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Musings » The Complete Book of Cut Flower Care
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Vaughan, Mary Jane
Portland, Oregon
Timber Press 1998

This month I am talking about a book which should be dear to the hearts of many members: the care of cut flowers. Mrs Vaughan comes from a family of flower growers in Colombia but now lives in London. It is clear that she is thoroughly professional.

The book is tightly organized. Its heart lies in the two alphabetical lists of how to look after cut flowers and cut foliage, giving both the Latin and common names of the plants. Take the familiar Sword Fern, for example: we learn that this is Polystichum but could also be Nephrolepsis. Its vase life is 10 to 14 days. The fern should be placed in water and misted frequently.

To make things even clearer, the author tells the reader how the foliage was handled before she bought it, the ” trade care”. Sword fern is the only type of foliage that will keep up to three weeks without water. The temperature should be from 36 to 41 degrees F, with high relative humidity.

Gypsophila, Baby’s Breath, used so frequently in bouquets, has a lot of challenges. All too often it is past its prime and the discoloured brownish florets drop off just when you want them to look at their best. This book tells you why.

In the first place, you should choose bunches in which two thirds of the flowers are open. If none are open, you may be left with permanently closed buds. The florist should not keep them more than two days without water. If they are in water and in a cool place, they will last up to four or five days. They need good air circulation to prevent fungal damage and high humidity to promote flower opening.

Some of the old wives’ tales about flowers are examined closely. Mrs Vaughan uses scientific fact to support or refute these. Cutting the stems underwater really helps. Water goes up into the hollow tubes rather than air.

On the other hand using pennies or aspirin in the water has no visible effect on the longevity of cut flowers. Making sure the container is clean, and using a drop of bleach or antiseptic will keep them fresh longer.

This book is extremely useful to anyone who arranges flowers and wants the results of her labours to last a little longer.