Saturday, November 28, 2009

Hippeastrums are big fat...

Hippeastrums are the big, fat, trumpet-shaped flowers that most of us (wrongly) still call Amaryllis. If you walk into our store we call them Amaryllis! Don’t worry were all on the same wrong page with beautiful superfluous flowers.

As crocus, daffs and tulips disappear from the shelves of our shop, these huge, beefy bulbs take their place. In flower, they look as though they've wandered off the set of Walt Disney's Fantasia. You can scarcely believe that any flower can be so vast, so stiff, so voluptuously unreal.

Once you get them started, they grow indoors at a phenomenal rate. You can buy them as extra presents for children, but pot them up and get them going before handing them over. From then on, there is enough action to engage children.

There was a time when hippeastrums, like potatoes, only came in two colors: white and a pleasingly shocking shade of red. The red was usually 'Red Lion' and the white 'Apple Blossom', which was actually a very pale pink. But partly because hippeastrums have recently become such popular cut flowers, there's been a very welcome explosion in the number of varieties available at this time of year. You can see why professional florists like hippeastrums so much. They last a long time in water and you don't need many of them to make a dramatic display.

You can experiment by planting the bulbs themselves in tall, thick glass vases. You need to be careful about watering, as there will no holes at the bottom like you would have in a pot, but the final effect is wonderful, very spare and spacey. Add slender twigs of beech, twisty willow or branches if you want a fuller effect. You can stick the twigs straight in the compost that is already there.

Big is not always best, but with hippeastrums, it pays to get top-size bulbs. Kits, containing pot (usually hideous), compost and bulb are not such good value as buying bulbs on their own. Check that each bulb is firm, that its nose is not damaged and that it has plenty of fleshy roots. Soak the roots for 12-24 hours, by balancing the bulb on top of a jar of tepid tap water. Do not get the base itself wet, or it may rot.

Choose 6” pots for smallish bulbs, 7” pots for medium-sized bulbs and 8” pots for big the biggest ones . You do not need to leave much space between the edge of the bulb and the edge of the pot, but the deeper the pot the better. Plastic is easier to manage than terracotta (though does not look as good). The pots must, of course have drainage holes.

The compost you use must be nutritious and free-draining. I have had decent results simply by mixing multipurpose compost with gravel or sand (two parts compost to one part gravel/sand). Add a slow-release fertiliser (such as Osmacote granules) to the mix.

Put a layer of your compost in the bottom of a pot. Hold the bulb in one hand with its roots hanging down and firm more compost round the roots. The nose of the bulb should poke up above the rim of the pot and its shoulders should be above the surface of the compost. Water with tepid water and put the pot in a warm, light, well-ventilated place, free from draftes . A temperature around 70 degrees is ideal.

Let the compost dry out on top before watering. Always water from the top, never from the bottom. Do not wet the nose of the bulb or allow the pot to stand in water for a long period. When the first shoot appears, start feeding by adding a liquid fertiliser when you water. Give the pot a quarter turn each day to keep the stems growing straight. You may need to stake them as they grow. When the buds start to open, move the pot to a cooler place so the flowers last as long as possible. Suppliers suggest that hippeastrums will come into flower six to eight weeks after planting. They have never been that fast for me. ten weeks plus is more realistic maybe it’s a New England thing

Monday, November 16, 2009

Cut Flower Tips

We at Carey’s Flowers hope that you will always enjoy your flower purchases. You have spent your hard earned money on something of beauty and you will want the flowers to last as long as possible. Your flowers will need your help if they are going to give you their all. Here are some tips for you to help them out.

Flower Arrangements

Many arrangements are sent out in boxes, remove this box as soon as the flowers have reached their final destination.

We advise placing all arrangements on a small tablemat of some sort and not directly on any polished surface.

If your flowers have been arranged in florists foam it is harder to see that the water level may be low. For this reason watering every day is best. Water slowly through the center of the arrangement while inserting the index finger of your free hand down inside of the arrangement to feel the water level, this will help avoid spills.

If your flowers arrive in a vase be careful vases can ‘sweat’ and leave a small puddle on surfaces. Changes in temperature cause vases to sweat, here in New England changes in temperature from indoor to outdoor can be drastic and happen year round. With a glass vase it is easier to see when water levels go down but it has been my experience that people just let the water sit and run out. This severely shortens the life of your flowers I hope you don’t buy a new car and let the gas run out. So watering each day with fresh clean water (from the tap is fine) is the very best thing you can do for your flowers. The water should never dip down below the neck of the vase.

Cut Flowers

Carefully remove all wrapping materials the flowers have come in.

Clean your vase thoroughly using hot water and soap the best practice is to then rinse with water that you have put a tablespoon of bleach into. The bleach kills any bacteria on the inside of the vase and flowers live longer in a bacteria free environment. Then fill the vase ¾ of the way with cool water that has been mixed with the flower food sachet you received with your flowers.

Carefully remove any leaves from the stems that may be below the water line of your vase; these leaves will decompose and contaminate the water and can shorten the life of your flowers. This decomposition also causes what I like to call ‘water funk’ this is when your flowers look fine but there is a funny smell about them. That’s the leaves decomposing and the water getting stale. Why would you want beautiful flowers that stink yuk.

Holding the bouquet up to the vase will help you determine the length you will need to cut the stems to. With a clean knife (cleaned with bleach) cut stems at a 45-degree angle. Place immediately into water in vase.

Once the bouquet has been placed into the vase check that is sits in proportion to the vase. The flowers should not tower over the vase this is the perfect recipe for the vase to tip over and then you have a big mess and no pretty flowers.

When the flowers are in correct proportion fill the vase the rest of the way with your water / flower food mix.

Choosing the right place in your home for your flowers is key. Many people have said to me “I like them on top of the TV so I can see them all the time” BAD choice! The television gives off too much heat for cut flowers. Place flowers in a cool place, away from heating or cooling vents, appliances, direct sunlight (picture window are a no no) or drafts.

Keep cut flowers away form ripening fruit. As fruit ripens it gives off ethylene gas with causes flowers to rot and die quickly.

Add water daily. Add water daily. Add water daily.

General Cautions

Lily pollen can stain. In case of contact dab affected area with tape wrapped sticky side out around your hand, DO NOT rub! Do NOT use water! Follow up with a stain removing pre-treatment before washing any cloth items.

All berries can stain and may NOT be eaten.

Wash your hands thoroughly after arranging your flowers, some flowers have sap which can irritate sensitive skin.