Ravishing roses

Whether you grow modern Hybrid Tea roses or old garden roses, you will want toget the best out of them when you harvest for the house, and in addition to all of theirfoibles as garden plants, roses have very specific needs when they become cut flowers.Rose addicts generally fall into two camps: those who love the barely opening budand those, like me, who swoon at the feet of a fully double, completely open blossom.Both styles have special requirements for their handling.The roses arriving from florists are generally greenhouse types that would notsurvive long in gardens colder than zones 8 to 9. Even in the balmier regions ofCalifornia these roses are grown under glass to completely control their environment—after all, this is a cash crop. It is hard for U.S. rose growers to compete withgrowers in South America. Roses love light, and at the right elevations at the equator,the flowers of a cultivar like the red rose ‘Forever Yours’ will have gigantic flowersatop stems like Louisville Sluggers. Aside from the politics and environmental considerationssurrounding imported flowers, one cannot deny the amazing size of Southand Central American roses.Here are a few of the greenhouse rose varieties I know to be remarkable:‘Black Baccara’: This is as close as the breeders have come yet to a naturally blackrose. The outer guard petals are deeply dark, but as the blossom unfurls, itreveals interior petals more burgundy red. I once did a stunning bridal bouquetfor a young woman in love with red, including open blossoms of ‘Black Baccara’,‘Charlotte’, and ‘Opium’ roses, and the blended shades of red were divine, as allhad the same dull sheen of old velvet.‘Blue Bird’: Rich lavender in color, this is a much improved version of good old‘Sterling Silver’, which, after all these years, is still grown by a few Californiagrowers. The lavender roses tend to have a fulfilling fragrance. Unfortunately, forgenerations lavender roses have been known to attract mildew diseases, both inthe greenhouse and the garden. More than fifty petals.‘Charlotte’: If you want a truly red rose, ‘Charlotte’ is hard to beat. Mild fragrance,but a satiny sheen to the opening interior surface of the petals loads these flowerswith drama. This is a rose blossom that does not get huge, which can be a goodthing. The bigger the bud, the higher the price.‘Cool Water’: Another improved lavender rose, this one has paler color than ‘BlueBird’, and very round buds. The color is highly affected by climate, and youwould not know that a stem of this cultivar grown in Oregon was the same as astem from Ecuador.‘Katrina’: If you like pink roses, this is one to special order. ‘Katrina’ has longelegant buds of creamy pink, with the color intensifying at the petal edges. Thisis a long blossom, and slow to open.‘Opium’: The shape of this rose is boxy rather than elongated, which is an indicatorboth that the open petals will be slightly ruffled at their edges and that there willbe many of them. ‘Opium’ is a rich dark shade of red, striking the middle groundbetween true red ‘Charlotte’ and dark ‘Black Baccara’.‘Sahara’: This rose is the color of sand, beige and cream and even slightly peachy,and exquisite. The flowers unfurl from the tips outward, revealing a stronglyspiraled center. The blossom opens fairly quickly but will hold itself at perfectmaturity for at least a week. Thick, old rose fragrance. If I were getting marriedagain tomorrow, this is the rose I would have, combined with ‘Queen of theNight’ tulips. Oh, yummy.‘Skyline’: This is my favorite yellow cut rose. The color is buttery and soft. ‘Skyline’has lots of petals and stays beautifully in the plump bud stage for several daysbefore opening. Light fragrance.

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