On Valentine's Day, nothing says romance like a rose.

love blossoms

Focus On Roses

February 14, 1999|By ELIZABETH LARGE | ELIZABETH LARGE,SUN STAFF

My love is like a red, red rose. Red roses for a blue lady. I never promised you a rose garden. No other flower symbolizes love the way the rose does, with so many variations. In the language of flowers, a hybrid tea rose means "I'll remember always." A yellow rose says, "Try to care more." A single rose in full bloom signifies "I still love you." And, yes, a withered white rose means "You made no impression."

The rose most in demand for Valentine's Day is the long-stemmed rose -- velvet-petaled, lushly colored and regal. Several rosebuds have to be sacrificed to create each one. Unlike other roses, these long-stemmed beauties often don't fulfill their promise and open fully, but simply droop their heads and die.

What that says about the fragility of love bears thinking about.

And while you're thinking about it, here are some other floral facts to ponder:

Number of years ago roses existed in North America, judging from fossil remains found in Colorado: 40 million

Year the rose became our national flower: 1986

Number of roses projected to be sold for this Valentine's Day: 103 million

Percentage of cut roses purchased that are red: 74

Percentage of women who wish for other colors: 29

Least number of days growers need to produce roses for Valentine's Day: 50

Number of rose plants Americans buy each year: 25 million

Estimated number of hybrid tea roses that breeders have developed: 10,000

Number of varieties in the catalog of the world's largest supplier of rose bushes for gardens (Jackson & Perkins): 250

Odds against any specific cross-fertilization producing an outstanding new rose: 100,000 to 1

Number of professional rose breeders from around the world that most new varieties come from: 25

Number of seedlings produced, tested and rejected for every new rose variety introduced: 300,000

Size in inches of the smallest rosebushes: 6

Number of people who can be seated comfortably under the world's largest rosebush: 150

Estimated number of songs written about roses: 4,000

Sources: "Botanica's Roses: The Encyclopedia of Roses" (Mynah, 1998); Dolan International Inc.; Jackson & Perkins; Rose Information Bureau; Society of American Florists; www.clickforflowers.com

Long life for long stems

You can extend the life of the long-stemmed roses you receive this Valentine's Day with a little extra care. Here's how:

1. Before arranging long-stemmed roses, remove any leaves that will be below the water line. Be careful not to scrape any of the stem itself.

2. With a sharp knife, under water, cut off an inch of stem on the diagonal. Immediately place the rose in a vase filled with water. Don't let the cut end dry.

3. The water should be around 100 degrees, with floral preservative added. (It usually comes with the roses.)

4. Add fresh water every day.

5. If the water in the vase becomes cloudy, remove the roses and recut the stems. Wash the vase and add fresh water before replacing the flowers.

6. You can sometimes revive a drooping rose by recutting the stem and putting the entire rose in barely warm water in a flat pan, sink or tub. Wrap the rose in newspaper if necessary to keep it submerged.

7. Keep roses away from heat sources and out of drafts. Put them in a cool, dark place at night.

-- Elizabeth Large

New in the garden

For those who prefer their floral tokens of love in a more lasting form, there are thousands of rose varieties. Here are some of the most promising new choices:

'Eden' -- An exquisite repeat bloomer, climbing to 10 feet, with large, pastel-pink and cream blooms of Old Rose form. Vigorous, disease-resistant foliage.

'Fire Meidiland' -- Landscape shrub rose with deep red, fully doubled blooms. Extremely disease-resistant. Grows to 2 feet tall.

'Fourth of July' -- Showy, semi-double climber (to 14 feet) with a sweet rose fragrance. Big clusters of unusual red and white striped flowers throughout the season. All-America Selection winner.

'Frederic Mistral' -- Superb, rose-peach hybrid tea with fabulous fragrance. Forms a 4-foot bush but can be trained as a semiclimber. Especially resistant to black spot.

'Johann Strauss' -- A cheerful, old-fashioned style floribunda with abundant, soft 'Orient Pink' blooms on bushy, 30-inch plants. Light lemon-verbena fragrance with apple overtones. Excellent disease resistance.

'Ultimate Pink' -- Highly disease-resistant hybrid tea, recommended for beginning rose enthusiasts. Flowers are true, clear pink with translucent overtones of elegant form on an upright plant with long, straight stems.

But if I had just one rose to grow -- or give -- it would be 'May Queen,' a hybrid wichuraiana rambler introduced in 1898. It has very fragrant, fully double pink flowers of Old Rose form. The blossoms appear in great profusion all along the arching canes, creating a glorious mass of bloom for at least two weeks most years. And mine is as hardy as it is beautiful, having survived minus 16 degrees in Western Maryland and sweltering Baltimore summers.

-- Ary Bruno

Pub Date: 02/14/99

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