|On Sale Now!|
Happy Valentine's Day! I’ve written before about how I had to wait until I’d left school and started work before I experienced the romance of getting an anonymous Valentine's Day card. As for flowers—well, not one of my boyfriends was old-fashioned enough to send me a bouquet, until I met OH. He knows how much I love flowers, so he often picks up a bunch on his way home from work. It's a really romantic gesture, which is why I’ve made sure Sara, the heroine of my new book, His Majesty's Secret Passion, gets the right royal treatment. Her boyfriend has just dumped her, and she makes an embarrassing mistake in front of a handsome stranger. King-in-disguise Leo sends her a huge explosion of sumptuous lilies—but it's not the romantic gesture you might expect. There's a sting in the tail (and the tale!) of Leo's generosity.
Sara's flowers are arranged for her by staff at the luxury hotel where she's having the holiday of a lifetime. If you want to keep your Valentine's Day bouquet (or any cut flowers, for that matter) fresh for as long as possible, here are my top tips:
1. If your bouquet comes complete with cut-flower food, mix that up according to the instructions. Use tepid water, as flowers find this easier to drink. If your bouquet didn’t come with a sachet of flower food, you can make your own. Dissolve a dessertspoon of sugar in a little hot water, add a teaspoon of bleach, and put this mixture to your vase before topping it up with plain water.
2. Work at a sink—or over the bath, if you’ve been very lucky! Strip off any leaves that would be under water when arranged in your vase. Trim off the bottom half inch of each stem at a slant, to give a big surface area. Then put each flower straight into a bucket of tepid water, so the cut surfaces don’t have time to dry out.
3. Flowers with hollow stems need help to draw up water, as those stems are full of air. Turn each one upside down, fill the stem with tepid water, and put your finger over the end. Turn the flower right way up again, get the cut surface below the water in your vase, then take your finger away. It helps to work fast with this trick!
|By Liz West|
4. Stand your finished arrangement out of direct sunlight. The flowers won’t open so quickly, and they’ll keep their true colours for longer. Don’t stand them near the fruit bowl, either. Bananas in particular give off ethylene gas, which promotes ripening in fruit, and ageing in flowers.
5. Last thing at night, move your flowers to the coolest part of the house. This could be at the bottom of the stairs, but you may need to take them out to the garage. Just make sure they are kept cool, but not frozen.
6. Every few days, empty out all the water, wash the vase and repeat the stem trimming. Snip off any flowers and/or leaves past their best. Fill the vase with fresh, tepid water including more cut-flower food, or the home-made sugar and bleach mixture.
You can keep some cut flowers going for nearly three weeks using these tips, although what starts out as a full bouquet will dwindle as time goes on.
What’s the best Valentine’s Day present you’ve ever had? There’s a signed copy of His Majesty's Secret Passion on offer for a comment drawn at random, after 15th February.
Christina Hollis writes contemporary fiction starring complex men and independent women–when she isn't cooking, gardening or beekeeping. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages, and she’s sold over two million books worldwide. You can catch up with her at http://www.christinahollis.blogspot.com, on Twitter, Facebook, and see a full list of her published books at http://www.christinahollis.com. Her current release, His Majesty's Secret Passion, is available from its publishers, Wild Rose Press, and also from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk