Okay, okay. It's been about seven months since my last post, but the good news is that I've returned with a good one. I promise. But before we dive into that, let me just point out--if you've managed to miss it--that spring is upon us. In fact, in California, it's been here for a quick minute. An odd quick minute. We've been trudging through a multi-year drought, which means that the almond trees bloomed prematurely and that the sun has been shining for months on end. All the tulip magnolia bloomed and everyone said, whaaaat? It's January?!!
In the Flower Market, however, everyone's favorite spring materials just arrived a few weeks ago. First it was local lilac, then blooming dogwood, sprirea and mock orange. I can't speak for everyone, but I dare say that most florists would say that spring is the best time of year. There is an abundance of material--and for somebody who likes to make sprawling, loose arrangements--a bevy young branches and greenery that bend so easily and naturally on the table. It's pure love I tell you. Pure love.
Being spring also means that it's the season for Icelandic Poppies. These beauts feature a slim, fuzzy stem ending in a head of feathery, paper-light petals that open to reveal a intricate yellow center. Once open, they can last for several days in a vase of clean water.
And, yes. Here is the difficult part-- "once open". Iceland Poppies (nickname: IP) are often sold as closed buds. You may get a few that are already open but I would say that most florists pass on those bunches, which means that it's up to you to get the buds to blossom. I've had florist friends who have given up on IP's and others who are quite aggressive at getting them to open. I've found, though, that a little patience, warmth and sun is all you need.
When you purchase a bunch of IP's, they usually come looking like this (see below)... like a bunch of alien eyes on stems (see above).
Out of a bunch of ten stems, you might have one or two that are open. The likelihood is that most of them will be closed. The first thing you should do is remove any stems that are soft or droopy. These are on their way out and should be composted to keep the others healthy:
Next, remove any stems that have bloomed, put them in a fresh vase of water and store them in the refrigerator. If you're not a florist and are using your house fridge, remove any apples-- the ethylene gas that apples emit will wilt your flowers.
Now it's time to squeeze. A little squeeze will gently assist the flower in opening. You'll see that the head has a large, thick seam running down the middle. Take the head between your finger and thumb and give it a good squeeze until you can see the petals within. Buds that are ready will give a little cracking noise. Young buds will feel soft and won't make that 'popping' noise.
I have some florist friends who like to peel the entire "casing" off to budded up mass of petals. This is a bit too aggressive for me. From what I've seen, when this approach is taken, the flower will bloom, but it looks tender. I liken this method to picking off a scab too early. Ouch. And yuck!
Once you've squeezed all your heads, place the stems in a vase of warm water and if possible, place the vase directly in the sun. You'll find that some of your stems will bloom within the half-hour while in the sun. We've been blessed with a few, rare days of rain here, so instead of placing the vases in the sun, I put the vases inside our studio and in indirect sun (when we could get it). I left the vases in the same place over night and this is what I found:
Yowzers! That's just from a little squeeze. Beautiful!
Like before, remove the fully bloomed stems and put them in the fridge with the others. But wait!!! It's important to keep the half-way bloomed flowers with the closed buds so you can continue opening them. Half-open buds are still too delicate to go in the fridge, and the cold air will prevent them from opening fully. In fact, they will probably wilt. Plus, they are still way too tender to put into any arrangement. Fully opening strengthens the head and their vase life.
Ready to go:
Not quite ready:
Continue sunning the IP's over the next day or two. When purchasing IP's, you sort of know that you can't use the entire bunch. You'll have some that will wilt, some that won't open. That's just the way it is and I don't fight it. I usually purchase twice as many stems as I need and I'm good to go.
A few final pics.... such beauties: