Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
June, 2003
Regional Report

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This bud is perfect for cutting.

Bring Them Inside!

Moses supposes,
his toeses are roses,
but Moses supposes erroneously.
Singin? In The Rain, MGM (1952)

The rose is far and away America's favorite flower. We spend more money and time on the cultivation of this particular plant than most others combined. There are those who enjoy their roses on the bush and those who would bring them into their homes as cut flowers. This column for the later category of gardeners, myself included. If you like to display your roses, here are some tips for getting the most from your efforts.

When to Cut
Roses should be cut early in the morning before the dew has dried from the leaves. In the dry summer months, that means getting up before the chickens. By cutting early in the day, the flowers are full of moisture after having had all night to pull water up from the roots. If you cut in the afternoon, the flowers will have lost most of their moisture through transpiration. If you want your cut roses to last a long time, cut them early in the day.

Choosing the Best Flowers to Cut
Select buds that have the sepals turned down. The sepals are the green part at the base of the flower that join it to the stem. Even if you buy roses, select flowers with turned-down sepals. If the sepals are still clinging to the bud, the rose may not open.

Cutting Long Stems
Cut the stems as long as possible. Don't butcher your plants, but do cut down to where the stems are sturdy and will support the new growth that follows. The rule of thumb is to cut down to the second set of five lobed leaves, but cut longer if possible.

Conditioning the Flowers
As soon as you cut your roses, plunge them into a deep bucket filled with hot water. The hot water forces its way up the stem, hydrating the cells. Roses should have as much of the stem underwater as possible during the conditioning process.
Now, allow your cut flowers to rest in a dark, cool area for 6 hours, or overnight. The garage or a spare room is a good place to condition your roses prior to arranging them in a vase.

Arranging Flowers
Once the flowers have been conditioned, you can plan your arrangement. To begin, fill a deep vase with cool water. I recommend adding this homemade floral preservative to the water in the vase: 2 tablespoons of lemon/lime soda, 1/2 teaspoon of bleach, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 tablespoon sugar. This mixture keep the water clean and free from bacteria, while feeding the flowers at the same time.

Fetch the roses from their resting place when you have prepared the vase. As you remove the flower from the bucket, make a slanted cut a few inches above the original cut while the stem is still under water. Yes, this means getting your clippers wet, but this step is vital if you want your cut roses to last up to a week or more. The underwater cut will release any air trapped in the stem. A drop of water will hang on the cut surface preventing air from entering the stem as you transfer the flower from the bucket to the vase.

Remove any leaves that will be under water in the vase to prevent bacteria growth. Leave the thorns.

This may seem like a lot of work, but I think of it as life insurance for cut roses. And after all, you have invested so much of your time already, why not spend a few more minutes to guarantee a long and lovely life indoors.

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