Follow these tips from top designers for creating lush, luscious and long-lasting bouquets.
Choosing and cutting
• Pick flowers and foliage in the early morning when it's coolest and their moisture content is highest.
• Take a bucket of tepid water into the garden; place just-picked flowers into it.
• Choose buds that are showing some colour and just beginning to open.
• Cut stems longer rather than shorter; you will trim them as you are arranging.
• Pick from all around each plant to maintain its shape.
• As you pick each stem, strip off bottom leaves to reduce moisture loss.
• Remove thorns from roses as you pick.
• Once inside, recut stems on an angle under water, using sharp secateurs.
• Straighten and stiffen any stems that ooze milky sap by searing over a flame.
• Straighten and stiffen tulip stems (or other floppy stems) by wrapping with manila paper or newsprint, then binding with twine. Condition as outlined in next point, then unwrap before arranging.
• Immediately plunge prepared stalks neck-deep into tepid (for bulbs, use cold) water; leave for 10 to 12 hours to rehydrate.
• Start with squeaky-clean vases. Bacteria shorten the life of cut flowers, so bleach vases after each use.
• Fill three-quarters full with tepid water.
• Add floral preservative or flower food following manufacturer's directions.
• Thoroughly soak floral foam, if using.
• Determine the size and style of your bouquet before you begin and choose the container accordingly. Are you aiming for a loose bountiful arrangement to sit in a tub on the floor at the cottage or a sweet little nosegay in an eggcup to brighten a breakfast tray?
• Follow the old rule — that the container height should be one-third to one-half of the arrangement's height, the flora two-thirds — or play with the proportions to please your eye and suit your space.
• As you work, trim stems (straight across on soft stems, angled on woody stems) to desired length. Strip off leaves that would be underwater. Smash bottom 2.5 cm (1 in) of woody stems with hammer, or slit with knife, to allow more water uptake.
• As you work, turn the container so you see all sides of the arrangement.
• For a supereasy bouquet, mass a single type of flower, in one colour, varying the height. Alternatively, line up several similar containers and place a few flowers in each.
Keeping it fresh
• Place arrangement away from direct sun, heat and drafts.
• Recut stems and change the water every 2 or 3 days, then replenish food.
Tip: Avoid using highly scented flowers in a dining-table centrepiece. Their heavy fragrance can interfere with your enjoyment of food and wine.