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.

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