All flowers purchased should be in a first-class condition and as fresh as possible. There are many ways of sourcing flower material nowadays and it is a good idea for the florist to deal at least four suppliers, as this gives the opportunity for choice. If one supplier can't get a particular order others may be able to. It is important to have a local grower if possible amongst the suppliers - invaluable when the shop is running short of material. It is very difficult to predict sales on a daily basis.
- Roses ( standard) - 20 pcs per bunch
- Roses ( spray ) - 10 pcs per bunch
- Carnations (standard ) - 20 or 25 pcs per bunch
- Carnations ( spray ) - 5 or 10 pcs per bunch
- Gerbera ( standard ) - 50 pcs per box
- Mini Gerbera - 50 pcs per box
- Gladioli - 5 or 10 pcs per bunch
- Lilies - 10 pcs per bunch
- Freesias ( mixed ) - 5 or 10 pcs per bunch
- Tulips - 10 pcs per bunch
- Bouvardia - 10 pcs per bunch
- Alstromeria - 10 pcs per bunch
- Anemones - 10 pcs per bunch
- Chrysanthemum ( standard ) - 5 pcs per bunch
- Chrysanthemum ( spray ) - 10 pcs per bunch
- Daffodils - 10 pcs per bunch
- Irises - 10 pcs per bunch
- Cymbidium - per bloom or per stem
- Phalaenopsis - per stem
- Dendrobium - 5 in a packet
- Solidago - 5 in a bunch
- Liaris - 10 in a bunch
- Gypsophila - bunches of about 5 stems ( always sold by weight )
- The flowers should appear firm and have good colour in the petals.
- Look for any broken or damaged heads.
- Look for any discoloration or petals dropping. This indicates disease or it could be that the flowers are old.
- The leaves on the stem should be green and not show any yellowing.
- Look for signs on the bottom of the stems of yellowing or smell. These indicate that the flowers have been stored for some time.
- The calyx should be green and firm; yellowing on the calyx means that the flowers are old.
- Brown or yellow marks on the calyx indicate that the flowers are old.
- Flowers such as lilies, spray carnations and bulbs should have some colour showing in the buds; if they are too green they will not develop. On the other hand, if they are too open they will have a much shorter vase life.
- Look for strong, straight stems. Cheaper carnations often have very weak stems.
- Sometimes during very cold weather flowers suffer from the effects of the cold temperature during transit, and this may not be obvious at first. If they do not recover after conditioning, then they should be returned and credit given. Most suppliers have a code to follow whereby the florist should inform them within a certain time if the purchase is not up to standard.
- If carnation petals are shrivelled and marked at the edges, this indicates ethylene gas damage and the flowers will not open.
This process cannot be avoided when harvesting flowers but can easily be corrected provided the flower does not dry out for too long a period. There is a point at which serious damage can be caused to the internal cell structure due to total water loss and even with subsequent treatment the flower will not revive. Therefore, as a general rule of conditioning, all cut plant material should be placed in water as soon as possible after it has been harvested. Some plants have a greater resistance to wilting than others due to the greater amount of stored water in their leaves or flowers. Materials which have thicker freshy leaves and petals such as tulips and orchids are better able to withstand prolonged water loss than flowers with thinner papery petals like roses or lisianthus.
It is important to minimise the rate of bacterial growth in the water, which is caused by decomposing plant material and results in the water turning green. This in turn reduces the amount of water the flower is able to absorb through the stem and shortens its vase life. Flower food is useful in dealing with this problem and should always be used. One of its main ingredients is an antibacterial agent, which keeps the water clean and by preventing bacterial growth and providing soluble nutrients can almost double a flower's vase life. Buckets and vases used for storing or displaying cut flowers should always be cleaned regularly with hot water and bleach to prevent a build-up of sediment and bacteria. The water should be changed every few days in any long-term displays or storage.
Another result of plant decomposition is the production of ethylene gas. It is odourless, and even relatively small amounts of it can dramatically shorten the life of a flower. Some species of flower are more susceptible to it then others, in particular roses and carnations. Ethylene causes limpness and general wilting in flowers which are otherwise well conditioned. Stored fruit also produces ethylene and even a bowl of fruit near a vase of flowers can make a considerable difference to its life. Good ventilation to disperse the gas is thus necessary. This is particularly important when flowers are stored commercially for a period of time in either a cool room or a cool store.
