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More Than Pretty Flowers
More Than Pretty Flowers

A Valentine's Day bouquet is a gift that keeps on giving. You don't need a special occasion to enjoy the company of fresh cut flowers. Whether the bouquet you take home today features carnations or alstroemerias (also called Peruvian lilies), the blossoms will brighten rooms for more than a week when given proper care. Publix bouquets are designed to be beautiful right away, and they also include long-lasting flowers, like carnations, which can be used to create a new arrangement when more short-lived flowers begin to wither. Even the arranging part is easy! From choosing containers to placing each stem in just the right place, here's how to bring out the best in your beautiful bouquet.

As soon as you can, remove the flowers from their bundle and lay them out on a flat surface. Separate them into different types, and snip off any blackened or wilted leaves and broken blossoms. Then decide where you want to display your finished arrangement. If you plan to use it as a centerpiece on your dining table, you will need to shorten the stems so that the flowers stay below eye level. Taller arrangements look great when placed on mantels, side tables, or countertops.

Choose a vase or other container that is one-half to one-third as tall as the longest flower stems. For example, if the longest stems in your bouquet measure 20 inches (after a little trimming), a vase 8 to 10 inches tall is ideal. To make a shorter table centerpiece, the longest stems will need to be trimmed. A 12-inch stem, for example, will look best in a 4 to 5-inch-tall vase or even a ceramic teapot. Fill the container with lukewarm water, add half the packet of flower food that came with your bouquet, and stir well. In addition to giving your flowers a few nutrients, the flower food will help keep the water clear.

Now comes the fun part! As you pick up each stem and place it in the container, snip off the base with scissors, and remove any leaves that will be underwater. Create the framework for your arrangement by placing the fern and button mums so that the stems cross in the container. Then add the carnations. Finally, slip the alstroemeria into your arrangement, adjusting each stem's length so the cluster of blossoms is slightly higher than the other flowers. Turn or reposition any stems that don't seem quite right. Set your container in place and enjoy!

Drain out the water, and again lay the stems on a table or countertop. If you plan to reuse the same container, fill it with hot, soapy water for a few minutes before scrubbing it clean. Trim off and dispose of any wilted flowers, and use scissors to snip 1 inch from the bottom of each stem. Refill the container with lukewarm water, mix in half of the remaining floral food, and arrange the flowers as you did on Day One. If you want to change things a bit, try placing the carnations and button mums together so they look as if they were growing from a single stem. Balance a cluster of carnations on one side of the arrangement with button mums on the other side, and then add the alstroemeria.

It's time to renovate your bouquet to create a whole new look. Some flowers may be ready to be discarded, but you can trim and reuse the carnations and alstroemeria in a new arrangement. Find a small container you like, fill it with lukewarm water, and stir in the remainder of the flower food packet. Trim 4 inches or more from the base of the carnation and alstroemeria stems, along with any yellowed leaves. Arrange them to your liking in the new container. If your arrangement needs more fullness, you can add twigs or branches cut from trees or shrubs in your yard. Or add a stem or two of parsley or mint, and enjoy the little bouquet on your kitchen table for a few more days.