WICHE: St. Valentine and your roses

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This is why you celebrate Valentine's Day and what to do with the flowers.

By Jeneen Wiche

I suspect most of you have no idea about the person and the saintly episode that is commemorated each Feb. 14 by friends, family and, most importantly, lovers. In fact, there are several versions of how the most romantic saint became a commercial success.

One story about St. Valentine has its origins in third century Rome, where the Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young single men because he valued them more as young warriors. A priest by the name of Valentine defied the law and continued to marry in secret the young soldiers who were in love.

When Emperor Claudius II found out, of course, he ordered Valentine’s death. The Catholic church martyred him for his commitment to love and marriage and now we commemorate him every Feb. 14 by expressing our love for someone else.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, millions of flowers have been purchased and are being enjoyed by sweethearts across the country. About 65 percent of those flowers were imported from South America (Columbia and Ecuador) to keep up with the demand, with about 30 percent from California.

The No. 1 flower given on Valentine’s Day is the rose, of course, and last year nearly 190 million stems where sold on this one day. The majority were red roses, because they symbolize love, respect and courage; then yellow for friendship (some sources say jealousy!); white suggests innocence and secrecy (two things typically not associated with each other); and coral (or orange) for desire…so chose accordingly.

The price of roses this time of the year seems to be inflated, but really there are legitimate reasons for the hefty price. Factors that affect the price of roses include the obvious: the demand is so high for the flower on this one day that growers have to work very hard to meet the need; the energy costs for greenhouse growers during the shorter and colder days of winter; and the fact that growers and retailers work longer hours and staff additional people, which doesn’t help to keep costs down, either.

To get the most out of your loved one’s investment in roses or spring bouquets, take some simple steps to keep your flowers fresh. Often a bouquet is not in water when we receive it, so the first order of business is to cut the stems and get them into water.

For the absolute best results cut stems under water. Fill the sink with a little warm water, submerge the ends, and make a clean cut at an angle. It’s also important to remove any leaves that will fall below the water line once in the vase. Foliage will foul the water more quickly.

Water is the key ingredient for keeping flowers fresh longer. Stems that don’t get a fresh cut every couple of days get clogged with bacteria that get drawn into the flower stem as it takes up water.

Recutting the stems allows the flower to continue to take up water. Each time you recut it is also a good idea to refresh the water.

Refreshing the water in the vase every couple of days is sufficient, but floral additives can help the flowers last a little longer, too. If you don’t have a floral additive, you can add one of these concoctions: 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice and a teaspoon of sugar; a can of Sprite or 7-Up; or a dash of bleach or hydrogen peroxide (mixed in about a liter of water.)

If you add anything that has sugar in it, you must add fresh water every two to three days because bacteria will grow faster in that environment. Keep your arrangement out of direct sunlight and away from sources of heat; and consider putting it in the refrigerator at night.

You can preserve your roses for sentimental value by drying them. Ideally, remove the roses from the water once they have opened a little more than halfway. Bound them together and hang them upside down in a cool, dry place.

When the flower buds are firm and dry, spray them with aerosol hair spray or a product especially labeled for floral preservation.


Check out gardening columnist Jeneen Wiche’s work at www.SwallowRailFarm.com. You can find her columns also at www.SentinelNews.com/agriculture. She answers questions once a month in SentinelNewsPlus. To submit a question, send an E-mail to jwiche@shelbybb.netand type “Sentinel-News” in the subject field.