The best flowers to pick in winter – and how to make them last

“A flowerless room is a soul-less room,” wrote Vita Sackville West, “but even one solitary little vase of a living flower may redeem it.” I’m with Vita on this, as so much else to do with gardens and gardening. Vita had the whole of Sissinghurst from which to choose a bloom for her solitary vase, and even in an English winter, had flowers to pick.

Those of us without pickings from the garden are relying on others to provide our winter blooms, such as the Padovano family. The Padovanos grow flowers and foliage at Jonima Flowers, a 25-acre flower farm in Yanderra, in the foothills of the Southern Highlands in NSW. There are field-grown as well as greenhouse-grown plants.

Keep flowers fresh by cutting the stems when you get home.Credit:iStock

Now the winter is well on the way, the Padovanos are starting to pick the orange, lemon, pink and yellow poppies; mauve, pink, and white snapdragons; and cheery pink and purple, clove-scented sweet william that were planted as seedlings back in February. These annuals will carry on providing blooms until spring, as long as frosts aren’t too heavy. The jonquils have also started and will continue for another month or so.

Grevilleas also make their way into winter bunches from Jonima. To last well in a vase, grevilleas need to be picked at just the right time, not too early when the buds are tight, and not too late, when the curled florets have unravelled. Get the time just right, and the flower will last a week in the vase.

Among the grevillea varieties grown at Jonima for their excellent cut-flower qualities are “Moonlight”, a popular grevillea grown all through Sydney with pale lemon flowers and graceful foliage; pink-flowered “Bulli Beauty”, developed at the Illawarra Grevillea Park; and “Goliath”, so-named for the size of its crimson blooms.

“Grevilleas need to be picked at just the right time, not too early when the buds are tight, and not too late, when the curled florets have unravelled.”

The infernal wet weather of autumn did put a dent into production at the farm, as it was not possible to get into the fields to plant. Though the harvest is down on previous years, the pickings are anything but thin. There are also bird of paradise, lots of succulents and all manner of foliage. Ingrid Pavano says she’s also picking a few bunches of sweet-smelling violets.

Jonima Flowers are available at Sydney Flower Markets at Flemington and also at some farmers’ markets, including Carriageworks in Sydney, Kiama’s Farmers’ Market and Capital Region Farmers’ Market in Canberra.

How to keep your flowers fresh

To get the longest life from fresh flowers, cut the stems when you get them home, place the vase away from direct sun and the blast of hot air from the air conditioner or heater. Change the water every few days.

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