Decorating with flowers

I love fresh flowers in the home. There's nothing better when it comes to setting off my colourful decor. I'm especially fond of scented varieties such as freesias, daffodils and, my all-time favourite, sweet peas. My mother grows lots of these traditional favourites and every time I go to stay she always puts a little vase with one of her special posies by my bed where its sweet smell gives me sweet dreams!

For any occasionWe tend to be given lots of flowers at once, on occasions such as birthdays and in times of illness or bereavement. However, you can make them an uplifting feature of your home décor at any time by picking up a bunch or two at the supermarket or local store when you’re doing your shopping.

The cheapest option is generally what’s in season and right now we’re spoiled for choice with the low price of tulips, daffodils, earlicheer and jonquils.

Another option is to opt for a plant instead. A popular potted plant choice is the hyacinth, which has a lovely scent.

Flowering chrysanthemums can also be bought year round for an instant and long-lasting dash of colour.

Roses can be bought at most times, although they’re likely to be imported ones during the Kiwi growers’ off-season. Be aware that they reach their peak price in February when lovers show their devotion with a big bunch of romantic red blooms.

The secret language of flowersQueen Victoria was a fan of this idea, which assigns meanings and qualities to various flowers.

Lily of the valley symbolises both “the return of happiness” and “you have made my life complete”, so it’s not surprising they featured prominently in the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding bouquet.

In fact the duchess used the language of flowers throughout  her bouquet, also choosing hyacinth (the constancy of love) and ivy (wedded love).

It was a simple arrangement compared to the one carried by her husband’s late mother Lady Diana Spencer, which included white roses (virtue and chastity) and lilies (purity).

Both women also included a sprig of myrtle from the bush grown from Queen Victoria’s wedding bouquet. oyrtle symbolises love and marriage.

If you’re looking for a lovely and long-lasting flower for your home, consider hydrangeas. These plants are so hardy and easy to grow they’re sometimes seen as a weed, but they are great cut flowers.

Apparently their secret meaning is “thank you for understanding”. However the secondary meaning is heartlessness, so be a bit careful there.

Various vasesWhatever your style and budget, there are lots of purpose-designed vases to choose from in gift stores. However, flower arranging is an area where creativity and lateral thinking can be very successfully deployed.

Keep an eye out for interesting jars and bottles. Divide a bunch of flowers between several containers and group them together.

If your garden is producing especially abundant blooms, mass them together in a vase for a truly dramatic effect.

When you’re planning your next dinner party consider using flowers in a tabletop arrangement with candles to create an atmosphere that will really impress your guests.

Lasting loveliesWith supermarket flowers, choose a bunch that looks relatively fresh. Consider buying with the flowers still in bud so you can enjoy them slowly coming to life.

Quality bought flowers usually come with a little sachet of powder to keep the blooms fresh. Do use it, following the instructions, as it will mean your bouquet gives you pleasure for longer.

Make sure your vase and water are clean. Don’t try to break the stems, cut them at an angle. Remove any leaves below the waterline as they will go mushy and start to smell. Try not to handle the blooms as this can cause them to bruise.

Some other tips for adding longevity include the use of an aspirin, which you put in the vase before filling. You can also use bleach, which can be added at a strength of approximately ¼ teaspoon per litre or even copper coins. So if you’ve held onto any old one or two cent pieces, put them to good use.

other suggestions from the old wives’ guidebook include vinegar, baking soda, sugar and lemon juice.

Easy lifeoassed hydrangeas make an easy and dramatic display. They also make great dried flowers and will last and look beautiful for years to come.

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