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Bring­ing your gar­den in­doors

Har­vest­ing for the vase ul­ti­mately takes away from the at­mos­phere you have cul­ti­vated in your gar­den, but Ju­lia Atkin­son-Dunn finds there are ways to re­duce the im­pact.

- Ju­lia Atkin­son-Dunn is a creator and founder of Stu­dio Home. See @stu­dio­home­gar­den­ing or stu­dio­home.co.nz Gardening · Home Decoration · Lifestyle · Lifehacks · Self-improvement · Hobbies · Home Design · Interior Design

My path­way to grow­ing a gar­den was fully in­spired by the prom­ise of pick­ing for my home, pro­vid­ing a gate­way and mo­ti­va­tion to learn­ing to grow my own ‘‘soul food’’.

In this ar­ti­cle and next week’s fol­lowup, I’ll share en­try-level tips to har­vest­ing, pre­par­ing and dis­play­ing your own blooms in­side.

It’s an un­com­pli­cated ac­tiv­ity that of­fers a re­prieve in a busy day and a dis­trac­tion for a busy mind. The grow­ing of ‘‘soul food’’, as op­posed to ac­tual ‘‘food’’, is of dif­fer­ent but wor­thy value to your well­be­ing.

Abun­dant stems of flow­ers in the gar­den are equally en­joy­able in a vase, yet fill­ing your home with flow­ers un­doubt­edly causes an aes­thetic blow to the beds they came from. Har­vest­ing for the vase ul­ti­mately takes away from the at­mos­phere you have cul­ti­vated in your gar­den, but there are ways to re­duce the im­pact.

The No 1 op­tion would be to nom­i­nate a bed as a ‘‘cut­ting gar­den’’ that you can ram­page through with snips and not pil­lage your gen­eral gar­den­scape.

The sec­ond al­ter­na­tive is tak­ing the time to nib­ble blooms from the back of the plant and spots with less vis­ual im­pact.

Some­times, I’ll even wait un­til I know a flower has days left of be­ing at its best, snip it off and pop into a short­lived ar­range­ment, get­ting the best of it for in­side and out.

Vases and sup­port

Any­thing goes. Glasses, mugs, jugs, jars, bot­tles and any other wa­ter­tight ves­sel. Part of the fun and cre­ativ­ity of dis­play­ing your flow­ers is to play around with what they are in.

Ves­sels with nar­row tops are handy for sup­port­ing stems, how­ever you can’t fit as many in. Wide open­ings present a new chal­lenge, as they re­move a lot of sup­port but, in my eyes, open up the po­ten­tial for that lovely ram­bling vibe.

Re­mem­ber those heavy, spiky metal squares and rounds at your gran’s house? These are called ‘‘flower frogs’’, or com­monly now known as ken­zan, and are very handy. Scan on­line trad­ing plat­forms and sec­ond-hand shops for the orig­i­nals or search on­line for the modern ver­sions. They sim­ply sit in the bot­tom of your vase and you build your ar­range­ment by spik­ing stems into their cen­tres.

Another fan­tas­tic, lib­er­at­ing op­tion is chicken wire. I pre­fer the coated type and roughly cut up a square of it, gues­ti­mat­ing about 1.5 times the size of the ves­sel it needs to fill. I then crudely curl it over to cre­ate a pil­low form and push it in­side the ves­sel. This acts as a re­us­able and su­per ef­fec­tive sup­port for stems in all man­ner of vases.

If you are deal­ing with longer, heav­ier stems, you should add some ex­tra sup­port by criss­cross­ing the rim of the vase with florists’ ‘‘pot tape’’. It is skinny, very sticky tape that you can eas­ily buy on­line. How­ever, mostly, I find that the chicken wire can be jammed pretty well into the vases if the top is nar­rower than the base.

Tips for har­vest­ing from your gar­den

For pick­ing, it’s of­ten eas­ier to use fine-nosed snips, or even scis­sors, as op­posed to se­ca­teurs, which are heav­ier and harder to be pre­cise. It’s best to pick out­side the heat of the day – morn­ing or evening – to give your flow­ers the best chance of sur­vival.

When har­vest­ing blooms, you are aim­ing to se­lect for op­ti­mum po­ten­tial of vase life, length of stem and cut in away that en­cour­ages your plant to keep flow­er­ing. To be hon­est, mostly you just have to take what you can get and short stems with overly ma­ture blooms might just have to be it.

