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Conditioning your flowers Why? and what we do here at Plantpassion

Conditioning your flowers is the thing that makes the biggest difference to how long they will last in the vase.

Trailer of cut flowers

Although it would be lovely to wander around the flower field (or your garden), pick a handful of the best blooms, and then arrange them in a vase, - that will actually be likely to bring you the biggest disappointment when the flowers wilt and die later that day or half way through the next. So what methods do we use to make sure that the flowers that leave here, will last ages. Usually over a week.

  • Grow them hard. Conditioning the flowers actually starts before you pick them, with how you grow them. Our Chalky Hillside, means that flowers don't have it easy in a glasshouse being fed and watered on tap. They have to grow sturdy stems, which don't bend and snap easily
  • Cut them early. Stupid O'Clock, is often the time I call it when I need to pick for a big order. Just after dawn, and the following hours are the best time for the plant stems to be full of moisture. I aim to have finished picking before the sun is hot on my neck. In the middle of June, that's before 9.00am. The 2nd best time is in the evening when the sun is going down,  then the flower is full of sugars.
  • Get them straight into water. Because I still farm on a small scale, I can pick everything into water. My buckets are cleaned, and filled with tap water, and taken out on my tractor trailer, or hand cart depending on the size of the order. I also strip lower leaves before putting stems in the water, so nothing makes the water mouldy. When we get back in from the field, we often add more water to the buckets, so that they really are "up to their necks"
  • Let them rest. Preferably in the cool and the dark. This is the one that most people don't get round to. Each flower has a different period that it would ideally rest for. Sweet Williams don't need much, - but Mint really needs 12 hours to soak up as much water as possible. Foliage generally needs longer than flowers, and thicker stems longer than thinner. So a Rose will need longer resting than Orlaya. Dahlias, longer than Zinnias.

What is does mean that each morning the numbers of flowers sitting in buckets in the barn swells. Then there is a pause (usually a great time for Breakfast / School runs, Instagram photos!) Then the florists and DIY Brides start arriving, and the buckets empty again, so that by mid afternoon I can review what's left, (usually very little) and work out what will need picking again tomorrow morning.



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Victoria at Willow Green Nursery

I followed a link to your site from a very well-expressed article you wrote on the Flowers From the Farm blog about the Interflora stand at the Chelsea Flower Show. I'm very impressed with the ethos of your business - as it's one I also subscribe to - and the tips in your blog!

I'm trying to diversify my own fledgling business in Cheshire into supplying wildflowers to florists and am wondering if you have any experience of these? I have the opportunity to sell a large amount of meadowsweet in a neighbouring field but this is to be cut soon and I will need to remove them all in one go. Do you know if they will still be in a saleable condition if stored?

I'd be very grateful for your expert advice.

Claire, Plantpassion

Hi Victoria,
I grow very few flowers that are actually "wildflowers" so don't have first hand experience of fields of meadowsweet, but I would imagine that the conditioning tips will be exactly the same. - Pick in the morning, as it is coming into bud, and just the first flowers are showing, into water, and rest in the cool and dark, will get you the longest saleable timescale.

Victoria at Willow Green Nursery

Thank you so much for your prompt and useful reply - it's greatly appreciated.

I've been investigating means of transporting the flowers to the florists and had settled on the black plastic florists' buckets with water in, but had concerns about stabilising these while driving. The photos on your post show white 'crates' that look as though they might be more suitable - could you tell me where you sourced them and how much they were?

Thank you so much again!

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