fresh flower


These petite, texture-rich flowers
are eye-catching en masse.

by Steven W. Brown, AIFD

Trachelium caeruleum
Throatwort, Blue throatwort

1 LIKE AN UMBRELLA. Trachelium caeruleum, pronounced “tra-KEE-lee-um su-ROO-lee-um,” has tiny florets that make up dense, flat-topped clusters, called umbels (umbrellalike), and are borne on leafy, 18- to 24-inch-long stems. The umbels may be up to 6 inches in diameter.

2 THE BELLFLOWERS. Native to the Mediterranean regions of the world, particularly Greece, Trachelium is a member of the bellflower, or Campanulaceae, family. Most of the members of this family are grown for ornamental purposes. Close relatives include bellflowers (Campanula), ladybells (Adenophora) and balloon flowers (Platycodon).

3 EASY TO SWALLOW. The botanical name Trachelium comes from the Greek “trachelos” for “neck,” referring to the plant’s use in treating diseases of the throat. The species name “caeruleum” means “dark blue,” referring to the flower color even though the flowers are actually available in a range of colors.

4 A YEAR-ROUND FLOWER. Trachelium is available from world markets all year, but the peak season is March through November.

5 CULTIVATED COLORS. Tracheli-um’s most common color is blue or violet, but there are white, pink, purple and dark purple cultivars as well.

6 LOOK BEFORE LEAPING. For maximum vase life, Trachelium should be purchased or harvested when one-third of the florets are open. Avoid bunches that have broken umbels; damaged florets; or any signs of rot, bruising or mold on the stems, blossoms or foliage.

7 PROCESS AND STORE. When these flowers arrive, unwrap them and remove any bottom leaves and at least 1 inch from the bottom of each stem with a sharp knife or cutter. Then dip or place the stems into a hydration solution. Next place the stems into a properly prepared fresh flower-food solution, and allow them to hydrate for at least two hours before selling or designing with them. Misting these blossoms with room temperature water is beneficial. (Caution: There are reports that handling Trachelium can cause contact dermatitis; it is helpful to wear gloves when processing the flowers.) Store Trachelium in a floral refrigerator at approximately 34 F and 90 percent to 95 percent relative humidity.

8 CHANGE IS GOOD. Give the stems a fresh cut and change the flower-food solution at least every other day for maximum vase life. With proper care, Trachelium can last for seven to 10 days.

9 OUT OF GAS. Trachelium is sensitive to ethylene gas and also produces high amounts of ethylene. Treatments with an anti-ethylene product, therefore, are beneficial. Check with your grower or wholesaler to make sure that the flowers have been treated.

10 DESIGN AWAY! Trachelium is an excellent mass or filler flower. The long, strong stems may be several feet in length, allowing this blossom to be used in large arrangements, parallel stem groupings or structural designs while the textural blossoms are eye catching as a pavé material.

Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.

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