Auckland is coming up roses right now, and I’ve been popping them into our recent Flower Project selections in all colours, shapes and sizes. And let’s not forget upcoming Valentine’s Day, the roses biggest day to shine! Both subscribers and those ordering our special Valentine’s Day selection should expect to see some in the mix in the coming weeks.
Roses have been cultivated for 5000 years or more, making them the best-loved flower in history. The Chinese grew them around 3000 BC. Many years later the Greeks gave them a name, Rhodos, and gave that name to the Mediterranean island of Rhodes, where they grew to perfection.
The Romans prized them for their fragrance, enjoying them at banquets as both a delicacy and a dedication to Venus, their goddess of love. Cleopatra spent 60 pounds weight of gold to buy rose petals for the famous banquet where she seduced Mark Antony. They carpeted the decks of her gallery 20 inches thick beneath a golden net.
The ancients knew roses only as red or white, and could look forward to their blooming only in the height of summer – not at all like today where beauties raised by hybridists enable us to enjoy so many different shades and a continuous blooming habit – not to be taken for granted!
Garden roses and David Austin roses have become increasingly popular as fuller, more open styles have increased in popularity in the last 10 years. I always love my roses most when they’re almost ready to be thrown out – completely open and in their full glory.
David Austin is probably the most important and influential rose breeder of modern times. David Austin roses have reignited a fierce passion for roses worldwide and introduced a whole new generation of gardeners to this most beautiful of blooms. Born in 1926 on a farm in the English Midlands where he still resides, Austin began his breeding programme with the objective of combining the best of the old with the best of the new.
In recent years, miniature or spray roses have also become popular – perfect tiny replicas of their larger mates.
Summer is when roses are in the full swing of their season, although a reduced volume grown especially by cleaver growers at a higher price are available year round in New Zealand. We’re lucky enough to have some very skilled rose growers around the outskirts of Auckland city, so benefit from their hard work at the Auckland markets, and the variety and high quality of the roses we receive are in my opinion very impressive.
Roses love a very clean vase. They also enjoy a little flower food or sugar in the water.
If your rose heads droop, put the end of the stem in 3cm of boiling water and leave for a minute. Take the stem out of the hot water, trim the 3cm that was submerged off and put back in the vase. The rose head should perk back up in a few hours, or even sooner!
Though beautiful, a rose can hurt! But don’t forget the thorns have a purpose. They help the plant drink water, so when you remove the thorn you should be careful not to inflict any excessive damage to the stem. Utilise a proper de-thorning technique and the right tool (go to www.theflowerproject.co.nz to purchase) to avoid injuring the rose, as carelessly de-thorning a rose will shorten the life of the flower as the peeled or torn skin will hinder the amount of water the stem can take.
To remove the thorns, I apply slight pressure to the sides and then push them off the stem. Do your best to be gentle and not to apply too much pressure. Getting the hang of using a de-thorning tool will take time, but practice makes perfect, and soon you’ll know exactly how much pressure to use. And of course, when removing the thorns from a cut stem, remove just the thorns and leaves below the water level. Think carefully about the look of the rose before trying to remove every thorn and leaf.
Hope you enjoy these classic beloved beauties as much as I do!
x Kathryn Fleming, founder and floral expert, The Flower Project