HELEN LANG: Wilted flowers sometimes just need a cold bath

If your cut flowers are sagging, try dunking them in cool water

Something that I hope you will find useful and interesting to talk about today:

Annie brought me a stem of the helleborus niger that grows next the front steps on Melissa Street. On it were the single open flower, plus two buds. I was thrilled and put it in a vase that came halfway up the stem. The next morning disaster had struck. The whole thing was bent double, the flower resting on the table top. I remembered a similar occasion that happened when my eldest daughter won a speaking contest and was rewarded with a large bouquet of long-stemmed pink carnations. It had been a long drive home and we were all exhausted – Babs from the strain of public speaking, and her parents from parental anxiety. We left the flowers in the car overnight.

When we remembered them the next morning they looked awful – limp and shrivelled. However, I ran a few inches of cold water in the bath-tub and put them in, pushing everything under water, even the blossoms. By evening they had made a complete recovery and looked positively splendid, standing straight up in a tall vase, and they lasted for more than a week.

I thought this treatment might work with the helleborus, and it did. This time (after its overnight cold bath) I put the restored stem in water almost up to its neck, and now, three days later, the flower is still standing in stately beauty on the coffee able. Whoopie.

Last week I visited my dear brother in Cedar for several days. This was a real holiday for me. He has a wonderful housekeeper, so no cooking, no dishes, no dusting nor vacuuming, just a place with a magnificent water view, a comfortable bed, and a good companion to talk to. Some brothers are handy to have.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.