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Illinois Country Living

David Robson Extension Educator, Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois

Yard & Garden

How to Lift Someone’s Spirits
Brighten your relationships during the dreary drabness of winter

February can be one of those dreary winter months, especially if there’s no snow and you’re left with the drabness of grays and browns in the landscape.

On the other hand, smack in the middle of non-Leap Year February, you have Valentine’s Day, when we have the opportunity to brighten our homes.

Second only to Mother’s Day weekend, Valentine’s is one of those flower-giving days. Nothing lifts the spirits like a dozen roses, carnations or a bouquet of mixed flowers.

If you give someone chrysanthemums or other daisy-like flowers, you can argue that you are giving the person thousands of flowers, for every petal on a chrysanthemum or daisy is, in reality, a flower just like a solitary rose. If the daisy has an eye, then the middle is composed of hundreds of petal-less flowers as well.

So, giving someone just one mum flower, you can look them in the eye and say, “Honey, I’m giving you hundreds, if not thousands, of flowers instead of a dozen roses.”

Of course, it helps to stay about 10 feet away from the reach or throw of the person getting the flowers as you say this. Science and logic sometimes don’t cut it when emotions are involved.

Fresh flowers are one of those things that haven’t risen drastically in price over the years.

The main reason is that most of the florist flowers aren’t grown in the United States any more. It’s cheaper to grow them in South America, Europe or the Middle East where labor and production costs are markedly lower and ship them to the states.

Years ago, flowers were the domain of the florist. These days, you can find them just about anywhere from supermarkets to home improvement stores to discount stores to gas stations.

Most flowers, if treated properly, should last at least a week. Finicky flowers such as roses can last two weeks or more if you know what to do. As long as the flowers look good think of all the good will, not to mention other perks, you can get as the giver.

Do remember that, unlike a diamond, flowers don’t last forever. They just are cheaper than a diamond.

If you want to make sure the flowers die a quick death, stick them in a vase of water and do nothing else. In less than five days, they’ll not only look awful, but will smell just as bad.

With a little extra care, you can be sure these flowers will last as long as possible.

Start with a clean vase or container. I usually wash mine again before putting in the flowers, and swish some bleach around in the container before giving it a final rinse.

Next, strip off any leaf that will be underwater. Leaves are a source of bacteria that multiplies quickly in water, and clogs the water vessels of the flowers.

Remove an inch of the stems from each flower. The quicker you can cut, chop or saw through the stems, the best. There’s the perpetual argument about cutting stems on an angle. Do it if it makes you feel good.

Use warm water to help the flowers start sucking up the water. Distilled water is the best; giving a jug of water with a bouquet of flowers doesn’t seem appropriate, but it’s possible you could be on the cutting edge of a new trend. Avoid softened water.

The packets of floral preservative with the flowers are worthwhile and not just a gimmick. They prevent bacteria from growing.

But, the best thing you can do is empty the vase every other day and put in fresh water. After a week, it doesn’t hurt to cut another inch off the stems. Set the alarms on your computer or PDA to remind you. You’ll be amazed at how long the flowers last if you do that one simple task.

Of course, if you want flowers to last forever, go the artificial route. Remember, though, fake flowers may convey a message you don’t want to say.


More Information:

David Robson is an Extension Educator, Horticulture, at the Springfield Extension Center, University of Illinois Extension, P.O. Box 8199, Springfield, IL 62791. Telephone: 217-782-6515.


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
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