Cutting blooms for the vase

Ensuring a supply of rose blooms for home decoration is often a major incentive to gardeners to plant roses. Any of the various groups of roses can supply cut flowers, but the queen of cut flowers is the Hybrid Tea, which guarantees classically shaped blooms on long-stems.

It is important not to cut too many long-stemmed blooms in too short a period of time – the excessive loss of leaves and stems  will disturb the sap flow and cause stress to the root system. A good principle is to cut the leading upper bloom approximately halfway down the stem, preferably above the fifth leaf. The bloom next to it is often the second tine of the fork and can be cut off at the point of branching. If the bush has many active, new shoots, the issue of leaving enough leaves behind is less important.

Blooms can be picked at any time of the day or night. Have a container half filled with water close by; place blooms in it within a few minutes of picking. From the moment the cut is made, air instead of water is sucked into the stem. Trapped air in stems and leaves causes wilting even after the flower is placed in water. When enough blooms have been picked, top up the container with water, place it in a dark, cool position and leave it to stand for a few hours. During this time, all systems ‘shut down’, with a minimum of evaporation taking place. When saturated from standing in the bucket, the blooms are ready for arranging. If blooms are kept out of water at this stage for a short period, even for an hour, they are able to stay fresh, since evaporation is now minimal.

Roses that have wilted prior to arranging (especially those bought at a supermarket or from street vendors) should be placed – or can simply be arranged – in hot water (about 40ºC). Hot water contains less air than cold water and, as it is absorbed through the cut stem, it drives out any trapped air. Bubbles escaping from the cut are visible in a glass vase.

For an extended vase life, add a satchel of Chrysal or 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of vinegar or 1 teaspoon of Jik to about 1 litre of water. Sugar dissolves well in hot water and strengthens the petals and, to a limited extent, serves as a plant food. Vinegar or Jik prevents formation of algae, making it unnecessary to replace the water every day.

The stage at which the bud or bloom is picked depends both on the variety and on personal preference. One soon learns that varieties such as ‘Johannesburg Sun’, ‘Monika’, ‘Summer Lady’ and ‘Cora Marie’ open their long, slender buds relatively quickly and should be cut when the petals are just starting to unfold. Large, full varieties such as ‘Just Joey’, ‘Double Delight’, ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Yankee Doodle’ should be cut as half-open blooms, or at least when the outer petals have fully unfolded.

While taking care not to cut too many blooms from one bush, it is still essential to remove old flowers to stimulate the sprouting of new growth. Cut back stems about half-way – about 30 cm for a short-stemmed variety such as ‘Electron’; and for the long-stemmed ‘Andrea Stelzer’, about 50 and even 60cm. At least five leaves should remain on the stub. Cut away one tine of forked stems to channel the sap to a single point. It is not necessary to seal stems after cutting blooms.

The more often ‘dead-heading’ and grooming is carried out, the sooner new growth is stimulated and a never-ending supply of blooms can be expected. This does not apply to the same degree to Floribunda roses, which form clusters, and it often takes three weeks or more before all the buds in a cluster have opened. During this period, the bush starts to sprout new stems just below the cluster. When grooming, remove the whole cluster of spent flowers just above such new shoots. Miniatures and Groundcover roses are such busy plants that they require no more than occasional trimming.

Climbing Roses


The Climbers: 

They produce long climbing shoots and must be supported and tied to a fence, wall or pergola. To achieve the best display, the annual shoots must never be pruned or shortened, but, if possible, tied in a horizontal line. At pruning time it is advisable to remove some of the older branches from the inside of the plant, thus encouraging it to grow new climbing shoots every year.

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Arches and arbours:

Rose-covered arches work best when the arches have a purpose, like defining a garden path or leading from one section of the garden to another. Use an arbour to screen a wall or as a focal point.

How to do it:

Plant a climber on either side of an arch or arbour. A single plant will not grow up, over and down the other side. Twine and tie the stems around the structure as the plant grows. The more horizontal the stems, the more flowers will be produced. Neaten climbers in July – August.

Loosen the ties, cut out old stems, shorten existing stems, if necessary, and retie onto the arch or arbour.

Red Midinette Perfumed Breeze SONY DSC

For large arches or arbours use: ‘The Ridge Rose’ and ‘French Panarosa’; for small to medium arches or arbours: Midinette climbing roses.



