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blooms away! how to make the most of your fresh flowers  by Yee-Fan Sun | 1 2 3
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This time of year especially, the sight of fresh flowers in my living room just makes my lil' ol' heart feel bigger. Outside, it might be wet and cold and miserable; I might have weeks still to wait, before the crocuses start bursting forth into bloom. But in my own nest, there's no need to bide time: with some fresh flowers to brighten things up, it already feels like spring.

So quit waiting around -- for winter to go away, for someone to buy you those flowers you covet. The next time you're out running errands, pick up a bouquet of your favorite stems to bring home. Fresh flowers are one of life's great small indulgences. And with a little love and care, those flowers can go a long, long way towards easing the February blues. Here's how to make the most of your splurge…

Step 1: Find a vase that fits the flowers. Like Goldilocks with her chairs, you'll probably have to try some that are too big, some that are too small, before hitting upon one that's just right. It doesn't even have to a proper vase -- I frequently co-opt recycled glass jars, wine bottles (good for single buds), pitchers, teapots … anything that can hold water is fair game. What's important is that the vessel provides a good amount of support to hold your particular flowers. Something with a wider mouth and a belly works better for really full flower bouquets; for more minimalist ones, however, you'll want something with a much narrower opening. The container should also be tall enough and heavy enough that the weight of the blooms won't tip the whole thing off balance.

Step 2: Before filling the vase with water, sit your flowers in the container and check to see how things look. Figure out how much you'll need to cut your stems for the arrangement to look the right height. Also, if there are any leaves on the stems that will clearly fall below the water line, cut those away -- leaving them on will only help encourage microbial growth, making it harder for your flowers to suck up water and thus reducing the overall shelf life of your flowers.

Step 3: Fill your vase with a good amount of water, though not all the way to the top (the stems will displace some water once you pop them in). If your blooms have come with any of those little flower food sachets, by all means use them; they really do help.

Now, do not just plop your flowers directly into the water. A little prep will not only ensure a more attractive bouquet, but keep blooms looking fresh for as long as possible. When you first unwrap your pretty new flowers, use either a good pair of scissors (for thinnish stems) or a sharp knife (for fatter/harder stems) to trim off the ends under water. It's important to do this under water, to help prevent air bubbles from coming in and plugging up the stem's water uptake. Cutting at a diagonal also helps, as this will yield a larger exposed surface area for the water to enter. Immediately pop the cut stems in the water-filled vase and arrange.

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