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Cut Flower Tips
Sources:  Michigan State Univ. Extension, West Virginia Univ.
Extension, Horticulture Magazine, Country Journal
Magazine.
-Cut when in full bloom for a single flower (e.g., zinnia), or,
when the first blooms appear (e.g., gladiola, delphinium, 
statice).   
- Cut flower ideally before the dew has dried when they contain
 the most water, but evening is OK, too.  Use a bucket with a 
few inches of water to gather them in while you're cutting.
- Scissors are OK for softer stems, but needle-nose shears are
 better; sold by Johnny's Seeds ($22).   Pruning shears are OK
 for woody or thicker stems that need to be crushed. 
  - Lilac, roses, forsythia, viburnum, wisteria, chrysanthemum
have hard or woody stems.  Some sources recommend crushing
or splitting ends several times with a hard knife before
hardening for 24 hours.  One article in Yankee Magazine, who
consulted with New Hampshire's lilac expert at University of NH,
recommends against this technique.
- Cut stem at an angle and place in cool water immediately.
- Place flowers in a dark, cool spot overnight before arranging
 in vase.
- Use a few drops of chlorine and some sugar for each cup of 
water, or some 7-up
- Refresh water every 2-3 days, but forget the chlorine and 
sugar.  
- Use inexpensive substitutes for silica gel: a mixture of borax
 and cornmeal, or a nonchlorophyll kitty litter.
- Spring bulbs have soft stems and should be arranged in 
shallow water.
- Singe with a match those plant stems that exude a milky sap
 (e.g., poppy). 
-Some plants foul water quickly and require more frequent 
refreshing: asters, snapdragons, dahlias, marigolds, calendulas,
 stocks.