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Making a Rose Bush out of Cut Flowers from a Bouquet (as seen in his weekly column in the Philadelphia Daily News)

No, I'm not crazy (well, wait a let's say that I'm not crazy in this specific instance, okay?), you can do this.

The first thing you have to do however, is locate a willow tree. (Willow stems contain a natural rooting hormone that will help insure success, and besides, its a great old wives tale kind of thing.) Take along a big bucket and cut as many fresh twigs from the willow as you can, hopefully, you'll get the bucket half to three-quarters full (cut the twigs into tiny pieces before you add water). Then take it home and fill it to the top with cold water and then let it sit for a good 24 hours (as opposed to a bad 24 hours). Try and time this to when you'll receive your flowers; otherwise put your 'cold willow water tea' in sealed glass jars in the fridge (or a cold corner of the cellar).

When your get your roses, you have to be brave. 'Cause you have to cut the flowers off. I know, I know, but it won't work if you don't. The best thing I've found to do here is to fill a nice cut glass bowl with glass marbles and water and then arrange the cut flowers on top of this (hey, lookame! I'm Martha Bad Word Stewart!). It looks very nice and you can still enjoy the blooms for just as long, so stop whining.

Now cut about an inch or so off the bottoms of the stems and immediately put them in a vase filled with six inches or so of the willow water. Let them soak for at least 12 but not more than 24 hours. While they're soaking prepare the 'soil' you'll try and root your plants in, a nice loose mix of roughly one part each of vermiculite, perlite, peat and finished compost. You can use garden soil if you must, but try and bum some compost first if you don't got none.

OK, take the stems out of their soaking water and cut off all the leaves except for the very top set. Get a nice big pot, big enough to hold three or four of the cuttings, and fill it part way up with your nice loose, rooting mix. Now arrange three or four of the stems around the edge of this pot, making sure a couple of bud eyes are underground on each (they're the things what will actually root) and then fill up the pot with soil (don't fill it up first and then try and jam the stems in). Now water it all well with more of the willow water and make the put a mini greenhouse by suspending a plastic bag over top (rig up something with one of them useless little tomato cages or bend some wire hangers or sumptin') or by making a nice rigid cover out of one of those clear gallon sized spring water jugs (cut the bottom out to fit the pot; keep the lid and put it back on). You want it to stay nice and moist in there. You always want to see water beaded up on the inside of your cover.

Put it in a bright and/or sunny spot, mist it frequently and keep the soil wet, keep using willow water for both misting and watering. Be sure and water all the time. THIS IS THE OPPOSITE OF BASIC HOUSE PLANT ADVICE, DON'T LET THIS SOIL DRY OUT!

It'll take about six weeks for you to know how you did. Green growth will begin to appear on the canes you've successfully rooted. Keep that soil moist, very important at this stage. But you can take the covers off once the new growth appears. Slowly start to cut back a bit on the watering. Eventually, water like house plants, once a week. Four months after you see that new growth appear, it's safe to transplant the canes, now real rose plants, outside. Pick a nice, well drained spot for each of your new plants, one that gets lots of air circulation and morning sun. If your soil really sucks, consider creating a nice little 'island' of that potting mix to get your babies going strong. Oh, and continue using willow water as much as you can.

If all goes well, you might even get some roses that first year. Definitely a full flush the next.

Expect to achieve success with three to six canes from each dozen attempted.

The gardening information contained in this site is copyright 1999 by Mike McGrath, and is for the use of WHYY-FM/Public Radio listeners only. Such listeners can print it out for their own use and such, but under no circumstances may be it sold in any manner, used in a book or periodical, on another website or for any commercial purposes of any kind without the express written consent of Mike McGrath. To obtain such permission, e-mail Mike McGrath at ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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