Poppies: The Bitchiest Flower
There's no better way to get your home ready for warmer days than filling it with fresh flowers. Whether I'm picking up a paper-wraped bunch of wildflowers from the farmer's market in Brooklyn or cutting lush, heavy hydrangeas from the yard of my Montauk rental, for me, nothing compliments easy summer vibes than a loose, simple flower arrangement.
I'm spending Memorial Day weekend at home in North Carolina and on Friday paid a visit to the local farmer's market where I bought a bunch of poppies--about forty stems--for the bargain price of ten dollars. I always avoided poppies back when I was in the floral game because they are notorious for being super finicky, short-lived, and, at as much as 2 bucks a stem, f#cking expensive. In NY, you can get 10 dumplings for that--and dumplings don't threaten to shrivel up and die after an hour in water.
But, in spite of their moodiness I have always kind of fawned over them: their slender twisting stems, tissue paper thin petals, and beautiful color striations. Yes they can be fickle, but I still want them to come hang out for a while even if they may get bored and Irish exit my party after a drink and a half. So this time I really couldn't help myself. Luckily, the risk paid off and we've been enjoying bunches of pretty blooms all over the house this weekend.
Below are some tips for preparing and arranging cut poppies. I recommend keeping your iphone handy so you can snap a million photos of your masterpiece in the event that your blooms get bitchy and wither up before you get a chance to show them off. Like they say, a poppy arrangement may get droopy and depressed during your dinner party on Saturday, but instagrams are forever.
First things first: Choose a clean vase and fill it with room-temperature water. Next, using floral shears or a sharp floral knife, cut each steam on the diagonal. Remove any leaves that would fall below the edge of the vase and muck up the water. Make sure to cut the stems at different lengths so your arrangement has movement and variety, and so all the blooms don't overlap.
The next step is proof of poppies' high maintenance nature. After cutting each poppy to its desired length, use a lighter (I've also been known to use a burner on my gas stove for mass searing sessions) to burn the end of each stem. You want the edges of the cut stem to turn black like in the photo above. Cut poppies will secrete a milky sap that keeps water from getting to the flower. Searing the end of each stem will keep the sap from escaping and allow the poppy to drink water. It may seem like an annoying step (because it is) but it will keep your poppies looking fresh and perky--and will allow buds like in the above photo to open into new vibrant blooms.
And now the easy part. Since poppies lend themselves well to loose, free-form arrangements, I just like to throw them in a vase and let them do their thing. If you have any unopened pods, I like to include a few of those to add visual interest--plus, they will usually burst open after a day or two and open into fresh new blooms.
Et voila. It's almost the weekend so go get some flowers to burn! Now!