Sea holly, 'Coffee Break' rose, calla lilies and cranberry rosehips share a starring role in this bouquet. Dried coneflowers and purple artichokes add additional visual interest. (Shaun Sartin/Chicago Tribune/MCT) - MCT

Ever-blooming holidays

It is the garden brought closest to our hearts. A cinched fistful of bliss, dunked in water from the waist down.

The question is: How best to tend to the cut flowers that we bring home? Tired of watching daisies wilt before their time, we sought advice from top-notch florists and horticulturists around the globe.

We offer here some extraordinary choices for your November holiday bouquets, and handy tips for how to keep your fleurs alive (as well as a ballpark estimate of how many days you might savor their delights).

Here are a few pointers to get the most bang from your bouquets.

  • Keep it clean: Gunk-free buckets, pruners and water will reduce the bacteria that clog stems and hasten rotting. That handy little packet the florist hands you is designed to destroy the bacteria, writes Suzy Bales, author of "Garden Bouquets and Beyond" (Rodale, $35). We found this DIY recipe at Combine 2 tablespoons each white vinegar and sugar, 1/2; teaspoon household chlorine bleach and 1 quart warm water.
  • Ditch the scissors: Use a sharp knife or garden shears. Scissors merely squeeze and crush stems, and set you back before you get the posies to water.
  • Cut on the angle: You might think this boosts the water uptake, but really it keeps the stems from resting flat against the bottom of a vase and blocking the entry point for water, says Johannes Maree, co-author of "Cut Flowers of the World: A Complete Reference for Growers and Florists" (Timber Press, $39.95). By cutting off the bottom inch or two, you remove the natural seal that formed when the stem was first cut. This also removes any bacteria that could block the ends and eliminates air bubbles that can form when a stem is first snipped.
  • Short is good: Shorter stems allow water to get to the bloom more quickly and easily.
  • Lose the leaves: You want the energy surging to the bloom, don't you? So don't provide a detour into the leaves. And don't think of having any foliage under water, where it will swiftly break down and turn to goo.
  • Cut the heat: Room temperature tap water — not lukewarm, not chilly — is the happiest bath for most bouquets.
  • Condition: Many pros dip fresh-cut stems in a conditioner such as Floralife Quick Dip (find it at, an instant pretreatment hydration solution. (The exception: Pretreatments should never be used on stems cut from bulbs.) Also, use the pouch of floral preservative that came with your flowers. Bales says that storing fresh-cut flowers for six hours in a cool corner of the basement can triple the vase life.
  • Ditch the swamp water: OK, sometimes it's a pain to airlift a big bouquet and change the water. Sam McGee, of Prufrock Floral & Botanical Design in Winnetka, Ill., shares this trick: Instead of budging the flowers from the vase, hold the vessel under a running faucet for about five minutes. As the water spills from the vase, you are essentially changing the water without moving a bloom. Once it's crystal clear you are back in business.

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