Lifestyle

Following a few simple tips will produce great roses

The Compleat

Home Gardner

Marianne Binetti will be making the following appearances:

• 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Sunday at Auburn Farmer’s Market, speaking about fresh flower arranging and cut flower growing. Learn how to make hand bouquets, creative vase arrangements and tips for making cut flowers last longer. Phone 253-266-2726 for information.

• 4 p.m. July 16, 17 and 18 at Enumclaw’s King County Fair. Topics are: dirt-cheap garden tips, how to grow more color and incredible edibles. Free plants, products and gardening books will be given to many in the audience.

The second week of July should give you cause to pause as you evaluate which plants need feeding and weeding and which are doing well on their own. This is your last change to fertilize roses as you don’t want to feed them too late in the summer. Mid-summer is also the time of year when harvesting home-grown cut flowers makes all that weeding and pleading worth the work. When you pick roses for indoor enjoyment remember to make the cut all the way down to where a five-leaflet grouping is growing from the stem. That way you’ll encourage more roses to form.

Harvesting summer flowers always takes me back to my florist days and the tricks and tips that florists still use to keep cut flowers lasting longer. Here’s how to make your cut flowers last longer:

1 – Make every cut a slanting cut with a sharp knife or clippers.

When you cut stems at an angle you allow for more surface area on the cut stem to absorb moisture. A slanting cut also means the stems won’t rest flat on the bottom of the vase, blocking access to water absorption.

2 – The best time to cut flowers is in the morning when they are full of moisture.

The magic hour of the morning to harvest herbs and vegetables is when the dew has dried but before the sun is directly overhead. Roses, lilies and other blooming flowers like to be cut in the coolness of the early morning after they‘ve had a good night‘s rest and are full of moisture.

3 – Don’t wait, hydrate.

There’s a reason you see flower growers out in the field with buckets of water when they work. Cut flowers should go directly into water immediately after they are cut. Make it a habit to bring water out to the garden when you clip blooms for a vase and bring a bucket in the car when you purchase cut flowers from the farmer’s market.

4 – Learn to condition your flowers for longer vase life.

Conditioning means you let the cut flower sit neck deep in cool water away from any sun or light. After three or four hours the cut flowers will have absorbed water fully into their stems and then they can be recut and arranged in a vase. If you happen to buy cut flowers at a farmer’s market or grocery store, you should still try to condition them for a few hours if they were out of water during the trip home. Florists usually condition the flowers for you. Wilted flowers can often be revitalized by filling a sink or basin with cool water and submerging the wilted blossoms, stems, buds and blooms under water for a few hours.

5 – Change the water in the vase often.

Would you feel fresh sitting in dirty water? Simply replacing the water in an arrangement each day can help your cut flowers last twice as long. The bacteria that grows in stale water clogs the stems of your cut flowers.

And now some cut-flower questions:

Q. Is it true that adding a penny to a vase of flowers will cause them to last longer? R.T., Sumner

A. False. A penny earned will not save your flowers. The idea is that copper will help kill bacteria in the vase water, but pennies have so little copper that this old husband’s tale needs to be buried back in the vault.

Q. My grandmother insists that adding a can of 7-Up to her cut roses makes them last longer. It seems to work. Is this correct? W.W., Olympia

A. Grandma knows best. In university studies it has been proven that the citric acid found in 7-Up helps the stems of cut flowers absorb moisture. You can make your own floral preservative by using one part lemon-lime clear soda (don’t use diet) to three parts water. You don’t have to use brand name soda; as long as it contains citric acid it will do the trick.

Q. When I am cutting roses for a bud vase, will leaving a few leaves on the stem help the cut rose last longer? P., e-mail

A. Maybe, and leaving some foliage sure makes a single rosebud look better in a vase. Just be sure to remove any foliage that will be underwater.

• • •

Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply.

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.

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