As plants move through their sea­sonal life cy­cle, flow­er­ing stems seem to get shorter, so don’t stress, just make cuter posies. In most sit­u­a­tions, choos­ing blooms that have opened about one-third to a half, with the re­main­der still in bud, will give you an ad­van­tage to last­ing longer in a vase. This is par­tic­u­larly true for fox­gloves, del­phini­ums and snap­drag­ons.

Once flow­ers have been vis­ited by pol­li­na­tors, their vase life is greatly re­duced. Oth­ers need to be newly, but fully, open and have ma­ture colour and strong stems rather than floppy, ju­ve­nile ones. This is rel­e­vant for many plants like dahlias, cos­mos and also um­bel­lif­ers such as fen­nel and queen anne’s lace.

Once you have cho­sen your flow­er­ing stem, slide your snips down to where it meets the main stem and make a clean cut.

It’s in this lit­tle in­ter­sec­tion that many flow­er­ing plants will be en­cour­aged to gen­er­ate new growth, lead­ing to re­newed dis­play for your gar­den and another round of po­ten­tials for the vase.

For roses, look to cut just above the node you see on the stem as this is where new growth will gen­er­ate.

For dili­gent har­vest­ing prac­tice, you can scout the gar­den with a half-filled bucket of wa­ter, to give in­stant re­lief for flow­ers while in tran­sit. If you don’t muck around too much I find that a trug, or just my hands, does a good job get­ting them from gar­den to kitchen.

Con­di­tion­ing

As soon as you have picked your bunch, pop the stems promptly into a jug or sink of wa­ter to keep them happy. They love it right up to their necks, if pos­si­ble. Some plants are sulky and give you a very short win­dow af­ter cut­ting be­fore they will start to ir­re­triev­ably wilt if not sunk into wa­ter quickly.

Be­fore you set up your vase, whip through the stems and con­di­tion them ready for ar­rang­ing by strip­ping and trim­ming all leaves, branches, or thorns that you think will sit be­low the wa­ter­line. Woody stems (like branches of blos­som, hy­drangeas and roses) are helped along by cut­ting twice. Once across the stem on a 45-de­gree an­gle, then again, around 5cm or more ver­ti­cally ‘‘up’’ the stem to split it open, al­low­ing for greater sur­face area to hy­drate from.

Other flow­ers (like pop­pies and helle­bores) ben­e­fit from a quick sear in boil­ing wa­ter to help pre­vent them wilt­ing in the vase. A 10-sec­ond dip of the bot­tom 5cm of a stem be­fore go­ing straight into a vase of cold wa­ter can work well.

Some plants like daf­fodils and euphor­bia are su­per sappy and should be han­dled with care, avoid­ing get­ting the sap on your skin. Cleanly snip them just once, then pop into their own jug of wa­ter to al­low the sap to dis­pel and the stem to slightly seal, be­fore in­clud­ing in your ar­range­ment. The sap can be toxic to your other blooms, so this lit­tle rest pe­riod is help­ful.

If you are find­ing your favourite gar­den flow­ers are not do­ing well in a vase, a quick search on­line for cut­ting tips iswell worth it.

Next time, I’ll of­fer ideas on ar­rang­ing and dis­play­ing your flow­ers around your home.

 ??  ?? From the top: Use the kitchen sink to plunge your flow­ers into wa­ter im­me­di­ately you get them in­side, chicken wire and ‘‘flower frogs’’ are ex­cel­lent for hold­ing your flow­ers in po­si­tion in a vase, which can be as sim­ple as a pre­serv­ing jar.
From the top: Use the kitchen sink to plunge your flow­ers into wa­ter im­me­di­ately you get them in­side, chicken wire and ‘‘flower frogs’’ are ex­cel­lent for hold­ing your flow­ers in po­si­tion in a vase, which can be as sim­ple as a pre­serv­ing jar.
 ?? PHO­TOS: JU­LIA ATKIN­SON-DUNN ?? A trug is a great way to get flow­ers from the gar­den to the kitchen.
PHO­TOS: JU­LIA ATKIN­SON-DUNN A trug is a great way to get flow­ers from the gar­den to the kitchen.

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