March 30, 2009
by Mark J. Anthony
Originally published in Lasca Leaves 21(3):71-72, September 1971.
1. Camellia flowers when stored in a saturated water atmosphere, the flowers themselves not touching water, retained their freshness and turgidity up to two weeks. Application of naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) dissolved in acetone near the floral axis, increased the life span of these flowers to 28 days.
2. Camellia flowers stored floating on water deteriorated within seven days. Addition to the water of inorganic phosphate, NAA, and combinations of the same increased the life span by not more than two days. Other treatments were less successful.
This summary is taken from the report of Bonner and Honda in our Society’s “Camellia Research,” published in 1950 and reprinted in March 1955 CAMELLIA REVIEW. The original report was based on their work performed at Cal Tech and which was supported by our Society. The essentials of the report were quoted by Cothran in our CAMELLIA CULTURE (pages 201 and 203).
The above outstanding results were obtained when the temperature was 25° C (or 77°F)!
You are not likely to have the equipment to duplicate these conditions any more than I have. However, we can get fairly close by (a) applying naphthalene acetic acid (NAA) to the floral axis of our blooms; (b) maintaining fairly high relative humidity in a bloom box stored in our refrigerator; and (c) keeping the stems of the blooms damp. After using several technics which gave pleasing results, I am using the treating procedures outlined below.
Mixing Naphthalene Acetic Acid* (NAA)
A 125 ppm (parts per million) aqueous solution of NAA can be made by mixing approximately 100 milligrams of the NAA powder in a quart of tap water. 100 mg NAA is about 1/2 the size of a pencil eraser or would fill about half of a quarter inch size capsule. It doesn’t hurt to have a little extra NAA powder in the water because NAA is rather insoluble in water and you can’t get as much as Bonner and Honda used in their acetone solution. Never mind the expense because 25 grams (or 25,000 milligrams) costs only $2.50 and should last you 25 years or more.
No special storage provisions are necessary for either the dry powder or the aqueous solution. The exact proportions are not necessary. A solution as low as 15 ppm was effective and the saturated aqueous solution of 400 ppm is not as strong as Bonner’s acetone solution. The purpose of the NAA is to strengthen the bonds between the petals and the stem and to delay the petals’ dropping off (abscission).
With a Windex Bottle you can spray NAA solution down into the axis of the flower. Generally, I have directed squirts from 3 to 5 directions always avoiding hitting stamen. The total liquid will be 6 or 8 drops. In my bloom boxes, I have been using milk bottle tops for holding cotton wads which have been generously wet with the NAA solution. Make sure that the stem of the bloom is in contact with this wet cotton. After the blooms are placed in the box, I spray the shredded paper lightly with the solution.
Although you can not assure having saturated vapor in your closed box in a refrigerator, it is believed that you get high relative humidity. If you have your refrigerator set at the highest temperature, the result is about 38° to 40° F. Assume the outside air is 55° to 65°F, and relative humidity was 50% when the box is closed. When you cool the box in the refrigerator, the air inside should be from 80 to 100% relative humidity if no moisture is lost from the air. Throughout the storage the relative humidity will be helped by the evaporation from the liquid on the cotton, the chopped fibers and the blooms themselves. The extensive liquid surfaces tend to maintain high relative humidity.
Boxes for Blooms
Probably the best box for fitting in most refrigerators is 20"x15"x5". To preserve a cardboad box, use aluminum foil to cover the bottom and have the foil come up about an inch and a half on each side. Cover the bottom with absorbent cotton and wet this with about two tumblers of water or NAA solution mentioned above. Then cover the cotton with shredded wax paper to a depth of 1 1/2". This should be lightly sprayed with a Windex bottle when you have flowers in the box.
Without high priced apparatus, we have been able to benefit from Bonner's fine research. During the past two years my show blooms, many of which were cut several days ahead, uniformly showed a fresh appearance on the second day of shows. The blooms did not wilt like many others which allegedly had been picked within 24 hours of entering the show
A gibbed ‘Debutante’ which was cut October 9th and given “The Treatment” still had its form and turgid petals at the time of our Fall Show (Dec. 4, 5) even though some petals were browning. Its companion piece, a cymbidium given “the works” on May 14 (1965) was still recognizable as a cymbidium even though some petals were brown at edges.
We have air expressed several boxes of treated camellia blooms to my sister in Oklahoma and they last very well for a few weeks. She displays them during the day with the lid off the box. At night, the closed box is stored in the air raid shelter (do you remember these? They were the successors to the storm cellars). My sister reports that 3 of the blooms shipped last April 28 were still fairly presentable on her birthday June 2nd.
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