But, I agree with Stewart. What is the big deal with a blue rose? There's no history, no romance - when I think pink, I think innocence. White? Purity. Red? Romance. Yellow? Friendship. But blue? Nothing comes to mind for me. I'm afraid I won't be a big fan - I'll stick to my Siberian irises, Baptisia and Caryopteris.
(A note from my garden: I've admired the cornflowers on the side of the roadways for years. Finally, I found one I could have without breaking the law and digging up those planted in the highway's wildflower beds: Centaurea montana. I'm trying it this summer!)
Most of the roses we enjoy come from Colombia or Ecuador. Much of the information provided by Stewart is probably not new to many of you, but I found it informative. Here are some tips I jotted down as I read:Bouquets are made up of "focals and fillers." When you order from your florist, you can be specific about the "focal" flowers if you have favorites, or if you hate baby's breath (obviously a "filler") be sure to tell the florist. You'll be more likely to get what you want.When you buy flowers from the grocery store, keep your foods away from your flowers. As fruit ages, it emits ethylene, which will make your flowers droop quickly. (While I admit to grabbing a bouquet from my local supermarket on a regular basis, I am now wary that the floral department is always near the produce department, and the radishes mingle with the roses back in the cooler.)Buy flowers that have been kept under refrigeration. If they've been sitting in buckets in the produce department, they've lost vase life. And they don't have to be in coolers, behind glass - some retailers have special air conditioners that cool the air right around the flowers.Roses and other sturdy flowers can be rehydrated by plunging the entire flower and stem under cold water. "One rose grower says that submerging roses in the bathtub for three hours will add two days' vase life," Stewart says.Stewart recommends commercial flower food, like the stuff in the little packets that comes with many bouquets. It's available at your florist, craft stores and nurseries as well. If you don't have any, use a pinch of sugar and a drop of bleach. Stewart adds, "If you have it, you can also use a pinch of ground-up Viagra, an expensive but effective treatment that prolongs vase life by helping to open the vessels that conduct water up the stem to the flower." (That's just one of many funny suggestions and observances in this book.)Gerberas (those fabulous daisylike flowers that remind me of the '60s, but are now available in a wide range of colors that make them a very modern cut-flower choice) don't like to have their stems in too much water. If they are put into a full vase, they absorb too much water through their stems. Only 1 or 2 inches of water is perfect for them.Don't put your flowers on top of the television. Keep them in a cool place, out of direct sunlight. Change the water and re-cut the stems every few days. And in mixed bouquets, get rid of the dying blooms because they give off ethylene, which will make the neighboring flowers wilt.
I started jotting notes as I read "Flower Confidential," but there's no way to cover everything in this column. Anyone who loves flowers will enjoy reading this book, published by Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, a division of Workman Publishing.
Gilding the lily
"In the fourth act of Shakespeare's King John, the Earl of Salisbury counsels the king against a second coronation, calling it 'wasteful and ridiculous excess.' 'To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, to throw a perfume on the violet ...' For the last two hundred years, we have abbreviated these words and used the phrase 'gild the lily' to describe unnecessary embellishment. To spray glitter or perfume on a flower may seem excessive, but the industry does both of those things. They also artificially extend their lives, engineer brighter colors, and tinker with scent, all in an effort to give us what we want. Where have our desires led us? Are we, in fact, gilding the lily?" - from "Flower Confidential" by Amy Stewart
Sara Busse is a Charleston resident and master gardener. She may be contacted at sjbu...@gmail.com.