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November 12, 2008 > Pat Kite's Garden: Really Roses

Pat Kite's Garden: Really Roses

By Pat Kite

If your garden group loves field trips, consider Pajarosa Floral in Watsonville, CA, the largest cut flower nursery in the United States. On 18 acres, there are 146 rose varieties, almost as far as the eye can see, grown under huge protective tents. Rose lovers attending with Newark Senior Center travel were in awe at the fantastic colors, and the plethora of long-stemmed roses designed for holidays, birthdays, lovers, and get-well beauty transported by the dozen. How many dozen? 3,000 dozen roses per day, including those to local florists.

I grow about 40 miscellaneous rose bushes in my eclectic yard, but until this visit had no idea what intricate details went into the cut flower growing market. It's quite a bit different than our conscribed garden plots. Pajarosa Floral travels internationally each year seeking new rose types from breeders that fit into the North American competitive marketplace. Then testing begins. Test for what? Long stems, of course; longevity, equaling two weeks in a vase and buds that hold their shape and open attractively. Easily said, but a long road to success.

Of the 15 varieties tested each year, only one or two will be added to the sales offering. It takes about seven years to get the new roses to satisfactory size. Naturally there must be oodles to sell by the dozen. That involves starting 300,000 seedlings in prime growing surroundings. Lots of work and its only part of the picture. Pajaro workers cut the prime-time stems by hand twice daily, and then quickly submerge them in cold water. From here the cut roses go into a cooler for about 12 hours. That keeps buds from opening. Later big machines will sort them according to type. That done, the bunches are wrapped in cellophane and dipped into a water preservative container. Then back into a cooler until time for trucking out around the nation in a water-added box. Arrival: perfect.

How can we keep our garden or gift roses fresh in a vase? Remove any leaves under water. Try adding a couple drops of Seven-up or Sprite, and a few drops of bleach. If the roses sag, try recutting the stems and soaking them in the bathtub under water. As far as your outdoor roses, if you want the best growth, cut them really low. I always find it hard to chop away like that, but it really does help.

Cutting back season is coming: December and January. Anyhow, today's tidbit is from an American Florists survey showing that most men believe their ladyloves prefer red roses as signs of admiration. Ask the lady loves for preference, and often they say yellow, pink or white. And how did red roses get their color? According to one legend, the early Romans believed that Venus blushed when Jupiter caught her bathing. The white rose she was apparently wearing, someplace, turned red in her reflection. I love stories, and I do love roses.

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