Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Don’t let the Christmas tree hog all the attention. Fresh flowers have their place in the holiday festivities.
Hyacinths, tulips, and narcissus are favorites for Christmas. Traditionally, red varieties of tulips are preferred, because they readily fit into the usual holiday color scheme
In addition to tulips, paperwhite narcissus have long been used as a cut flower during this season. These flowers have the sweetest fragrance you can imagine. The scent just fills a room.
Other kinds of daffodils or narcissus are also used as cut flowers. These include ‘Barret Browning,’ ‘Prof. Enistein,’ and ‘Tete a Tete.’
Hyacinths are also available as a cut flower for Christmas. The recommended varieties are ‘Anna Marie,’ ‘L’Innocense,’ ‘Ostara,’ and ‘Viking.’
With the exception of the paperwhites, all of these bulbs require a cold treatment. So it may not be practical for you to grow your own. Instead, look for them at your local florist shop, or the usual place you buy cut flowers.
Use fresh flowers to decorate your Christmas tree. Belle Fleur in New York City sells miniature arrangements in holiday colors. For containers they use unique, colorful cone-shaped vases with handles. After the holidays, why not dry the flowers, and use them as everlastings for next year’s Christmas?
Create mini bouquets to hang on doors. For these, use holiday plants, such as mistletoe, holly, rosemary, berried greens, and fresh flowers.
Cut poinsettias are the ultimate flower for the holidays. Over thirty years ago, they were very popular as a cut flower, but they disappeared when people began buying potted poinsettias.
The University of Florida conducted a study on the best varieties for this purpose. They found that some have a vase life of up to two weeks. This is very promising.
Another study at New Hampshire used the 'Renaissance Red' cultivar, which was formerly known as 'Winter Rose Crimson.' These plants have intriging curly bracts that don't really resemble those of other poinsettias. These stems lasted for two to three weeks, which is great for a cut flower. What is intriging is that floral preservatives didn't increase the vase life at all.
As part of the research projects, the flowers were made available to retail customers. People were just delighted with them, and were willing to pay $3 to $8.50 per stem. The longer the stem, the higher the price. For example, 16" long ones sold for $8.50.
If you can't find cut poinsettias for sale, just buy a tall poinsettia plant, and cut your own. The plants have a milky latex, so you will need to seal the end as soon as you cut it. Do this by either putting it in boiling water for ten seconds or in a flame for a few seconds. An alternative is to soak it in ice water for a few minutes. Typically, the poinsettia stems cut at home will last for about a week.
As a result of the study, the researchers recommended novelty type poinsettias, including the Winter Rose types.
The Winter Rose was the first curly-bract poinsettia to be introduced to the American market. It was first introduced in 1998, and received favorable attention. In 1999 only limited numbers were still available, but the response was just wonderful. There was even talk of making it available at other times of the year other than Christmas.
What does the future hold for poinsettias as cut flowers? We’ll just have to wait and see. The only poinsettias we see now are grown in pots. Generally greenhouse growers use growth regulators to keep the plants short and full. As a result, the stems tend to be short and of limited use as cut flowers. That’s too bad. Perhaps it’s up to consumers themselves to create a demand, which might motivate growers to make the cut flower stems available again to new generations of consumers.