Holiday cut flowers

A beautiful flower arrangement on the table can be the icing on the cake for the holiday home. The colors, textures and freshness of roses, mums and evergreens can make for an arrangement that pulls all your hard work together and makes it shine.

With the holidays coming up, we’re going to take a quick break from native plants and look at cut flowers. You’ll probably be receiving some, or getting some, to beautify your home and table, so here’s some tips from an AIFD (American Institute of Floral Design) pro.

You’ve worked so hard researching the menu, cleaning, cooking and getting everything just right that flowers do seem like just another chore, but a beautiful flower arrangement on the table or the sideboard is really the icing on the cake. The colors, textures and freshness of a graceful arrangement pull all your hard work together and make it shine.

Or do you want to show your host just how much you appreciate their hard work? Bring flowers! But, consider bringing an arrangement that’s already done, so all they need to do is put it on the table, rather than stop everything, root around for a vase, clean it (clean vases are essential), cut the stems and arrange the flowers.

Another tip — go to a florist, rather than grabbing just anything at the grocery store. They know flowers and take great care of them in the store. Support a small local business, and a trained professional.

Here are some tips to maintain those beautiful flowers once you get them:

• First of all, if you receive loose flowers in a bouquet, rather than an arrangement, get everything ready first. You’ll want to cut the stems of the flowers, at an angle so they can better absorb water — so get your vase ready, your scissors or pruners, the little package of preservative that came with (very important, use it!), and whatever else you’ll need.

• Once it’s all ready, fill the vase, dissolve the preservative, and start cutting the stems — an inch or so is fine, depending on your desired look (another tip: keep centerpieces low so people can see each other over them, or not, depending on how well you get along).

• Remove any foliage that will be underwater. You don’t need to cut the stems underwater, but get them in the water as soon as possible.

• If you don’t have any preservative, just plain tap water is fine. We used to smash the stems, but research has shown that that’s a terrible idea; it just bruises the tissue. Just make a clean cut at an angle.

If you’re doing your own arrangement, there are so many flowers to choose from! Mums and sunflowers are common this time of year, but roses are always nice — particularly orange ones. Lilies are nice too, as a contrast, as are the linear flowers of gayfeather (liatris), or spiky birds-of-paradise. The smaller sunflowers are easier to work with, but a vase of nothing but the large sunflowers can be very striking.

Don’t limit yourself to just flowers either! Go outside in your yard to really make the arrangement your own; bring in some winterberry holly branches, with their beautiful berries; or beautyberry branches; some pine branches with the cones on them. Grasses are beautiful too! Evergreen branches, like boxwood, or magnolia, azalea or rhododendron, wax myrtle, or Florida anise — generally, evergreens will last longer than deciduous branches. This is a great way to bring the outdoors into your house.

Some pink or purple colors really pump up an arrangement of the typical fall colors, such as yellow, orange and maroon. Don’t limit yourself to a traditional vase, either — use anything you like: old baskets, a pumpkin, a wooden bucket. Just line them so they don’t leak water.

What’s most important to remember is that this is your arrangement, so use the colors and textures that you like! Even if your group is small this year (mine will be…), make sure to treat yourself to some beauty from a garden, and enjoy!