Cutting Roses
(Also consult the American Rose Society: Cutting)

As cut flowers, roses have no peer. Their vibrant colors and delicious fragrance are universally admired. Be imaginative in using roses around the house: a bud vase in the bathroom, a rose bowl beside the bed, a centerpiece on the dining table, an Oriental arrangement on the mantel or a Victorian bouquet on the entrance table.

Select blossoms that are just opening or partially opened, and cut roses in the early morning or late afternoon, when the plant's moisture is highest. Carry a bucket of lukewarm water with you so the roses can be immediately plunged into water.

For the first few years after planting, be somewhat frugal in the amount of stem and foliage you cut; the plant needs a lot of foliage to support growth. Once plants are established, you'll get the quickest rebloom by leaving at least one, and preferably two, five-leaflet leaves between the cutting point and the main stem. Refrain from cutting in late fall as you don't want tender, new growth going into winter plus the plant needs to direct energy to the processes necessary for overwintering.

Using sharp, scissor-action pruning shears, cut the stem at a 45-degree angle, just above a five-leaflet leaf. A new stem will originate from the bud at the base of this leaf.

By following some basic guidelines, you can have roses remain fresh-looking for many days. First, remove all thorns and foliage that will be under water in your vase by gently breaking them off. Next, cut off about an inch from each stem with a sharp knife or shears. Making the cut under running water or submerged in a pan of water. Immediately place the rose in a deep container filled with hot (95 degrees F.) water. When the water cools, place the entire container in a cool place or refrigerator for several hours. This process is called "conditioning." (For more information, see the American Rose Society: Conditioning)

When ready to arrange roses, use a clean vase, fresh warm water, and a floral preservative, if desired. Clear glass or crystal vases look best without the use of any type of holders. With other vases, consider using a metal pin holder, pebbles, marbles, florist's foam, or crumpled chicken wire. When using florist's foam, soak it thoroughly in water before inserting flower stems.

Finally, keep the rose arrangement out of direct sun and drafts and in as cool a place as possible. Add fresh water daily to keep stems immersed or change water every day.

Potpourri is a dry or moist mixture of flower petals and herb leaves that, displayed in bowls and jars, sweetens the air of a room. When the dry mixture is crushed and sewn inside little cloth bags, it becomes a sachet for tucking in drawers or hanging in closets.

Making Dry Potpourri
(For more information, see the American Rose Society: Preserving)

  1. Pick clean, partially-opened blossoms early in the morning after the dew has dried. Heavily scented, dark-colored, thick-petaled roses will retain their fragrance best.

  2. Gently remove the petals and spread them out on newspaper, paper towels, or a fiberglass-screen drying rack. Since petals shrink, gather three to four times as many as you'll need.

  3. Place where the air is fresh but out of direct sunlight. Gently stir the petals daily until they are crisp-dry, or anytime from four days to two weeks. The petals are now ready to combine with other dried material. Some of the herbs and spices that blend well with roses include cinnamon, nutmeg, ground vanilla bean, coriander, cloves, orange and lemon peel, dried ginger, marjoram, basil, rosemary, rose geranium, spearmint, lavender, and violet flowers. A fixative is often added to potpourri to help retain the fragrance. Powdered orris root is usually available at craft stores; use about an ounce with 4 to 8 cups of dried herbs and flowers.

  4. After creating your mixture, store it in an airtight container, letting the fragrances blend for several weeks before using.

Making Moist Potpourri

  1. Dry one quart of rose petals for three days.

  2. Add 2 cups of partially dried fragrant garden flowers of your choice, and 1 cup dried fragrant leaves such as rose geranium, lemon verbena, rosemary, and lemon thyme.

  3. Toss these ingredients with 1 tablespoon orris root.

  4. In a separate bowl, combine:
    • 3/4 cup non-iodized salt
    • 1/4 cup each ground allspice, crushed cloves, and brown sugar
    • 2 crushed bay leaves

  5. In a crock, alternate layers of the petals and herbs with the salt and spices.

  6. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of brandy over the top and cap the crock tightly. Stir daily.

  7. It will be ready in about a month, and the fragrance will last for years.

The somewhat spherical fruit, or hip, of the rose, usually red in color, is a superb source of vitamin C, having a much higher content than citrus fruit. The hips are seldom allowed to develop on our modern garden roses, but the new hybrid shrub rose Bonica as well as the old-fashioned shrub types like the rugosas bear them abundantly.

WARNING: Never use the hips of any rose treated with a pesticide that is not clearly labeled as safe for food crops.

Rose hips have a tangy yet sweet flavor and can be used fresh, dried, or preserved. The simplest use is to steep them for a tea. Rose hip syrup, puree, jam, jelly, and sauce can be used as is or as a flavoring in other recipes. The hips are usually left on the bush until after the first frost when they are bright red and slightly soft.

To prepare, trim off the blossom and stern ends with scissors, cut in half lengthwise, remove the tiny hairs and seeds in the center, and rinse. Never use aluminum utensils or pans as they tend to destroy the vitamin C.

To dry the hips, simply spread the prepared halves in a single layer on screens or trays and place in a dehydrator, an oven on the lowest setting, or in a dark, dry, well-ventilated place. Store in glass jars in a dark, cool place.

Rose hip puree is often added by the spoonful to soups, cereals, juices, fruit salads, and sauces or spread on bread to provide extra vitamin C. To make, simmer 2 pounds prepared fresh hips in 1 quart water until tender, or about 20 to 30 minutes. Puree in a food mill or processor and store in a covered container in the refrigerator.