Archives For Stephanie Lindemann

Using peonies as a cut flower for floral design is easy, with a few tricks to preserve the health of your plants and flowers.

Peonies are the queen of the garden during their blooming season. From late spring through early summer, there is a beautiful abundance of color and shapes blooming, depending on the variety. Finding a variety that is also fragrant adds to the reward of growing this exquisite flower.

Storing peony stems allows you to use early and mid-season blossoms together in an arrangement.

Storing peony stems allows you to use early and mid-season blossoms together in an arrangement.

Here are few tips to extend the bloom of cut peonies indoors.

When cutting flowers from your plants, be sure to leave at least two sets of leaves on the stem so that the plant can continue to thrive.

You can select flowers that are as open as you like, but for the best vase life, select buds that have just begun to open and feel similar to a marshmallow. 

Cut stems can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three weeks, butno fruit—such as apples—can be in the refrigerator with your peonies. The ethylene gas emitted by ripening fruit will cause petals to drop, and buds to wilt and fail to open. I store peony stems so that I can use early- and mid-season blossoms together in the same arrangement. (This is also a good safety net if you are hoping to use peonies for an event, but Mother Nature decided to allow the peonies to bloom early.)

I have success in storing blooms two ways. One is by placing cut stems in a clean vase of cool water in the refrigerator, making sure that low foliage is not in the water. This can be challenging because the height of the stems don’t always fit in the fridge very well. The other method is to cut the stems and place them lying down in a plastic bag with a dry paper towel to absorb moisture. Both methods require daily checks to replace the water in the vase or the paper towels. If any of the blossoms in the plastic bag grow moldy, the infected flowers should be discarded, and the remaining flowers placed in a clean plastic bag. If the buds droop, don’t worry—often they can be revived in a vase of warm water.

Got ants? Ants love the sweet nectar of peonies as they begin to open. I dunk the blossom end of the stem in cool, clean water for 30 seconds to rid the ants from the flower before bringing the flowers into the house.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

For many people, lilacs are a sentimental flower. My mother planted many lilacs on our farm in Kansas. The scent carried across the yard as I played. When my husband and I started our family, planting a lilac in our garden was a priority so our children will have the same heavenly memory of the fragrance and flower.

Over the years I have tried to bring the bounty of this flower into my home and have often failed. The flowers would droop within an hour of bringing them inside, even though I had them in a clean vase full of fresh water. Through trial and error I found the trick to help the blooms last as long as possible:

Fill a bucket half full of fresh, cool water, and have it at hand as you cut blooms. Pick flowers in the cool of the morning or evening. Lilacs open very little after harvest, so choose stems that have at least three-quarters of the flowers open. Next, remove all of the leaves so the plant isn’t putting its effort into keeping the leaves hydrated. Place stems in the water. Leave the bucket in a cool, dark place and allow the flowers to take up water for at least an hour.

Pick flowers in the cool of morning or evening.

Pick flowers in the cool of morning or evening.

Remove all of the leaves from each stem.

Remove all of the leaves from each stem.

Next, using heavy clippers, recut the stem ends, then slice vertically up the stem 1-2 inches. Grasp one side of the sliced stem and twist backward. Immediately place the cut stems back into the bucket of water.  Allow the stems to take up more water in a cool, dark place for another one to two hours. The lilacs will then be ready for arranging, and will last three to four days.

Recut the stem ends, then slice vertically up the stem 1-2 inches.

Recut the stem ends, then slice vertically up the stem 1-2 inches.

Grasp one side of the sliced stem and twist backward.

Grasp one side of the sliced stem and twist backward.

An arrangement of fragrant Evangeline hyacinth lilac (Syringa xhyacinthiflora 'Evangeline')

Our finished bouquet: an arrangement of fragrant Evangeline hyacinth lilac (Syringa ×hyacinthiflora ‘Evangeline’)


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Spring is my favorite time of year. As the manager of horticultural events, I have the pleasure of working with the Woman’s Board of the Chicago Horticultural Society to plan the yearly Fall Bulb Sale as part of the Fall Bulb Festival. I spend a little more than half of my year thinking about spring-blooming bulbs, and I love it.

