Strolling through the garden, picking a bouquet for the dining room table, entryway or living room is relaxing and enjoyable. Use that stroll to clean up the garden by trimming off dead flowers while you cut the fresh flowers. Pick flowers from trees and bushes, as well as perennials and annuals, for bouquets that could only come from your home. Cut the flowers correctly and you'll prolong their life in the vase.
Water the flowers the day before you plan to cut them. That hydrates the plants so they'll be fresh in the morning.
Fill two buckets with water and 1 tsp. of household bleach for every gallon of water. Let sit for 10 minutes and then dump out the water. The bleach kills any bacteria and fungus that could be present from a previous use of the bucket. Rinse the buckets. Fill one bucket with 6 inches of cool water. Fill the other bucket to the top with ice water. Place it in a shady spot.
Cut the flowers for bouquets when they're in the partially opened bud stage. They'll continue to open in the house. Cut roses with a 24-inch-long stem. This gives the bush a light pruning every time you cut flowers.
Place the cut stems of the flowers for bouquets in a bucket of water as you cut them. Don't wait until you have an armload of flowers to get the bucket. The longer the flowers are out of water, the more they'll start to wilt. Carry the bucket with you as you cut.
Cut spent flowers and put them in the second bucket. Cut perennial flowers back to the third set of leaves from the flower. Annuals may be cut back to 12 inches if the plant has stopped blooming. Water and feed and it will most likely start blooming again.
Return to shady spot where you left the bucket of ice water. Strip off the leaves from the stems that will be under water when the flowers are placed in a vase. Remove any flowers that are past their blooming prime if you've cut a stem that has many flowers. Snapdragons, chrysanthemums and larkspur are examples of these types of flowers.
Treat flowers that have special requirements to stay fresh. For example, hollyhocks and poppies need to have their stems cauterized with a match. Some lilies with hollow stems, like amaryllis, need to have their stems filled with water and then placed in the vase.