Rose success from bed to table

Red rosesRoses are fabulous flowers to have in a garden and, I’m discovering, not nearly as finicky a plant as you might think. Just give them a nice, sunny bed with a little elbow room and a banana. I’ll back up.

I read once that the head rose gardener for New York City’s Central Park swore that the secret to his success (which was admirable given the number of roses he had to plant and care for) was to toss one whole, unpeeled, chopped up banana into the freshly dug hole before adding the rose plant and filling in the hole.

I’ve tried it. It works. Bananas have just the right amount of the right kind of minerals roses love. There’s only one slight problem: If you have a problem with raccoons, you might need to place a water-permeable barrier around the base of the rose to discourage the animals from trying to dig up the banana. Squirrels can be just as bad. Be prepared to deploy a few scare tactics while the rose is trying to establish itself. But it’s worth it.

Once I’ve got those tall stems topped by miraculous blooms, I love to cut a few to bring them indoors. There is something immensely luxurious about having a vase of roses on a table. But stalling their demise had been an art I’d yet to master until an email from David Austen Roses delivered the secrets to success. As it turns out, keeping cut roses fresh and beautiful longer is not so much about what you do but rather how you do it. For instance, Michael Marriott, technical director of David Austin Roses in Albrighton, UK, explains “For cutting single roses or clusters of blooms, choose better-quality garden scissors or, better yet, hand pruners with sharp blades. The idea is to cut the stems neatly without compressing their water uptake channels. Their ability to take up plenty of water is the key to keeping them fresh.

Here are more tips from Mr. Marriott:


  • Cut flowers in early morning when they’re fully hydrated.
  • For longest vase life, choose flowers in the late bud stage, outer petals already open, flowers not fully open.
  • Avoid the temptation to cut from the back of the bush, thinking it will be less obtrusive. Strong stems are more likely to grow where the sun is best.


  • Carry a clean container filled with cool water so you can immerse stems fully, immediately after cutting.
  • Once taken inside, re-cut the stems another inch or so, while holding them under water. This step ensures that no air bubbles are blocking the water uptake channels. Once re-cut in this way, keep the stems fully immersed in water until ready to arrange.
  • Fill vases nearly full with cool fresh water so that all the stems including the shorter ones are immersed as much as possible.


  • Strip off lower leaves, as foliage standing in water can lead to bacterial growth.
  • For longest vase life focus on keeping tools and containers clean. After use, wash well. Before next use, rinse again.
  • Add flower food to the water to keep bacteria growth at bay, improve water flow and help flowers open and last longer.
  • Refresh vase water every day or so.
  • Lift flowers from the vase to recut stems every 2 to 3 days, to refresh water uptake.
  • Once flowers are arranged, place the vase out of direct sunlight, as cut flowers last longer when kept cool.

White rose

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