Shakespeare described flowers as painting "the meadows with delight." Cut flowers are wonderful to both give and receive, but their beauty is all too transitory. Here's how to keep them from wilting as long as possible.
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Choose blossoms that haven't opened yet. The best flowers on display are the ones at the end of their life cycle. They'll look good now, but will fade faster later.
Decide on your solution. Many bouquets sold in flower shops are sold with preservative. A lot of growers use silver thiosulfate. Add it to a vase with room temperature water. Be sure to swirl it thoroughly so that the solids dissolve readily. Change the water when it gets cloudy adding more preservative. Keep the cut flowers out of direct sunlight or cold drafts.
If you buy flowers from a street vendor, you'll have to mix your own solution. At Pasadena's annual Rose Parade, most of the flowers are preserved with a solution of half water and 7-Up soda. The slightly acidic solution is absorbed more rapidly than tap water. The sugar in the soda acts as plant food helping to keep the flowers fresh, but it also encourages bacteria growth. Be sure to add a few just a couple of drops of bleach per vase to inhibit the microorganisms. From all reports, Sprite works just as well.
Vodka can also help preserve flowers although it acts differently. Vodka is alcohol and water. The alcohol acts by inhibiting ethylene a gas produced by plants that helps them mature. You don't need a lot of alcohol to act as a preservative. For every ounce of vodka, add four ounces of water. Grey Goose works no better than Kamchatka.
Use Viagra. Yes, it's true, sildenafil citrate works by increasing the nitric oxide concentration in the plants. It's the same chemical mechanism that works to preserve a man's erection. To make the solution, take a 10 mg. tablet of Viagra, crush it into fine powder, add a pint of water and shake well. Viagra does inhibit how rapidly the blooms will open, but the flowers will last significantly longer than other methods of preservation.
Once you've prepared a solution of choice, turn your attention to the flowers. Cut all the stems at the base on a bias under running water. This will increase the surface area available to absorb your solution. It will also prevent air from being sucked up the stem. Pruning also serves to clean the stems of a lot of bacteria. Repeat the stem trimming every three days.
Cut flowers will all ultimately die. Even with the best preservation methods the most life you can hope for is a week. Of course the absolutely best way to give flowers that last longer is to choose a potted plant arrangement. Many florists are now selling them. Long after these blooms finally fade, you still have the plant.