative Extension System, I first have to highly recommend these folks. The offices house experts in a number of fields including agriculture, nutrition, and arts, and staffers are only too happy to talk with the public about the topics near and dear to their hearts (find yours here). I had a wonderful chat with Carol Wilder, a horticulture technician for Kentucky's Cooperative Extension System, and she was brimming with advice for choosing the flowers that will last the longest. Here are her picks.
These are a fun, light-hearted flower that might look like daisies or a big pompom. You may see them in colors nature never intended because these can be dyed and it won't hurt their longevity. Maybe not a "serious ornamentation," she says, but do they ever last.
If you ever made tissue paper flowers as a little kid, those were carnations, Carol says. These are an inexpensive flower that can come in a particularly lovely dual color combo, like white to blush. They also take dye well, so you can find them in all colors of the rainbow.
You know these — they're the cheerful yellow button-center flowers. "Daisy" is kind of a general catch-all term that includes marguerite daisies and daisy mums, Carol says, but there's no need to start memorizing botanical terms. Just look for the sunny button at the center.
These fragrant and pretty flowers are the poor man's orchid, Carol says (and you've probably seen them in wedding bouquets).
You don't need to be a horticulture technician or ask the floral department staff to know a sunflower when you see one. The smaller variety of Van Gogh's delight are particularly long-lasting, Carol says.
Choosing the right flowers is just the first step. Carol has some parting advice. Once you get them home, "to get the most out of your cut flowers, re-cut stems under water before placing in a clean vase. Remove extraneous leaves, as they decay and can cause bacterial growth that affects the longevity of the flowers as well as produce an unpleasant smell. Use a commercial flower preservative to provide longer-lasting blooms."
(And if you really want them to last and you fancy a deep dive, check out this publication she recommends: Preserving Flowers and Foliage.)