gardeniaTips for getting the longest life from this wonderfully fragrant but delicate wedding favorite.

sensory delights  Gardenias (G. jasminoides) are among the most fragrant of all flowers. Commonly known as “Cape jasmine,” Gardenias are not a jasmine (Jasminum) at all. Instead, they are a member of the Rubiaceae family, which also includesBouvardia, coffee (Coffea) and Pentas.

2 widespread origins  The genus Gardenia was named for Dr. Alexander Garden (1730-1791), a Scottish physician and botanist who lived in Charleston, S.C. G jasminoides is native to China and tropical Asia.

sell/smell all year  Gardenias are available year-round from domestic growers. These flowers can take 30 days or longer to bloom in the winter, so supply can be more limited from December through March. Ordering them in advance is the best way to ensure availability

4 making the grades  Depending on grower and market, Gardenias are sold in various grades,or qualities, and are packaged and priced accordingly.
“Premium,” “Perfect” or “First-Quality” blossoms are the largest, whitest and least blemished blooms. The center petals are often sealed with wax and have either fresh leaf or plastic leaf support collars. These top-grade Gardenias are sealed in boxes, with three, six or 12 blossoms per box.
“Work Gardenias,” or “Seconds,” are usually smaller, might be more open, and may have small blemishes or uneven petals. These No. 2 grade flowers are also waxed, may have plastic collars and are sold in flats of 12 or 25.
No. 3 grade Gardenias, sometimes called “funeral Gardenias,” are generally the smallest, most open and most blemished blossoms. When available, they are sold without any protective wax or support collars and in flats of 50 or 100.

5 buy the way  Purchase cut Gardenias when the outer petals are open and the center petals are closed. Blooms should be bright white, perhaps even with a greenish hue, and with no browning, blemishes or wrinkles. If protective wax has been applied, ensure that the wax is not peeling away from the petals.

6 cool ’n’ damp  Gardenias do not take up water after they’re cut, so hydration and flower-food solutions aren’t necessary. Instead, spray these flowers with a flower antitranspirant, keep them sealed in their shipping boxes or air-tight bags, and store them in a floral cooler at 32 F to 35 F, with high humidity (90 percent to 95 percent) until you’re ready to use them. An air-tight, humid environment is important.

7 cover their faces  It can be helpful to cover these blooms with wet cotton or facial tissue and wrap the shipping boxes in plastic. When preparing to use Gardenias, break down the sides of the boxes, so you can remove the flowers easily.

8 handle delicately  Gardenias will start to turn a creamy yellow hue when left at room temperature and/or exposed to air. These delicate flowers also bruise easily when touched (a reaction to the acids and oils on people’s fingers).
To slow yellowing and prevent bruising, spray Gardenias with a solution of 90 percent water and 10 percent lemon juice prior to use; keep the blooms covered with wet cotton or facial tissue while working with them; and keep your hands wet, touching the flowers as little as possible—and only the backs of the flowers, if possible.
Once a design is complete, keep the Gardenias covered, sealed and refrigerated, if possible, until the design is used.

9 makeup, please  You can lightly touch up bruises or blemishes on Gardenias with white or ivory floral spray paint on a cotton swab, typing correction fluid or even baby powder.

10 in the know  Let customers know what to expect with Gardenias: a strong fragrance, bruising and yellowing, and a relatively short life. By starting with the freshest blooms and educating consumers, everyone can have great success with Gardenias.

Photos courtesy of California Cut Flower Commission;