Walls provide necessary structure in a garden but can be stark. Make a feature of the wall by softening it with roses, especially if you like the effect of flowers and foliage against weathered stone, brick or plaster. Unsightly walls can be completely obscured by roses.

How to do it:

Vigorous climbing roses like ‘Crème Caramel’, ‘Cherry Garland’ and ‘Pink Cloud’ will cover a wall in a season. Provide support with a trellis or wire and tie up the canes with plant ties. For a screen or hedge in front of a wall, plant Panarosa varieties or free-standing climbers close together. Soften a terrace or retaining wall, with roses that have cascading or arching growth like the ‘Granny’ roses (‘My Granny’, ‘Granny’s Delight’ and ‘Granny Dearest’) and low-growing shrub roses like ‘Adele Searll’, ‘Amarula Profusion’, ‘The Fairy’ and ‘Tawny Profusion’.

Plant roses 30–45cm from the wall. Prepare deep, large holes with plenty of compost to accommodate the extensive root systems. Climbers and Panarosas are disease-resistant, low-maintenance varieties that just need regular watering and fertilising.”


Fences and additional security:

Any fence can be beautified by either training climbers on and over them or letting them ramble over the fences. For added security there are very thorny and evergreen varieties. Our recommended rose for that purpose is Rosa Bracteata MaCartney.

Free Standing Climbers:

Our Spire Collection are cultivars which grow upright to a height of 2m to 3m and do not produce willowy canes. Their flowers are of Hybrid Tea shape and they are good cut-roses. With their neat growth habit they are very suited as tall background plantings behind rose beds, in corners or as neat hedges when planted 1.5m apart. At times it becomes necessary to top the very vigorous basal-stems at a height of 1.2m to encourage branching and additional flowers.

Panarosa™ Roses

A rose panorama! Free flowering, vigorous and virtually maintenance free roses.  The roses perform according to our set parameters of growing between 2m to 3m high and as wide with flowers on every cane. They should be free standing informal shrubs and groups, hedges or specimen plants, and should provide a panorama of roses to the onlooker/spectator. These roses can be planted on fences, at the periphery of a property or as a group in large lawns. By training them up pillars and even over arches and pergolas, a neatness and floriferousness superior to that with traditional climbing roses can be achieved.

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Companion plants

Companion plants are grown for various reasons – they can provide year-round interest in their own right, flower at the same time as the roses, or fill in-between rose flushes. These plants need to be well behaved, have a non-invasive root system, and not ‘flop’ on their neighbours.


Sage, lavender, scented geranium, santolina, catmint and lamb’s ear that are grown for their foliage rather than their flowers and make good companions.

Sage  Lavender 2  Scented Geranium

Santolina  CAtmint  Lambs ears

Tall growing plants with a see-through effect: cosmos, campanula, gypsophila, gaura and fennel can also be grown among roses.

Cosmos   Campanula  Gypsophyla  Gaura  fennel

There are several companion plants that can be planted in between roses – in general one would like a plant with a  not too deep root system that will absorb the fertiliser and water that is meant for the roses.

Ground covers are good companion plants, such as alyssum, ajuga, campunula, Diascia, mazus, strawberry and Verbena.

alyssum   Ajuga   Diascia

Mazus   Strawberries   verbena-quartz-mix

With larger shrubs one would like to avoid a plant that is going to create shade on the rose – either plant them a good distance away or choose plants that grow upright rather than sideways; Phormiums, Acorus, Hebe, Cordylines, Coprosma, Kniphofia and Trachelospermum are good examples. Delphiniums look exceptionally good with roses.

Phormiums   Acorus   Hebe   Cordyline  Coprosma Knipofia   Trachelospermum jasminoides   Delphinium

Herbs like Rosemary and lavender can also be used and will aid in deterring insect from your roses yet these should be kept a 1.5m away.

Off course, roses can be used to under-plant larger roses.

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Roses in pots


Any rose can be grown successfully in a container. It all has to do with water holding capacity. Since it is difficult and unpractical to grow a large climber in a 5 litre pot where it would need to be watered and fertilized about 10 times a day it is best to select the size of the container in accordance with the expected size of the rose one wishes to grow. In principle this means that a pot containing 10 litres of water suffices for a miniature rose, a Bush Rose requires at least a water-holding capacity of 20 litres and a large climber should be grown in a large tub or drum with a capacity of at least 50 litres. On the other hand it is fun to grow three and even more roses in one large container as long as each bush will still have the soil volume of 20 litres. The pots above have been planted with one My Granny, one Granny’s Delight and one Granny Dearest.

