While there are numerous romantic options on Valentine's Day, perhaps none has achieved the enduring popularity of the classic red rose. While many florists will guide you to a generic red rose, renowned florist Michael George maintains that savvy gift-givers can avail themselves of a world of options.
Michael is particularly fond of lush South American-grown roses, such as 'Grand Gala' and 'Classy,' which are known for their generous blooms. Roses grown in the Netherlands are more common, and for good reason; they're versatile and hardy in cut arrangements. If rich fragrance is desired, consider a rose like the 'Grand Prix,' which is grown in Ecuador.
To care for your roses, Michael recommends that you start with a very clean vase. Hold the flowers next to your vase to gauge how much stem you'll need to trim. Using bypass pruners or a very sharp knife, remove any discolored outer petals and any foliage that would fall below the waterline; submerged leaves rot and encourage bacteria that shortens bloom life. Removing thorns is optional; keep in mind that doing so may shorten bloom life. If you choose to remove the thorns, carefully pare them away, using a sharp blade and working from top to bottom.
Next, fill a sink with cool water. Using a sharp knife or bypass pruners, cut stems under water at a 45-degree angle (this prevents them from sitting flat on the bottom of the vase and allows for better water absorption). If stems are especially woody, you may split them an inch or so vertically at the base so that they draw more water (remember that this, too, may shorten bloom life). Immediately place stems in 2 inches of warm water (no hotter than 110 degrees Fahrenheit).
After 5 minutes, transfer the flowers to a vase filled with cool water; the waterline should not be above the foliage. Add cut-flower food, and use an extra pack with your first water change. To nourish flowers after the flower food is used up, refill your vase every day with a solution of 1 teaspoon sugar and 2 drops liquid bleach per gallon of fresh, cold water. For longer-lasting arrangements, Michael recommends keeping the roses in a cool area; if you want the blooms to open quickly, place them in full sunlight.
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