Making the cut

Graham Rice offers some clever tricks to help your summer cut flowers last

There’s no shortage of flowers in the garden this month. Almost anything from your beds, borders and containers can be cut to bring your garden delights into the house. Of course, some flowers last longer than others; but almost everything you cut will at least last long enough to decorate the table for a dinner party or charm a friend who calls in for coffee.
There are other ways to keep cut flowers looking their best for longer than simply cutting them and dropping them in a vase. There are three rules that apply to all cut blooms:

  • Use fresh water and a spotlessly clean vase
  • Use flower food
  • Keep cut flowers away from fruit, especially bananas. (Fruit gives off ethylene gas that shortens flower life.)

There are also tricks that apply to specific flowers:

  • Alchemilla Snip off the lower leaves from flowering stems before arranging.
  • Allium Cut when about one third of the flowers in the globe are open. Change the water every day.
  • Alstroemeria Pull the stems out from the base of the plant, do not cut them.
  • Ammi Strip off most of the leaves, as they turn yellow quickly.
  • Antirrhinum Stand upright in a bucket of deep water as soon as the flowers are cut.
  • Astrantia Cut when the first flowers of the spray are open.
  • Calendula Cut as soon as the flowers are fully open.
  • Centaurea cyanus Sprays of cornflowers should be cut when the top flower is three-quarters open, single stems when a quarter to a half is open.
  • Cosmos Cut when the buds are coloured but before they open.
  • Dahlia Cut when the flowers are three-quarters open.
  • Echinacea Cut when the petals are expanding and place in water with flower food immediately.
  • Eryngium Wait to cut until the flower heads have turned blue.
  • Helianthus Cut sunflowers as the petals are opening, put into water immediately.
  • Lupinus Stand upright in a bucket of deep water as soon as the flowers are cut.
  • Moluccella Cut when about half the flowers in the spike are open and green.
  • Nigella Cut when the flowers have developed their colour but before they are fully open.
  • Orlaya Strip off most of the leaves, as they turn yellow quickly.
  • Roses Never crush the stems, and be sure to cut them with a very sharp pair of secateurs.
  • Sweet peas Cut when the first flower on the spike is fully open, and stand in water with flower food immediately.
  • Zinnia Cut when the flowers have opened and you see the first yellow pollen.

More on growing cut flowers

Cutting and conditioning
More advice on getting the best from cut flowers.

Growing and selecting
How to grow cut flowers and choosing what to grow.

10 AGM plants for cut flowers 
Graham Rice chooses 10 AGM-winning plants suitable for cutting.

Shrubs for cut flowers
Graham suggests several shrubs with great flowers for cutting.

How to grow annuals
Annuals make great cut flowers, find out how to grow them. 

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