WITH all the roses arriving on Valentine's Day, it's a good time to think about how to extend the life of your blooms. For years, we've heard about homemade concoctions using sugar, bleach, aspirin and Sprite, but making guinea pigs out of gifts is not a good idea. Roses should last a minimum of three days and usually can last seven with proper care, says Kitty Belendez, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Rose Society and a master rosarian with the American Rose Society. Some tips:
Cleanliness is next to prettiness: Stem ends of roses -- or any other flower -- need to be cleaned and recut so that they can drink up water and get adequate nourishment to the flowers. With boxed or bunched roses, cut the stems an inch or two from the bottom with a knife or shears. Belendez suggests cutting stems in warm water to keep them free of air bubbles, which can block water uptake. Also clear stems of any foliage that will sit in the water.
If the roses arrive in a vase, make sure they are in water. Belendez suggests cutting the stems the second day to clear the ends of any calluses that could block water intake. Put in fresh water, preferably with some floral food.
Feed them, please: That white powder in those little packets serves two important functions, Belendez says. It is a bactericide that keeps stems from rotting, and it has rose food, which will help tight buds to open. Plain water will do, but it should be changed daily. Carol Schram, marketing manager for Floralife, a big producer of floral food, will only say its proprietary recipe does contain sugar and other ingredients that assist flower longevity.
Bent neck: When a rose bends at the stem base, it is not taking up water. Recut the stem in warm water, put the flower in a vase of fresh water, and put the vase in a cool area. If the stems seem to need more hydration, try a 5-gallon bucket and bring the water all the way up to the blooms. Let them bathe for about an hour.
-- Nancy Yoshihara