Whether it’s a blooming bouquet or a single stalk artfully posed in a glass vase, nothing brightens up a room like fresh cut flowers. It’s also a sure way to make any woman smile, as I like to remind my husband and children. And because there are so many venues to get them—wholesale and retail florists, farmers markets, roadside stands, pick-your-own operations, grocery stores, and even the internet—even last minute remembrances and impulse buys will yield beautiful blooms.
Attractive flowers don’t necessarily have a pleasing smell or any scent at all. So if you are looking for a touch of aromatherapy with your flowers, then you will need to have some working knowledge of the more popular fresh cut flowers. Sunflowers, for instance, while remarkable for their color and size, do not give off much of a fragrance. And some types of oriental lilies omit such a strong scent that many people complain of headaches when near them. I find that the best ones strike a perfect balance between physical beauty and aromatic wonder.
The Right Flower for Fragrance
Since the world of flowers can be confusing to the newly indoctrinated, here are my top five flowers that equally match looks with scent:
The tightly clustered flowers from a hyacinth bulbous plant are usually blue, pink, or white and resemble five-pointed stars. It has a fragrance similar to lavender, but slightly sweeter.
This herbaceous perennial plant produces purple blue flowers that bloom in summer months. The small petals of the flowers can be found in clusters at the tops of the plants’ silvery green stalks. The flowers last a long time, as does its distinct calming fragrance.
The flowers from lilac bushes or trees have small petals and grow in clusters at the ends of the branches. They bloom in spring to early summer and have a short vase life of three to five days. Lilacs have a soft sweet smell that is very pleasant—though short-lived.
These are my favorite flowers. Peonies are herbaceous plants that produce fluffy flowers with large petals. The most common peonies are Chinese peonies and the double flowered types are the most popular. They usually bloom in late spring or early summer and have a citrus/green/woodsy scent.
These flowers grow from vines or bushes and are the most popular cut flower in the United States, with the ubiquitous goblet-shaped flower with five petals seemingly popping up on every street corner on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day. Most commercial rose breeders emphasize color and size over scent, which make species as well as modern roses seem as if they have no fragrance. But heirloom and old garden roses have a distinctive smell that is sweet, spicy, and a bit musky. They are available at many farmers markets and come in a variety of colors (white, pink, yellow, and red) and sizes.
Prolong the Perfume
Buying flowers can be an expensive habit, but there are ways to make them last longer. Once you get your flowers, follow these tips on transferring them to a vase:
- Remove all leaves on the stem that will be under water; these leaves will accelerate flower dehydration and encourage bacterial growth in the vase if left in the water.
- Cut stems with a sharp knife at a slant to expose more stem surface area.
- Cut stems under running water or plunge them immediately into water afterwards.
- Use plain, lukewarm water for most cut flowers, but use cold water for bulb flowers, such as daffodils, hyacinths, and tulips.
- Change the water every two days.
- Keep flowers out of direct sunlight, and move them to a cool place at night.
- Keep cut flowers away from fruit, which releases ethylene, a gaseous plant hormone that speeds up the aging process of plants exposed to it. Snapdragons and lilies are especially sensitive to ethylene.
Feeding Your Flowers
Curious about the packet of flower “food” that usually accompanies arrangements from a florist? It contains a combination of a biocide, an acidifier, and sugar. Biocides are chemicals that kill the bacteria, yeast, and fungi that feed on the sap seeping from the cut flower stem. The acid helps water move up the stem more easily and the sugar acts as a flower stimulant.
Some flowers do not come with a packet, and if not, try this flower food recipe:
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon household chlorine bleach
- 1 quart warm water
Some of us may feel that using this prepackaged flower food does not jive with any of our personal beliefs (“It’s not organic!” “It’s dangerous to have around my young kids!”). In that case, there’s some old wive’s tale about placing a copper penny and an aspirin in the vase. I have no idea if it works, nor have I tried it myself. But it sure sounds interesting.
Pick Your Own
If you grow your flowers in a garden, then you probably know a lot about flowers and don’t need any advice about cutting flowers from their shrub, vine, tree, or plant. But for those who find themselves at a pick-your-own operation, here are a few tips:
- Cut them in the early morning when the plant is filled with stored food and the flowers are most fragrant.
- If you can’t cut them in the early morning, then do so in the late afternoon when the temperature has cooled a bit.
- Roses and bulb flowers should be cut in bud stage; otherwise, the flowers should be open.
Bringing some of the fragrant outdoors into your home is a surefire way to add some color, life, and cheer to a room without breaking the bank. Be sure to tell my husband and kids.