Tips on how to keep cut flowers looking fresh
This time of year, the local farmers market is heaven. But my favorite thing isn’t actually the heirloom tomatoes, or the elegant eggplant, or the sun-kissed corn. (Although all of those things are great!) No, every Saturday I join the flower line at the Douglas Loop Farmers Market to pick up what I’m missing.
Bellaire Blooms, a small family-run farm outside Louisville in Kentucky, attracts a dedicated crowd of flower lovers to its booth every weekend. There’s something magical about fresh flowers, especially bright flowers streaming from a stand, that make you happy, and my week wouldn’t be the same if there wasn’t a wonderful arrangement from Bellaire to anchor my kitchen nook between the coffee maker and the window.
Making it last became a little ritual for me as I started to feel at home in our new place. Every morning I open the curtains, make a cup of coffee, tend to the flowers, change the water, give them new cuttings, and rearrange the bouquet as the short-lived flowers arch and emerge. It’s strangely satisfying, and with care and attention, many of the flowers are still growing strong the following weekend and days after that.
There is more to this idea than just adding a splash of color and something pretty to the kitchen. Studies have shown that plants and flowers have a positive effect on our health, reduce stress and improve feelings of relaxation.
Anna Bynum, who swapped her medical care career as a nurse for growing flowers 10 years ago, knows this. “Our flowers bring people so much joy,” she says. “I mean, that’s why we do it.”
Bynum and her husband, Aaron Stancombe, launched Bellaire in the yard of their Lexington home on Bellaire Street, hence the name. Eventually, the duo outgrew that space, so they now carpet the Woodford County countryside with their flowers.
Bellaire Farms operates with organic, pesticide-free practices and can transport flowers from their farm to our homes in a matter of days versus the weeks it can take traditional imported flowers to land in your home. The idea of knowing your farmer isn’t just important when it comes to food, Bynum says. Bynum added that grocery store flowers (which are never pretty, if you ask me!) are shipped thousands of miles and are often laced with fungicides that may not be legal in the United States.
The farm has grown such a cult following that customers have joined their small team to help out at the market here and in Lexington. And when I say cult following, it’s not an exaggeration – I recently saw a fan on stage with a bouquet of Belair flowers drawn on his leg!
I may not be quite at that level, but I’m definitely heading to the podium on Saturday morning.
Fortunately, we can now make sure we have an arm full of flowers before they run out; Bellaire recently added online pre-ordering to its website. Small arrangements of seasonal flowers cost $15 and larger arrangements cost $25. Both are of great size.
If you want to add a little joy and color to your life, Bynum offers some tips for making fresh flowers last.
Never leave fresh flowers in a hot car
To start, make sure you have your flowers protected from heat at home.
“Bring your own water bowl,” she suggests, or even a wet paper towel. If you forget, they can make you a small bag of water, but the Bellarie team tries to avoid single-use plastics, so BYO. Don’t leave them in the car, even for a minute, when we’re in the midst of scorching summer temperatures.
Place flowers away from direct sunlight and air conditioning vents
When you get home, place it out of direct sunlight, Bynum says, and away from any air conditioning vents blowing air. (She says the entrance to grocery stores is the worst place for flowers, but many grocery stores do it anyway to attract people to the pretty colors.)
Trim any foliage below the water line and trim it every few days
When you place the stems in a vase or water bowl, trim any foliage that falls below the water line, Bynum says. Leaves in the water can rot and then you will have bacteria in the water, she says.
And be sure to cut the flowers freshly every couple of days. “This allows more free-flowing water to be absorbed through the trunk,” she explains.
And yes, cutting it at an angle is real for a few reasons. It gives the stem more room to drink and also prevents it from standing flat on the bottom of the vase where water cannot get.
Other than that, just have fun! The hard work is done by these farmers, and they just leave us to play with the flowers, as my best friend calls it. We believe in the power of flowers, and we have a fresh bouquet waiting in the kitchen for guests at our hospitality venture. Even when I’m traveling, I like to get flowers from a local florist to keep in the kitchen of my accommodation.
But none were as beautiful as the Kentucky-grown flowers we are fortunate to enjoy every week. See you in the flower line!
Tell Dana! Send your restaurant “Dish” to Dana McMahan at email@example.com and follow @ElleFeraFera on Instagram.