In honor of Portland's chrysanthemum season, perhaps you can tell us: Why do some cut flowers/bouquets seem to die immediately? Is there a trick to make them last?

—Tina S.

I have the same problem—my flowers look fine in the grocery store, but as soon as I get them home and take the bag off my head, they wither and die, frequently with an audible "sad trombone" audio cue. 

The doomed battle to keep cut flowers alive is essentially a matter of keeping them from drying out for as long as possible. Many folks make the mistake of cutting them in the middle of the day, when live flowers are already at their driest. 

Instead, why not cut them first thing in the morning, when they're still plump with the night's moisture? They'll last a lot longer, and you'll get to experience a flower garden at dawn, while the dew still lingers on the rose. And while you're there, you can enjoy a sun-kissed dance with the fairy folk, you fucking hippie.

Remember, a cut flower with a dried-out stem is like a headless chicken with a scabbed-over windpipe: not long for this world. Luckily, in the case of flowers (or exceptionally long-necked chickens), you can cut off the dried-out portion. This re-opens the tiny tubes through which the flower sucks up water. Cutting the stem at an angle, slitting the end longitudinally, helps to improve its water-sucking ability. 

As to the water itself, you can add a few drops of food coloring to make it pretty, or a few drops of bleach to make it less stinky. Better yet, change the water after a day or two. Some folks say a spoonful of sugar in the water makes it more nourishing for the stems, but that, frankly, sounds like bullshit to me.