Maintaining Flower Quality
From left to right: (1) An "all natural" brand floral food, (2) Home made floral food, (3) Plain water, (4) Floralife. After 5 days, also note the clarity of the solution.
Maintaining flower quality for locally grown flowers is not much different than purchasing from a wholesaler.
On the farm there are many factors to consider. Soil, growing methods, weather, insect, weed and disease pressure, timing and storage methods all contribute to quality (or lack thereof). Some things we don’t have control over, but many we do.
Soil - Since we grow organic, soil health is our top priority.
Growing methods - This includes healthy seedlings, weed, disease and insect management.
Timing - Seed starting and planting out times, field care, fertilizing and harvesting times can all affect flower quality.
Stage of harvest is dependent on flower type. Flowers cut too early may not open, or may wilt. Flowers cut too late will have a short vase life and will drop petals quickly. Cutting early in the cool hours of the day is the best option when possible. Regardless, it’s important to get the field heat out of the flowers as quickly as possible. Our flowers are processed, hydrated, and in the cooler generally within 20 -30 minutes of harvest.
All foliage below the water line is stripped away. Most flowers are placed directly into buckets containing floral food, with the exception being flowers that store better dry.
Storage - How flowers are stored also has a huge effect on quality. Every flower should be well hydrated and stored at the proper temperature.
Follow up Care:
Most flowers leave our farm "cooler ready". This means already processed- cleaned, hydrated, and in floral food. Follow up with recommended care for the longest vase life.
Seasoned flower geniuses know more than I do, and have all the tricks for extending vase life. For newer designers, learn as much as you can about the storage and handling techniques for various flowers. For example, woody stems like to have their stems split for better water absorption (never mashed). Hollow stems can be tipped upside down and their stems filled with a floral food solution.. Spring bulbs and early bloomers tend to like water (i.e. floral food solution) cooler than the typical 100 - 110° F for most flower types, and often times store better dry. Vase life varies not only due to flower type, but also care and handling for each specific variety. Even though most wedding flowers only need to last for several hours, I love it when our customers tell me "Those flowers lasted forever!" I'm sure you do, too!
Keep your buckets clean!!! Flowers will “drink up” anything in your buckets. Dirty buckets are a breeding ground for bacteria and will severely shorten vase life.
Keep hydrated and use floral food (see photo above). Every other day or so, re-cut the stems and place in clean buckets with fresh floral food. Check water levels often.
Store at the proper temperature. 33-35 degrees is ideal for most early blooming flowers. Like some tropical flowers, some local varieties will require higher temperatures such as basil, which should not be stored under 50-55 degrees. Dahlias, along with other late season bloomers, seem to like 35 -38 degrees. A few degrees can matter. For those of you just starting out and without a cooler, an air conditioned room will suffice for a couple of days. Keep 'em cool, and keep 'em hydrated!
Remember, local flowers get to you a lot quicker than flowers ordered from across the country, or across the world. We also have a lot more control over their care during the time frame between the field and the vase.