Temperature and Humidity Wilting reduces the vase life of cut flowers. To reduce respiration and water loss, flowers should be held at temperatures between 0 and 7°C (32 and 45°F) immediately after harvesting until they are ready to be used. A relative humidity of about 90 percent should be maintained. Beading and droplets of water on flowers indicate excessive humidity, a condition that predisposes flowers to fungal attacks such as the gray mold caused by Botrytis. Water After harvesting, flower life depends on the availability of good-quality water and the capacity to absorb it. Hard water is harmful to cut flowers, as are fluoride, sodium, and sulfate salts when present in high concentrations. Whenever possible, cut flowers should be placed in warm (43°C [110°F]) deionized and distilled water of acidic reaction (pH 3 to 4). The pH of water can be lowered by adding citric acid to it. Acidic water not only improves water uptake but also has antiseptic properties, reducing infection of the cut surface, which is known to clog the xylem vessels and prevent water absorption. Passages are also blocked by trapped air bubbles. To correct these problems, flower stems should be recut under warm water using a sharp cutting instrument before being set in a vase or arranged for display. Some species, such as poppy and dahlia, require a flame treatment in which the cut surface is passed over a flame for a very brief period. This treatment hardens the sap. The milky sap that oozes from plants such as poppy clogs the stems of other species held in the same container unless flame treated. The leaves on the part of the stem that will be submerged in water in the vase should be removed. Depending on the moisture status, rehydration may take between thirty and sixty minutes to restore plants to full turgidity. Flowers that are purchased from a store or transported over a long distance often need rehydration. Flowers obtained from the home garden for use indoors can be maintained fresh by placing them in water immediately after cutting. Nutrition The nutrition of plants during growth is critical to the success of flowers after cutting. Flowers must be harvested at the right time, which is when they have accumulated enough sugars and starches to open and sustain them after cutting. During rehydration, sucrose may be added to the holding water to extend vase life and improve flower qualities. Commercially formulated floral preservatives that contain pH adjuster, biocide, wetting agent, food source, and water can be purchased from a local nursery store. Homemade concoctions such as 1 tablespoon of corn syrup plus 10 drops of household bleach in a quart of warm water may be used. Also, one part of soda (lemon-soda) plus two parts of water was developed at the University of California to extend vase life. These preservatives work because the sugar is nutritious and the lime reduces the pH of the water to suppress bacterial growth. Ethylene Reduction Ethylene is a by-product of gasoline or propane combustion and is emitted through vehicles’exhaust systems. More importantly, this chemical is a natural plant growth hormone involved in several physiological processes such as fruit ripening, seed maturation, aging, and wound healing. Certain flowers are ethylene sensitive (Table 24–4). In the presence of excessive amounts of the gas, flowers of these plants deteriorate rapidly. Ripening fruits and vegetables produce large amounts of ethylene and as such should not be stored or transported with cut flowers. Treatment with a commercial preparation of silver thiosulfate reduces the effects of ethylene on cut flowers. 24.2 Culture 685
TABLE 24–4 Plant Astroemeria Carnation Celosia Delphinium Larkspur Freesia Gladiolus Baby’s breath Lily Phlox Snapdragon Stock Speedwell Moneywort Selected Ethylene-Sensitive Species Used for Cut Flowers Scientific Name Astroemeria spp. Dianthus caryophylus Celosia spp. Delphinium elatum Delphinium spp. Freesia spp. Gladiolus spp. Gypsophila paniculata Lilium longiflorum Phlox spp. Antirrhinum majus Matthiola spp. Veronica spicata Lysimachia nummularia Diseases In an attempt to reduce moisture loss, cut flowers should be kept under humid conditions. However, high humidity provides an environment that is conducive to the growth of gray mold (Botrytis). 24.3 FLOWER ARRANGING Flower design and arranging is an art whose success depends on the observation of certain basic principles, similar to those for landscape designing. Throwing a couple of flowers together in a bunch produces a bouquet, but it takes creativity to use flowers to make a statement, influence mood, or enhance the ambience and general decor of a place. Floral designers can create flower arrangements for specific occasions. Arrangements are designed for happy occasions such as weddings and sad ones such as funerals. Flowers such as roses may be displayed individually in tiny vases and thus do not require arranging. 24.3.1 PRINCIPLES OF DESIGN Even though flower arranging is an art, the following principles underlie basic floral designs. These basic principles are described in detail in Chapter 15, as pertaining to landscape design. Balance Balance in a design is sought both in physical and visual terms. To achieve balance, the plant materials need to be physically equally distributed about an imaginary central axis or perceived as such. Balance in design relates to the display’s visual weight projected to the viewer. In a symmetrical design, viewers on opposite sides of a display see similar things; asymmetrical designs do not offer the same view from two different angles. The centerpiece for a formal dinner may be arranged in a symmetrical design. Balance is critical in a design because it is a major element that makes a design beautiful. 686 Chapter 24 Cut Flowers and Floral Design
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