The Rose Annual (1914)
The Lasting Qualities of Cut Roses
MRS. H. R. DARLINGTON
In his lovely little lyric to the Rose, Waller conjures the flower to "Tell her that wastes her time and me," that in comparing her to the Rose, he resembles her to all that is most "sweet and fair."
The Rose is to bid the shy maiden come forth into the light and allow her beauties to be admired, enforcing the lesson by referring to the futility of its own blossoming if confined to the desert, "where no men abide," and then, somewhat ruthlessly, the lover bids it "die"—
That she the common fate of all things rare,
May read in thee
How small a part of time they share,
That are so wondrous sweet and fair.
Beauty, adaptability and evanescence are, then, the attributes of the Rose that stirred the imagination of the poet; and still these qualities, even the last, are endearing ones. Who really cares for an everlasting flower, pretty as many of them may be? I am quite sure, for my own part, that much of the Rose's charm lies in its rapid changes, its illusive beauty: the exquisite promise of the morning bud by noon gives the perfection of the open flower, while night comes with merciful darkness to hide its decay, and with gentle dews to bring forth the Roses of to-morrow.
This may seem an unpractical and unpromising introduction to the subject of this paper, but I hope it is not so altogether; for the very fact of the Rose bloom's evanescence causes the true Rose lover to spend much time among his flowers, studying their every phase, thus learning which varieties fade the fastest on the plants, and which last best when cut and put in water.
As a general rule the fuller a Rose is the longer it will last whether on the plant or in water and vice versa; as a rule, too, white and yellow Roses rather improve when cut, the white becoming whiter and more pure, and the yellow deepening in colour; but beyond these generalizations it would not often be wise to dogmatise on the subject, and to say such and such a Rose lasts well in water, and such another does not do so. In my experience much of the lasting power of our Roses depends on cutting them in the right stage, in slitting up or lightly hammering their stems, and giving them a good drink in deep water before arranging them in vases. A Rose cut in cool weather will last many days; the same variety might only live, a single day in hot weather, and even in hot weather they will live longer if gathered in the cool of the evening or when the early morning dew is still on them.
Apart, however, from all these considerations, there are undoubtedly some classes, of Roses, and some varieties in each class, that keep their freshness of form and colour when in water better than others.
The rugosas, as a class, I have always found unsatisfactory in this respect; this is disappointing, because they flower early and are very fragrant. Even when the spring stems are slit up with a sharp knife they are often unable to absorb enough water to keep their heads erect. Conrad F. Meyer is better than some, but is apt to shrink and droop. The cream-coloured Nova Zembla is the best of the rugosas I have tried for the purpose.
The Penzance Briars again are unsatisfactory in water; probably that is the reason the class for them is now omitted at the National Rose Society's Summer Show. If the flowers are to be of any use they must be cut before the buds begin to open; the charm of their golden anthers is then seen.
The Chinas, so beautiful in the garden, droop rather quickly when cut. The two best for the purpose are the pretty apricot Queen Mab and the lovely rose terra-cotta Comtesse du Cayla; these when picked as buds open, and last well in water. Their stalks, however, are so thin and wiry that they must be well slit up or they cannot absorb sufficient water.
Most of the polyanthas, whether dwarfs or climbers, last well in water. The dwarf orange red Léonie Lamesch is very effective if picked rather young, and arranged in vases it keeps both shape and colour well.
Mrs. W. H. Cutbush holds its clear pink for some days while Jessie and the Orleans Rose, though the flowers do not droop, yet they more quickly lose their freshness and brilliance of colouring.
Crimson Rambler lasts a long time in water. The wichuraianas and their hybrids, especially the varieties with clusters of small flowers, of which Dorothy Perkins is a type, are useful as cut flowers on account of their lasting qualities. A few summers ago I made some experiments with the buds of Gardenia and Albéric Barbier, two of the prettiest of the yellows, and I found that while Gardenia buds would last three days in water, Albéric Barbier would look fresh for quite a day longer. The same summer I arranged a table decoration at home with the pale creamy pink blossoms of Lady Godiva; after a week they were still perfectly fresh, but I was so tired of seeing them on the table that I put them all in vases in the drawing room, where they lasted for some days more.
