top tips for picking and arranging roses

Roses make beautiful cut flowers but it helps to know some basics on how to pick them and advice on arranging roses for the best effect.

Picking roses

  • The trick with roses is to pick them early in the morning.
  • Then strip the stems of the lower leaves, nip the bottom of the stems and plunge them up to their necks in cold water and Chrysal, a commercial flower food, to maximise vase life. You can use a pinch of bicarbonate of soda, an aspirin or a spoonful of sugar but Chrysal does the work of all three.
  • Then keep them in a cool place, never letting them stand in direct sunlight.
  • If the heads flop at any stage - even after a couple of days - sear the stem end in boiling water. Many will then perk up and last another couple of days.

Arranging roses

  • Certain roses, such as Princess Alexandra, have good, strong stems, but I find most are happiest and last longest with their stems cut short. This helps even heavy-headed and glamorous, but short vase-life roses, such as 'Madame Isaac Pereire' and 'Madame Grégoire Staechelin'.
  • To arrange these, thread the short, seared stem through a wooden noughts-and-crosses grid. This can be made from bamboo canes, dogwood or hazel from the garden, tied into 2-3in squares.
  • Rest the grid on top of any shallow bowl or dish.
  • Ten or 15 heads of this particular rose (which last 2-3 days on a long stem) will then make a fantastic table centre which lasts nearly a week.

These look particularly beautiful in a glass trough, or with delicate Ammi majusAlchemilla mollisAstrantia major, and white foxgloves.

Find more ideas in Sarah's book, The Cutting Garden.