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Friday, May 7, 2021

Flower power tips

A Tree in The House by Annabelle Hickson, published by Hardie Grant Books, hardback $49.99.

When it comes to Mother’s Day, flowers are a simple gift to show you care. We caught up with A Tree in the House author Annabelle Hickson for some tips on flowers to make Mum’s day.

According to Annabelle, there “is something so joyful about a bouquet made up of one type of flower. It feels, all at once, simple and abundant. And I think this sense of delight is heightened if the flowers reflect the season around you, where you are right now.”

Annabelle’s top tip is to pick or buy a generous amount of the same flowers, in the same or similar colours.

“It’s hard to go past David Austin roses. But then there’s also hydrangeas stripped of their leaves bunched at different heights into a cloud or spilling fragrant bunches of herbs like basil and nasturtiums. As a bonus, after a few days in the water in the jar, the nasturtiums will grow little roots and can be planted out in the garden. Or they can become part of dinner. And at this time of year, there are anemones and dahlias too.”

To display your flowers, it’s time to dig out a jar from the cupboard.

According to Annabelle, the best ones to use are the glass jars with the clamp lids attached so when the flowers are dead and gone, your friend has a usable jar with a lid.

Make sure the jar is clean. After washing your vessels, scrub them with a bit of bleach. Here is a recipe (care of CSIRO’s Caring for Cut Flowers manual which is very informative about this sort of stuff) for clean, flower-friendly water. It’s just like sprinkling one of those flower food sachets in the water.

To one litre of water, add: 1/4 teaspoon of bleach (4% concentration), 2 teaspoons (10g) sugar, 1 teaspoon (5g) vinegar.

The bleach kills the bacteria and other clogging germs. The sugar feeds the flowers and the acid in the vinegar makes it easier for the flowers to suck up the sugary water, which is harder to suck up than normal water.

Now it is time to arrange.

Remove any lower leaves that might sit below the water-line and arrange the stems either in a jar or in a circle made by loosely gripping the fingers of your non-dominant hand around an imaginary broom handle.

The advantage of arranging the bunch in your hand is that you can easily play around with the composition of the flowers by raising and lowering each stem, without having to trim anything as you work. When you’ve finished, cut the stems with secateurs to make them level.

When you’re happy, tie the bunch where you would naturally want to hold it. Check for any remaining low hanging leaves and remove. Then cut the stems level but not too short. You want them to be able to reach the water when you place the bunch in the jar.

If you prefer to wrap the flowers in tissue paper Annabelle suggests:

  • Get two sheets of white paper and place them on the table. The sheets in the picture are 40 x 55cm; because the hydrangeas were quite big, Annabelle wanted to paper to be big too, so did not fold them. If you had sheets any bigger, or alternatively an arrangement that was smaller, fold one sheet in half, off centre. And then the other. Position the two folded sheets on a table so that they make an upside down V, overlapping at the top, with the fold lines facing in.
  • Then get two pieces of tissue paper (the sheets pictured are 50 x 75 cm) and repeat the folding process, placing them on top of the white paper. Annabelle’s preference is for 18gsm food grade tissue paper, a little stiffer than the stock standard stuff.
  • Place bouquet on top of the paper, in the centre, with the stems sitting in the negative space of the upside down V. Use the paper sheets to make a collar around the bunch of flowers, and then secure with ribbon or string at the base. Use a small bit of sticky tape to secure the two sheets paper together at the front and at the back.
  • Re-cut the stems and immediately place the bunch in the water-filled jar, ready to present to your mum.

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