Roses as Cut Flowers
Roses as Cut Flowers
Roses, in spite of a comparatively short life when cut, are always much in demand for decoration at public and private functions. They are grown for this purpose by highly specialized growers, under glass — in the border, not in pots — and the varieties are specially selected for their ability to crop at different seasons. Length of stem, size of flower, lasting quality, and colour are the properties looked for (scent does not seem to be so important). ‘Baccara’ has long been noted for its value in this field, being deep geranium-red in colour; but it is of little value for outside growing. More recently ‘Sweet Promise’ (‘Sonia’) has also become popular.
A floribunda rose named ‘Garnette’ has given rise to a distinct category of whose small, full last especially well when cut. The plants are dwarf in habit, about 380 mm (15 in) high, and may be grown outdoors, but they are primarily ‘forcing’ roses which produce the best results when grown under glass. The original ‘Garnette’ (so named, presumably, because of its garnet-red flowers) has also produced some sports, of which the following are a selection:
‘Garnette Apricot’ (yellow with pink shading)
‘Garnette Carol’ (clear pink)
‘Garnette Pink Chiffon’ (clear pale pink)
‘Garnette Rose’ (deep carmine-pink)
‘Garnette Yellow’ (pale yellow)
Most readers of this site are more likely to try to produce flowers for cutting from plants grown also for their decorative value in the garden, or perhaps in an area in thespecially set aside for the purpose. In general, medium-sized blooms of good shape and petals of good substance are best. Stems should be of good length, slender but strong enough to carry the flower erect, fairly free of thorns, and possessing attractive foliage.
The colour should be clear, free from bleaching or burning by the sun, as resistant as possible to weather damage, and should not fade to an objectionable shade. Scent is more important to some growers than to others, but it certainly adds to the pleasure cut roses can give. Many keen rose lovers find a special delight in one perfect rose placed in a specimen vase; here, I am sure, the effect is enhanced by fragrance.
Care of cut roses
The ideal time for cutting roses is late evening, just before dew begins to form, or early in the morning. When cut the roses should be placed in a container with enough water to enable the foliage and stem to be immersed almost up to the flowerhead. Proprietary mixtures are available containing dextrose, alum, and other ingredients which may help to prolong the life of the flower. If you use one of these mixtures the flowers must be put in it from the start, and not switched to plain water or vice-versa. It is a good idea to have a second container full of the mixture, to which the roses can be transferred one at a time after you have removed all leaves and thorns likely to be immersed when the flowers are placed in a bowl or vase. Leave the container in a cool place for some hours, preferably in the dark, before setting up your arrangement.
Sometimes roses wilt, especially if they are packed dry for several hours in hot weather. They can be revived by cutting a small piece of the stem away, placing the remaining stem in about 25 mm (1 in) of boiling or very hot water for 30 seconds, and then filling up the container with cold water as near as possible to the neck of the bloom. Within an hour or so the flower should have recovered.
Most people have their own ideas about the kind of receptacle they like to use. Perhaps the most attractive arc of copper, silver, wood, or cut glass. As long as they are of good shape and deep enough to hold plenty of water, they will be satisfactory. Personally, I prefer simple designs, so that nothing detracts from the roses themselves.
The introduction of Oasis, a rigid but spongy green material which absorbs a lot of water and is available in block form, has helped greatly in the arrangement of roses and other cut flowers. When thoroughly soaked in water the blocks can usually be fitted into a container, but as they arc light they must be fixed or tied to prevent them falling over. Stems can then be placed exactly where required and usually remain fresh for two days.
Most rosarians have particular favourites, so it is with some diffidence that I recommend the following for cutting:
‘Elizabeth Harkness’ (especially in autumn or as a specimen)
‘Fragrant Cloud’ (best colour in autumn)
‘Korp’ (a small, neat flower of pure vermilion)
‘Mme Butterfly’ (an old-timer but still good)
‘Ophelia’ (for many years a great favourite)
‘Papa Meilland’ (good as a single specimen)
‘Pascali’ ‘Super Star’ (good but prone to)
‘Wendy Cussons’ (especially good under artificial light)
‘Anne Cocker’ (lasts well) ‘Apricot Nectar’
‘Elizabeth of Glamis’
‘Esther Ofarim’ (particularly good for forcing under glass)
‘Glenfiddich’ (for those who live in cooler areas)
‘Margaret Merril’ (especially for fragrance)
‘Queen Elizabeth’ (ideal for large arrangements)
In recent years some roses, mainly floribundas, have been raised not because of their value for garden decoration but because of their unusual colours, which have become of great interest to flower arrangers. The following are a selection:
‘Amberlight’ (large, semi-double flowers, clear golden brown turning to buff, and sweetly scented)
‘Artistic’ (wiry stems, golden brown flowers fading to soft salmon)
‘Brownie’ (golden yellow, pink, and bronze)
‘Cafe’ (shades of coffee and cream)
‘Grey Dawn’ (double, soft-grey flowers)
‘Jocelyn’ (very double, flat flowers of mahogany, passing to purplish brown)
‘Charm’ (lilac with golden anthers; keep away from bright sunlight)
‘Maud Cole’ (beautiful foliage; wine-red and deep-violet petals)
‘Ripples’ (lilac, with unusual waved petals)
‘Silver Charm’ (resembles ‘Lilac Charm’, but less liable to fade)
‘Tom Brown’ (two-toned brown)
‘Vesper’ (soft orange-brown; inclined to fade in hot weather)
In mixed arrangements of roses it can be very effective to use foliage from some rose species which have particularly attractive leaves. Classes at specialist rose shows are often provided for such exhibits, of which the most popular is Rosa rubrifolia, an easily grown shrub which is also of great garden value. Its leaves are unique in their glaucous, copper-mauve colouring. The best foliage for decoration is invariably on young growths produced in the previous year. Old wood should be pruned away to encourage such growths. Popular also, but in a different way, is R. sericea pteracantha, a species valued for its ferny leaves and for its large, red, translucent thorns, which are produced on the current year’s growth. Again, therefore,away of old wood is necessary to produce the required growths. If soft, its stem should be soaked thoroughly beforehand which will ensure it remains upright.
Daintiest of all roses, surely, is R. farreri persetosa, the ‘three-penny-bit rose’, whose ferny grace will embellish any arrangement and is equally attractive in the garden. It is even more alluring when its tiny salmon-pink flowers appear in conjunction with coral-pink buds.
Another attractive species is R. fedtschenkoana, which produces young grey shoots with pink, bristly thorns and pale grey-green leaves, although on a shrub too large for small gardens. R. willmottiae produces young growths with tinted thorns that create a pinkish effect, contrasting with its tiny greyish leaves. R. x pteragonis ‘Cantabrigiensis’ grows into a large, free-flowering shrub suitable only for a largish garden. Where room can be found, however, its fine fern-like foliage can be used effectively with cut roses. Its creamy yellow blooms appear in late May.
The fruits of many roses are highly decorative in themselves and add greatly to autumn arrangements.