These are pics of some of the flowers I used for the bridesmaid's luncheon and wedding I had this past weekend. You see them here in 5 gallon buckets, which were washed in a disinfectant with hot water first, and then filled with 4 to 6" of room temperature water. Ideally, the flowers would remain in the buckets for six hours before they are used in arrangements. That insures that they are fully hydrated. Above: raspberry and medium pink roses. Below: cream cymbidium orchids (the bride's bouquet and the mother's nosegays).
When I got these flowers from the wholesaler on Wednesday, all of them had been hydrated, but I still had to do what I consider to be proper conditioning, in order to make the flowers last as long as possible. Below: green hydrangeas; very pricey and very showy!
When you get fresh flowers from a florist or other vendor (such as a grocery) and they are not in water - or they have been, but they wrap them for you and they are not in water while you take them home, they have to be rehydrated. You can do that in whatever vase you plan to use, but make sure it is clean and has no soap residue in it. The flowers have to be stripped of all foliage that would fall below the water line in the vase (which should be fairly high). Especially this time of year, when the heat is on and air is dry, flower water can evaporate overnight, so be sure to fill the vase at least 3/4 of the way to the top. If you have roses, you should also cut off the thorns. Anything that is on the stem below the flower will sap water from the blossom, therefore, the more foliage you remove, the more water the blossom will be able to take up. Below: Green Goddess calla lillies.
The most important part of this process is cutting the stem of the flower before you place it in water. When a flower has been out of water for more than a minute or so, the inside of the stem will form an air bubble, which prevents water uptake. This means that it is imperative that you recut the stems. The best way to do that is to use a very sharp knife and make a slanting, diagonal cut about 1" up from the bottom, and immediately place that flower in the water. Below: green miniature cymbidium orchid sprays.
Ideally, you should change the water in your vase every day. If you have used a preservative in the water (something you were given when you bought the flowers, or a packet you bought), using that will negate the need for changing the water everyday, but I do it at least every third day. The water will start to turn cloudy and the stems will feel slimy due to the growth of algae and bacteria. Changing the water will alleviate that and greatly lengthen the life of the flowers. I once had a client who was given weekly flowers by her husband. She would put the vase into the kitchen sink and let the water run into it and out of it until it was clear again. That way, she didn't have top remove the flowers and upset the arrangement. Below: White Mountain/Casablanca lilies.
Below: cream French tulips.
Below: purple narcissus.
Below: Bells of Ireland
Below: hypericum berries (in the pepper family).
When you receive an arrangement from a florist that is made in Oasis (the green, wet stuff in the container), you cannot remove and recut the stems, obviously. But you can water it everyday, and that will make it last longer. If any of the foliage starts to turn yellow - remove it. Flowers in Oasis do not last as long as those in water, but they travel more easily and allow arrangements that would be nearly impossible in water-filled vases.
Please feel free to ask questions; I will be happy to answer anything I am able. Perhaps tomorrow I will begin to post photos from the luncheon and wedding.