The National Garden Bureau has declared daffodils as the 2017 flower of the year. For me daffodils reign supreme. There is a wide variety of shapes and colors to choose from—some are even fragrant—and best of all, critters do not dig them up or eat them when they are blooming.

Narcissus 'Tweety Bird'

Narcissus ‘Tweety Bird’

Daffodils are classified by the shape and size of the cup (or trumpet) and the petals. For example, Division 1 Trumpet Daffodils have a cup or trumpet that measures longer than the length of the petals. (The Royal Horticultural Society lists 13 divisions for daffodils.) This season, I am especially fond of Narcissus ‘Tweety Bird’. The flower is petite, but still has the stature and allure of the stately trumpet daffodil—with a slight twist: the petals reflex back, making it a Division 6 Cyclamineus Daffodil.

I am often asked to decipher the difference between Narcissus, daffodil, and jonquil. Narcissus refers to the botanical name for this group of flowers. “Daffodil” is the common name for this group, and “jonquil” actually refers to a specific kind of Narcissus (daffodil).

Nothing says Spring like a daffodil bouquet.

Nothing says spring like a daffodil bouquet.

Daffodils as cut flowers are a giant perk of the spring season. Generally, they have a vase life of nearly a week if harvested before the flowers are fully open. Daffodils ooze a slimy sap that is toxic to other flowers and will shorten their vase life. To avoid affecting other flowers in an arrangement, “condition” daffodils by placing freshly cut stems into cool water for two to three hours first. During that time, the stem ends will callus over and the toxic sap will stop flowing. The daffodil stems (do not recut the ends) can be added with other flowers, or you can create an arrangement using only daffodils.

Want to know more about cultivating Narcissus? Visit our daffodil page for links and tips.

The Chicago Botanic Garden has 219 daffodil varieties—a total of 521,802 bulbs—resulting in more than one million blooms during the spring season (starting in late March and lasting all the way through late May, and sometimes into early June). There are many “sweet spots” in the Garden to find your new favorite variety of daffodil. I especially love the Sensory Garden, Evening Island, and of course, the Graham Bulb Garden. I hope to see you out enjoying the daffodil vistas in the Garden.

Viewable from the Visitor Center bridge and the Crescent Garden, Bird Island is currently abloom with daffodils.

Viewable from the Visitor Center bridge and the Crescent Garden, Bird Island is currently abloom with daffodils.

Come see the 2017 Midwest Daffodil Society Show on Saturday, April 29, noon – 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 30, 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Planting bulbs together is a great way for children to learn about a different kind of plant. In the spring, the results are thrilling.

PHOTO: Getting ready to drop in a bulb.

James’s favorite part of planting: dropping in little “flower bombs” (the bulbs).

Put your children to work! The general rule for planting bulbs is to dig down three times the height of the bulb. For example, if you have a narcissus bulb that is 3 inches tall, you would dig a hole 9 to 12 inches deep. For smaller children, pick smaller bulbs like ‘Tommy’ crocus (Crocus tomassinianus) or grape hyacinth (Muscari).

Digging a deep hole for large bulbs can be a big job. There are several different kinds of bulb digging tools. I prefer a long, slender trowel when planting bulbs. In loose soil, you can push the trowel into the ground, pull the soil back, drop in the bulb, and then pull the trowel out. In more compact soil, I prefer a bulb trowel that looks like a metal cylinder with teeth on one end and a handle on the other.

PHOTO: Finding a worm.

The bonuses of getting dirty in the garden: finding a worm!

My son is always eager to try out my gardening tools. We make a game of planting bulbs. We bury “flower bombs” (bulbs), water the soil and flower bombs when we are finished planting, and sometimes we even sprinkle some super food (bulb fertilizer) to help things along. The hard work pays off in the spring when those beautiful blooms push through the ground, show their leaves, and then burst open with spring color.

Learn more about new additions and old favorites at the Fall Bulb Festival on Saturday and Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Preview shopping for members only will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, October 10.


©2014 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org