By Kathy Van Mullekom

Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

Nothing says “Thank You, Mom” or “Thank You, BFF” like a fresh bouquet of flowers, especially in an arrangement you create yourself.

When you hand pick and personally arrange flowers, you know they are fresh and have not been sitting in a floral cooler for days.

In May, fresh-cut flowers are abundant, including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths or roses — from your own garden or favorite florist or food store.

Unique containers bring added drama to your floral arrangements, so look in your closets and cabinets for some of those thrift-store or yard-sale pieces you stashed away. Tins, pottery, odd china and glass make perfect posy partners.

Here are some tips on choosing quality flower stems and how to arrange them, courtesy of, a nonprofit flower-bulb information center.

Pick a palette

Consider one of these pleasing color combinations: lavender and blue, passionate purples, sunny yellows, vintage pastels or rosy reds.

Sense the scent

Some flowers, especially hyacinths and lilacs, have a powerful fragrance that can overwhelm — mentally think of women who wear too much perfume and how it impacts you when you walk by them.

Keep flower perfumes to a minimum when you entertain in a tight space.

Pair flowers carefully

Avoid combining daffodils — or any other members of the Narcissus family — with other flower types.

Narcissi exude a slimy substance that shortens the life span of other flowers by clogging their water uptake channels.

Bet on buds

Extend the life of your tulips by purchasing them when the flower heads just start to open — the bud should be closed, but with the color of the flower evident.

Before arranging tulips, condition them by re-cutting the base of the stem with a clean, sharp knife; this opens up the flower’s water uptake channels.

Cut flower food is not necessary for tulips.

With proper care, tulips should open and last from three to seven days.

Keep tulips away from heat sources such as direct sunlight, radiators, lamps and televisions.

To keep tulips standing up nice and straight in the vase for a longer length of time, pre-stretch them by wrapping in newspaper and setting in water for the first 24 hours.

Mix and match

Fruit and flowers create an eye-catching arrangement, but as fruit ripens, it emits ethylene gas, which can shorten the vase life of some flowers.

Think of thou

When you make bouquets for others, make an extra one for yourself — it helps you stop and smell the roses in life, and that’s good any day of the year.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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