NEW JERSEY - Nothing says Happy Valentine’s Day like a fresh bouquet of flowers.  Make sure your gift provides many days of enjoyment by selecting the freshest flowers and providing the best possible care.

Take some time to evaluate the quality of the cut flowers you plan to purchase. Select fresh flowers with upright and perky flowers and lots of firm buds that are just starting to open.  Avoid flowers sitting in foul smelling water with drooping leaves and discolored slimy stems. 

Consider color and fragrance as well as freshness. Many people love the sweet fragrance of roses, carnations and lilies.  Some varieties are more fragrant than others, so you’ll need to do the nose test. Other individuals prefer to look at and not smell their beautiful arrangement. For them, select non-fragrant varieties and other flowers like hydrangea, alstroemeria, gerbera daisies and lisianthus that lack a strong fragrance.

Sign Up for Milltown/Spotswood Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Select their favorite color or perhaps one that sends a message. Red is often used to represent love and passion, pink for happiness and sometimes love, yellow for friendship and cheer, and peach for gratitude. Include a card to make sure the message and sentiments are received.

Roses are a Valentine favorite, but a dozen may be out of reach for your budget.  A single rose in a bud vase or large bloom floating in a shallow vase can bring a bit of beauty and lots of enjoyment to you or the recipient. Or add a few roses to your bouquet of other colorful flowers. 

Once you make your selection, ask the florist to include a packet of floral preservative and wrap your flowers. This protects them from extreme temperatures and jostling during the ride home.

Extend the life of your floral gift with a few key steps before placing the flowers in a vase.

Remove the lower leaves, so just the leafless stems are sitting in the water. This minimizes bacterial growth that can shorten the vase life of cut flowers. Recut the stems and arrange your blossoms in a clean vase filled with fresh water and floral preservative. Cutting the stems on an angle increases the amount of exposed surface area to absorb water.

Change the water, clean the vase if needed, recut the stems and add floral preservative every two to three days. Remove any flowers that have faded to keep your arrangement looking its best. Doing this can double the life of your cut flowers.

Further extend the vase life of cut flowers by displaying them in a cool, draft-free location. Or move them to a cooler spot at night and back in a prominent spot during the day.

Even if you do everything right, roses sometimes bend or droop at the neck and disappoint. This can happen if they have not received enough water at some point between harvest and your vase.

Fortunately, there is a way to revive roses.  Remove the roses from the vase.  Recut the stems and submerge the whole rose – stem, leaves, flowers and all – in a sink or tub of warm water.  Leave the roses submerged for 30 minutes.

Clean and refill the vase with fresh water and a bit of floral preservative.  Recut the stems on a slant, underwater if possible, and place the roses back in the vase.  You will have perky fresh roses to enjoy for a week or more.

And pick up an additional bouquet for yourself. Fresh flowers are a great way to brighten your home and lift your spirits.

Melinda Myers has written numerous books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally-syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and her web site is www.MelindaMyers.com.