Being a former floral designer (during the 80’s) I wish I had known about using clematis in both floral arrangements and bridal bouquets. I am surprised that using clematis as a cut flower is a relatively well-kept secret. I speculate this is because there has still not been a lot written about the potential of this genus being utilized as a wonderful cut flower. Clematis will stay fresh for at least seven days depending on which varieties/group you pick and the age of the flowers when you pick them. Many clematis, particularly those in the: Atragene, Diversifolia, Florida, Jackmanii, Patens, Texensis, and Viticella Groups are indeed ideal candidates for use as a cut flower in florals, arrangements and bouquets because these varieties have a long vase life. It is also worth mentioning that there are several varieties (such as: double Patens and Diversifolia) that can last up to two or more weeks, making them a serious competitor with alstroemerias which are revered by florists for their longevity.
In 2009, my sweet daughter, Emily, was married in May (in my assessment the absolute perfect florist’s month), at which time I am happy to report I was able to include many clematis into the floral arrangements, as well as decorating the wedding cake (see: Clematis Flowers Take the Cake), in the bride’s maids bouquets and, of course, in her special bridal bouquet. I cannot tell you how ecstatic I was that I was able to incorporate 23 gorgeous clematis into my daughter’s bouquet. In my (okay biased) opinion it was pretty (see above photo), but not as stunningly beautiful as Emily was.
My hope in writing this article is to inspire others to consider including clematis in their floral arrangements and/or a loved one’s bridal bouquet. To help me promulgate that aspiration, I will share with you instructions on how to process your clematis after they have been cut.
Care for Cut Clematis
Here are a few simple steps to help you prolong the life of your cut clematis.
When you harvest clematis it is best to cut them in the morning after the dew dries but before the heat of the day arrives because this is when the plant is storing the maximum amount of water. If for some reason you cannot cut them then, wait until late afternoon. On the few occasions when I tried picking my clematis in the heat of midday they became stressed and wilted on me from the lack of water. Unlike some other flowers that I have subjected to this torture they did not recover.
When making your selection(s), choose clematis that have yet to fully open. The best flowers are ones that are only about 70% or so open. If your vision though is to create a bouquet with a natural look, your best bet is to pick both recently opened blooms as well as buds that are just on the verge of opening. Do not pick clematis that have already been blooming for several days or more because their maturity will shorten the amount of time they will hold for you after being cut. Obviously, flowers that have tepals damaged from earwigs or snails would not be on your candidate’s list for use in a bouquet. One way to determine whether your choice is age-worthy is to check the stamens which should look fresh. If they fall off the flower after being touched, it is past its prime.
Cleaning and Conditioning
Once you have picked your clematis it is essential that you have a sterilized bucket(s) ready. I now sanitize my containers with Physan 20. I only wish I had known about this versatile product when I had my floral business. In those days I used bleach which is far less effective and not user-friendly. For a thorough cleaning, use the amount recommended on the bottle of Physan 20 and brush out your container making sure you rinse afterwards. Add clean water to the bucket(s). The water temperature required depends on when you plan to use the clematis and what stage of development they are in. If you are going to use them in a bridal bouquet and the bloom is not as open as you would like it to be, you can accelerate its opening up by soaking the stems in warm water. If on the other hand you plan to use them in bouquets or arrangements in your home, condition the stems in lukewarm water. Splurge! Give your clematis the very best by adding a professional floral preservative to the water. Home brews such as adding aspirins or soda or even pennies are just “Old Wives’ Tales” and will do nothing to keep your clematis fresher longer.
Before you add your cut clematis to the container, strip off any leaves on stems that could be submerged below the water level in the bucket. This prevents the leaves from decomposing which would shorten the vase life. Use a sharp floral knife (or pair of clippers) and sever the stems on a slant. Cut your stems to the length you desire leaving enough space to trim at least a half an inch off the end. Immediately submerge the cut stems into your bucket so they will not have a chance to dry out or form an air bubble. Allow plenty of room for proper air circulation, meaning do not overcrowd the container. When you are done cutting your clematis, place the bucket(s) in a dark, cool place such as a garage or basement. Allow them to harden for at least two hours. Now your clematis are ready for arranging.
If you plan on creating a floral masterpiece for your home utilize the same procedure with Physan 20 on the vase or container you plan on using as you did with your buckets. Do not attempt to go straight from cutting to creating without allowing the hardening process to occur. After construction is complete, remove daily any spent leaves that touch water or tepals that have dropped off as they will decay rapidly. They can not only be smelly but can also cause the flower to deteriorate more quickly. Add fresh water and floral preservative every two days.
If your clematis are arranged in a vase, recut the stems every two days as well by trimming ½ inch off the ends. Flowers that you have placed in floral foam (Oasis) should not be recut.
Heat and drafts are the cut clematis’ enemy because they can accelerate the flowers’ transpiration, thus shortening their lifespan. So, avoid exposing them to heater or air conditioner ducts. Do not place them next to a fireplace or on top of a television or in direct sunlight. If possible place them in a cool location each night.
Sources for Large Quantities of Wholesale Cut Flower
If you are unable to personally grow sufficient and/or acquire enough clematis flowers needed as I was for your event. I have good news because your floral designer can contact (ahead of time) their local wholesale supplier(s) to obtain bulk clematis and/or they can order directly from the following two clematis growers:
So, don’t be shy when it comes to creating floral masterpieces that include cut clematis as they can, with proper processing, be the star of the show.