First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish.
There are other options to florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.
The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at it’s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location, or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper will help them stay hydrated.
Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:
Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems , then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase.
Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.
Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.
Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.
Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.
Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.
Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.
Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.
Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.
Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.
Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping. Odd, usually vodka makes me droop!