Water temperature can affect the way some flowers respond to conditioning. Ice cold water is not recommended. Room temperature is the general rule, although lukewarm water will aid water uptake because it contains less air than cold water.
Before discussing specific conditioning methods, it is worth giving a checklist of easy commonsense things to do to ensure the freshness and longevity of cut material.
- Before placing a stem in water, always re-cut the end at an angle with a sharp knife to remove damaged and dry cells.
- Remove any leaves which would be submerged and foul the water. With very leafy materials it is a good idea to remove some of the existing foliage to reduce water loss.
- Add flower food to the water.
- Stand buckets of flowers or leaves in a cool, shaded place to allow the flower to drink for at least two or three hours before use. Some material will need even longer.
- Do not overcrowd buckets or storage vases with material. Allow enough space for air to circulate between the stems and blooms.
- Whenever possible, stand flowers in tepid or room temperature water. Tepid water will also hasten bud opening, which is particularly useful during the winter months when many commercial flowers are in tight bud.
- Always choose flowers just before their peak of maturity. These will continue to develop after cutting remain in better condition than a flower which has reached or passed full maturity.
Another problem associated with certain types of shrubbery flowers is wilting foliage. Even with correct conditioning the foliage will still wilt whilst the flowers remain firm. Possibly this is because the combined demands for water from both the flowers and the leaves is too much for the cut branch to sustain. This is particularly noticeable with lilac and prunus. Removal of some or all of the foliage
not only allows the blossoms to receive more water but also enables them to be seen to much greater advantage.
Wherever possible, choose mature foliage, as it responds much better to being used in an arrangement than very soft young growth. However some leaves, such as lime and birch, are particularly beautiful in their juvenile stage. To ensure these young leaves last when used in a mixed display, they should be allowed to drink and harden up for a couple of days before use. Any problems or wilting will become apparent before they are put in an arrangement, Young individual leaves can be conditioned in this way too, in particular hosta, bergenia and ivy. Any foliage, especially young leaves, should be placed in water as soon as possible after being picked. If allowed to dehydrate for too long, they might not recover at all.
Some leaves benefit from being completely submerged for one or two hours before use or normal conditioning. Again, larger leaves such as hosta and bergenia respond to this treatment but should not be left under water for too long. The leaf surface of very soft or young foliage will become transparent if left too long. Ideally water should be at room temperature, as if it too cold, discoloration will result.
Foliage which has a grelysh 'bloom' over the leaf surface like Hosta sieboldiana or grey or silver leaves such as senecio or stachys should not be submerged at any time. This removes or damages the coloration.
As with all conditioning treatments, the water and containers used for storing should be as clean as possible. Flower food can be used to prolong foliage but it is really only the antibacterial agents in the solution rather than the plants nutrients which will have any effect. A cheaper alternative is to add drops of bleach to the water to keep it clean.
that the water should be changed daily and commercial flower food added.
A cold store enables the florist to buy in bulk and prepare work ahead. A big advantage in having a cold store is that work may be made in advance and stored. This is very useful when there is more than one wedding at a time. It must be stressed that the cold store should be maintained correctly in order to maximum benefit from it.
- The store should be absolutely clean. Any dirt will cause a build-up of bacteria and botrytis will develop. Botrytis is a fungus which grows on flowers and is usually visible by the appearance of yellowing leaves or bron spots on buds or petals. Carnations often have evidence of botrytis on the calux, which appears yellow; roses are also very susceptible and so great care should be taken when buying, particularly during the summer months when the warm air temperature combines with high humidity to create the conditions in which botrytis will thrive.
- The store should be well ventilated and the flowers circulate. This will allow the water produced by transpiration to evaporate.
- Old decaying flowers should not be kept in a cold store. One forgotten bucket in the corner can do a lot of damage.
- The temperature should be checked regularly to ensure there are no drastic changes. It is a good idea to have a thermometer which is easily visible. The recommended temperature for most flowers is around 3-5 C.
- Do not keep flowers in the cold store for too long. Old flowers may look fresh when taken out from the cold store but on meeting warmer air will deteriorate very quickly.