The material out of which the container is made of is of minor importance. It may be plastic, asbestos, concrete, wood or metal. Plastic is not as robust and metal is likely to rust within a few years.

Since it is obvious that a rose growing in a container is expected to be a feature plant growing in a prominent spot it is advisable to select showy varieties which are vigorous, free flowering and develop a good plant shape. Sometimes one wishes to grow a desired rose next to a pole, entrance or standing on a low wall. In that case one selects the container according to the plant size. A tall growing rose looks better in a high container and a bushy variety in a more compact container. The same applies when selecting a rose for a specific pot. The growth pattern is usually more important than the shape of flower or colour. Here is a listing of suitable varieties for the various container shapes.

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With good care Roses are able to flourish in pots and containers for 6 to 8 years. This requires a good panting medium. It is essential that the container has good drain holes at the bottom or at the sides at the lowest part. With holes at the bottom the container should stand on bricks or similar not on soil or lawn which could block the drain holes. The practice of placing pebbles, potshards, stones or similar material at the bottom is still advisable since it ensures long term drainage.

The soil or better growing medium to be used is of utmost importance. One wants to achieve and retain good drainage on the one hand and water holding capacity on the other. Ordinary potting soil is not good enough since it will settle and compact after a year or two. Our special potting mix is however suitable as it contains pine, bark, peanuts shells and klinker ash to prevent it from compacting quickly.

It is best to moisten this growing medium before filling it in the container(s). Proceed to water the growing medium in the container, let it stand to settle for a day or more. The growing medium will have settled below the rim. Further growing medium is scooped out to a level that the rootball of the rose to be planted is placed with the correct height that the top of the root ball to be just below the rim of the container. Growing medium is now shovelled around the root ball and the plant is watered liberally. If a rose is settled too deeply in the container too much water by irrigation or rain will drown the rose.

Watering is now the keyword for successful rose growing. During the first two months after planting it is still possible to water only every second or third day. After this period the roots of the rose will have penetrated the container and it is now important to water every day. And it needs to be sufficient water to just arrive at the bottom drain holes. By giving less water the lower parts will dry our, the roots in that dried region will shrivel and the rose will soon be riddled by Spider Mite and eventually die. Watering may be reduced during winter to twice a week but the rose should never be dried out totally.

With frequent watering part of the fertilizer is drained out of the container and it is therefore advisable to spread a measuring cup of Ludwig’s Vigorosa every two to three weeks per every 20 litre volume.

Pest and disease control for roses growing in containers is the same as for all other roses.

Pots and Tubs 011

Flat growing groundcover plants may be planted next to the rose in the container. Pebbles or bark chips make good mulch.

A rose growing in a container still requires a minimum of 5 hours of sunlight. A distinct advantage with container growing is that the pots can be moved if it is found that the sun light in a specific spot is insufficient and especially so with the light changing during the seasons.

More and more flowering miniature roses growing in pots are offered in chain stores and garden centres. Mostly this are varieties that are specially hybridised and selected to be free flowering with long lasting blooms. Three to five cuttings are rooted in these pots and they are green in environmentally controlled greenhouses. In Europe some 2 million of these Miniature pot roses are sold per week. Produced by a conveyor belt system they are regarded as throw-away articles. The idea is to bring these flowering rose pots into your home for table and windowsill decorations. The buds will open up fully in such indoor environment, however once finished flowering, they could not be brought into bloom again indoors. Since the selection was for shelf live and not hardiness as a garden rose they really require good care to be coaxed to flower again. With green fingers this can be done by placing them in a garden or open veranda. They can be planted out in a garden where they might establish themselves into knee high, mini shrubs. If kept indoors they require watering maybe twice a week. Mini Pot Roses like all other roses cannot flourish in standing water and pots should NEVER stand in saucers filled with water. Rather have bricks for large pots and something smaller placed in the saucer with the pot standing on it. Priced not much higher than a bunch of cut roses these mini roses, which are marketed by Ludwig’s as PIXIE POT® ROSES are good value for money.