Monday, February 13, 2012

Caring For Roses

February: The month in which the rose attempts to take over the world through mass mind control and a little bit of marketing. Alternatively, the month of love. Got roses? Here's how to care for them.

Roses are not the longest-lived of flowers, but proper care can help them reach their maximum life span. When first putting roses in a vase, make sure to fill the vase with cool water and add flower food. If your flowers did not come with flower food, ½ teaspoon sugar and ½ teaspoon bleach will do the trick for most standard-sized vases. This helps kill bacteria and feeds the roses.

With your roses, decide what length you desire them. Then strip off any leaves that will fall beneath the water line. This leaves fewer places for bacteria to grow. Bacteria can make the water harder for the flowers to absorb, infect the flowers, or clog the stems, all of which will shorten the lives of your flowers. As a general rule, the cleaner the water is, the longer the flowers will last. You can remove the thorns or not; these won’t make a large difference either way, so follow your choice of aesthetics.

Look for any greenery, filler flowers such as baby’s breath, or other flowers. Remove any foliage or flowers that would sit beneath the waterline. Cut the stems at an angle, removing at least ½ cm, and put them into the vase before you add your roses. This will help form a network to support the roses and make them more likely to stay in place.

Next, cut the roses under water at a 45-degree angle and put them immediately into your vase. If the cut stems dry out, the flowers' ability to drink is impaired. Air bubbles can also get into the stem, which will cause the stem to droop and result in a floppy rose. Trimming ½ cm off the ends of the roses when you first put them in water usually removes any air bubbles that have already formed.

Your roses will need fresh water and re-trimming every day to reach their maximum lifespan. One way to do this is to wrap your off-hand around the base of the entire arrangement and lift it out in a single piece. Your dominant hand is then free to dump the water, pour a new batch, and add new flower food. After the water is ready, re-trim the stems under water to refresh their drinking surfaces, and place them back in the water. This is a process that requires some planning, since you’ll be doing it all with exactly one hand as your other holds the flowers. I do recommend removing the thorns for this technique!

When your flowers begin to droop, it doesn’t have to be the end of them. You can remove the petals for any number of purposes. I’m a fan of a nice rose-petal bath, myself. Or spread the petals out on a flat surface and let them dry, then use the dried petals in potpourri or other decorating accents. Another option is to dry the whole bouquet. Tie a string around the stems and hang the bouquet upside down for two to three days, or until completely dry. For more humid areas, hang each flower separately. Watch out for signs of mold, and discard any moldy flowers immediately.

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