Documents: Special Interest: Seeds, Bulbs & Such:

Tulips as Cut Flowers
by Veronica Sliva
by Veronica Sliva


Veronica has been gardening for as long as she can remember. When other kids were reading comics, she was reading the Stokes Seed Catalog. In the past 25 years Veronica has written hundreds of articles about gardens and gardening for magazines and newspapers. She also develops online content for Internet websites. Her regular newspaper column, In the Garden is enjoyed by readers in Durham Region, and The Garden Party is read throughout the greater Toronto area. She is also a regular contributor to

When not consumed by her garden she enjoys photography, birding, spending time at the cottage and ballroom dancing.

Veronica makes presentations on gardening topics to a variety of groups including horticultural societies, garden clubs and service clubs.

Veronica owns Sliva Communications, a business that provides a full a range of writing services including business and marketing material, technical documentation and anything that requires a wordsmith. She is a seasoned technical writer with a post graduate diploma in Technical Communications.

Veronica is a Regional Director for Canada of the Garden Writers' Association, Chair of the Oshawa Valley Botanical Garden Task Force, and a past president of the Brooklin Horticultural Society.

April 13, 2014

Orange_Tulip_with_Goldfish.jpg (190208 bytes)You know spring is not too far off when you find the fruit markets and grocery stores offering tulips as cut flowers. Tulips have been showing up in "cash and carry" bunches for the last few weeks. The timing is perfect. Even though the depths of winter is still with us, the sight of these flowers sets one's mind to dreaming of those not too distant days when the fresh scent of spring will be in the air.

In European countries picking up a bouquet of flowers with the weekly groceries is as important as buying milk and bread. While this custom is not as deeply entrenched in our country, we see more and more cut flowers becoming available at reasonable prices in retail stores. There's something about the presence of flowers in the home that seems to comfort and soothe the spirit. While the quality and variety of "silk" flowers available nowadays is excellent, I don't think artificial flowers can ever compete with the appeal of the real thing.

Unfortunately, in North America, fresh flowers have, until recently been considered a luxury item, considered only for special occasions. This shouldn't be the case any longer.

Many of you may all ready be talented floral arrangers and need little help or guidance when it comes to converting a bunch of flowers into an artful home decoration, but for those of you who are new to the task, there are a few simple things to keep in mind when handling tulips.

If you are tempted to combine types of flowers in your design, by all means do so, but make sure that if you are planning on using daffodils they are kept in a vase of water for about 24 hours by themselves. This is because the daffodil exudes a fluid that is toxic to other flowers. After about 24 hours the toxicity is no longer a problem, and daffodils can be introduced into a vase with other types of flowers.

Most of the equipment you need can be found at home: a sharp knife, scissors or "snips", water and a container. When you get your flowers home, hold the stems under water and cut on an angle, an inch or so off the ends. Why under water? This prevents any air from entering the stem. Trapped air prevents the water from being drawn up the stem to the head of the flower and consequently shortens its' life.

If the stems are curved and you'd like to straighten them, before arranging, wrap them firmly in newspaper and put them in a few inches of water for several hours, keeping the newspaper above water level.

If you choose to create a design that requires the flowers be "fixed" in place; you will want to use floral foam as well. A familiar brand name is Oasis, and can be purchased at craft and garden centers, as well as some flower shops.

Fill a sink with water to a depth of about six inches and float a block of floral foam on top. When the floral foam sinks by itself, in about five minutes, it's ready to use. DO NOT give it any help by plunging the material into water. This causes an air pocket and when the flower stem is inserted into this area it will not get any moisture.

Use a floral preservative in the water. It helps to keep the flowers looking fresh longer. Most garden centers and craft stores sell it.

The final size of your arrangement will depend on the container you choose. While I feel that personal taste should dictate, in the final analysis, a good guideline to remember is that the tallest flower in the design should be a minimum 1-1/2 times the containers' largest dimension (either height or width). Other flowers may then be placed in the arrangement at varying heights. Keeping the larger, heavier looking blooms at the lower part of the design, will provide a more pleasing and balanced look.

Foliage can then be added as background material. Try to leave space between the flowers and avoid a packed tight look, which makes the bouquet's appearance unnatural.

After a couple of days, you may notice that the tulips in your arrangement seem to have "grown" and indeed they probably have. This phenomenon is known as phototropism. A phototropic response is affected by several factors such as intensity of light, rate of growth and so on. It is possible that the tulips themselves will change the shape of your design!

Creating a design from a loose bunch of tulips on a blustery March afternoon is one way to remind us that spring is coming.

The result will cheer you and those around you, and it might even result in a new hobby.


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