The single crimson Hiawatha also is long-lived in water, and keeps its bright red well; the more brilliant Excelsa, in my experience, fades more rapidly.
People who grow their Roses principally for cut flowers will be well advised not to cultivate many of the Hybrid Perpetuals, for, as a class, they do not last nearly so well as the Hybrid Teas and Teas, though like the rugosas, their delicious fragrance makes them specially welcome in the house.
They have an unhappy knack of shrinking in water, and some, such as Mrs. R. G. Sharman.Crawford, very quickly lose their clarity and freshness of hue. Mrs. John Laing again though it will keep its form, is apt to turn an ugly bluish-pink; still, this is one of the great market Roses, so it must be fairly good for cutting purposes. Victor Hugo, Général Jacqueminot, Horace Vernet, and Hugh Dickson among the crimsons, with Frau Karl Druschki as a white, are H.P.'s that I have found last fairly well in water, but the last named unfortunately has no scent.
The different varieties of the great race of Hybrid Teas vary very much in their usefulness as cut flowers. I should put Mme. Abel Chatenay at the top of the class, as it retains its shape, colour, and erectness of stem for some time, and is altogether most delightful for arranging in water. There are, however, so many H.T.'s that excel in this respect I cannot attempt to describe them as my space is limited. I therefore give a list of those I have found the best in their several colours:—
|SALMON PINKS||PINKS||PALES, BLUSH, or FLESH|
|Mme. Abel Chatenay||Mrs. E. G. Hill||Mildred Grant|
|Mme. Leon Pain||Mrs. George Shawyer||Mrs. Arthur Munt|
|The Lyons Rose.||La France||Pharisäer|
|Lady Pirrie. (If cut as a bud)||Lady Ashtown||Viscountess Folkestone|
|CRIMSONS||YELLOWS and CREAMS||WHITES|
|Avoca||Kaiserin Augusta Victoria||Mme. Jules Bouche|
|Richmond||Perle von Godesberg|
|Liberty||Souvenir de Pierre Notting|
|Mrs. Edward Powell. (If cut as a bud)||Duchess of Wellington|
As I said before, nearly all white, cream, and yellow Roses last well in water. Some of the yellows, such as Maréchal Niel, Alice de Rothschild, and Souvenir de Pierre Notting, deepen in colour if kept in water for some days in a cool room. The apricot shades seen in Madame Ravary and Joseph Hill and Prince de Bulgarie more quickly lose their delightful colouring.
The Teas, as a class, last so well as cut flowers that it would be almost invidious to choose from amongst them. Naturally the fuller varieties, such as the pink and white Maman Cochets, last longer than those which approach more nearly in habit of growth to the Chinas, of which Madame Antoine Mari may be taken as an example.
William Allen Richardson, a Noisette, the only really orange Rose, keeps its colour and altogether lasts well in water, while among single Roses the popular H.T. Irish Elegance is pre-eminent in this respect, keeping fresh for several days if it is cut before the bud unfolds.
In fact, the satisfactory point about using Roses for the house is that, as a rule, they last far better when cut than they do in the garden, for certainly some of the beautiful thin varieties, with their charming tints of orange and salmon, are seldom seen in perfection if allowed to open on the plant. Indoors they can be kept from too hot sunshine, which withers them quickly; from rain and wind which batter and bruise their delicate petals; and if the singles and semi-doubles are gathered in the bud stage and treated as I have suggested, they will reveal a brilliancy and purity of colouring, and in some cases a beauty of form, from the more gradual unfolding of their petals, which they seldom attain in the garden.
See G. L. Paul's comments