Real gardeners would live in the garden if they could. There’s nothing like the comforting embrace of one’s own horticultural paradise. Who doesn’t feel happy surrounded by the essence and fragrance of their own flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables? Not only do they give us a sense of satisfaction, they make us healthier and happier as well. Science proves it. But even better than our own self-satisfaction is sharing our bounty with others. Nothing brings a smile to another’s face like home-grown cut flowers.

Regrettably, all flowers don’t make good cut flowers. Those that wilt or quickly drop their petals should stay in the garden. The best cut flowers have long stems, making them easier to cut, carry and display. I keep plenty of assorted jars and bottles on hand for passing out bouquets. I also have a collection of small vases when there aren’t enough flowers to fill a fruit jar.

Flowers should be cut in the morning when they are fully turgid. Always try to cut flowers before they are fully open which makes them last longer. Full blown flowers are just waiting to shatter their petals. I generally include some tight buds and full buds as well. They make the arrangement look more natural as well as extending the display. The faster you plunge your stems in water, the longer they will last, so plan to have a container of water with you when you harvest them. A handful of homegrown flowers may look great wandering through the garden but it’s not doing them any favor.

If you have access to it, commercial floral preservative can extend the vase life of your cut flowers. It’s often available from florists and hobby stores. I generally make my own “floral preservative” by using one teaspoon of household bleach and one tablespoon of table sugar dissolved in one gallon of water. The bleach helps kill organisms that clog up the water flow into the flower stems and the sugar helps feed the flower that doesn’t know it’s dead yet. If you don’t want to fool with this, completely changing the water in the vase every day also extends the vase life of cut flowers.

Everybody has their favorite home-grown cut flowers; but mine include bachelor’s buttons, camellias, cockscomb, crinums, daffodils, gladiolus, hydrangeas, jonquils, larkspur, mums, narcissus, phlox, purple cone flowers, purple fountain grass, roses, spider lilies, sweet peas and zinnias. Grow your own way and go make some smiles.

Greg Grant is the Smith County horticulturist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. He is author of “Texas Fruit and Vegetable Gardening,” “Heirloom Gardening in the South,” and “The Rose Rustlers.” You can read his “Greg’s Ramblings” blog at arborgate.com, follow him on Facebook at “Greg Grant Gardens,” and read his “In Greg’s Garden” in each issue of Texas Gardener magazine (texasgardener.com). More science-based lawn and gardening information from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service can be found at aggieturf.tamu.edu and aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu.

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