Garden roses, which once were the everyday rose sold by local flower shops, are back in their uniquely big and fragrant ways.
Their large blooms and strong scent not only distinguish them from today’s standard roses but also make them an increasingly popular option for weddings and other special occasions.
This is how Alexandra Farms in Bogota, Colombia, the source for most of the garden roses that Royer’s buys, toasts its product: “Garden roses are to roses what champagne is to wine.”
Decades ago, Royer’s and other florists grew their own garden roses. What today is known as a standard or modern rose didn’t exist.
By the 1970s, however, an oil embargo made it prohibitively expensive for Royer’s and other domestic florists to heat their greenhouses. Meanwhile, Bogota, by virtue of lying on a plateau near the equator, enjoyed warm days and cool nights – or near-perfect conditions for rose production. (Today, the major rose-producing nations are Colombia, Ecuador and Kenya.)
But as with many things in life, there was a tradeoff: The farther away growers were from florists, the hardier that roses (and other flowers) had to be to withstand the added time and rigors involved with shipping.
So, a choice had to be made between flower bloom size and fragrance on the one hand and vase life (or how long a flower lasts once it is cut) on the other. Garden roses have twice as many petals as standard roses, which manifests as significantly bigger blooms than standard rose blooms.
“In many cases,” according to Alexandra Farms, “you couldn’t get a garden rose with a long vase life if you wanted it also to have many petals or fragrance, so [growers] moved toward standard roses. Rather than getting more beauty or fragrance in the varieties they grew, they got longer vase life. In short, [roses] lost some of their charisma in favor of performance.”
Famed rose breeder David Austin changed that by developing a garden rose genetic line specifically for the cut-flower market.
“Now, garden roses are bred for performance in addition to their charismatic qualities,” according to Alexandra Farms, “so you can have the best of both worlds.”
Meanwhile, improvements in post-harvesting techniques – from hydration methods to anti-ethylene treatments (ethylene gas can promote premature flower death) to better packaging – “have enabled us to grow more productively and ship our cut flowers around the world,” according to Alexandra Farms.
The grower said it has tested more than 1,500 varieties of garden roses for beauty but also for shelf and vase life.
Garden roses are available in almost every color that exists for standard roses. True to their champagne reputation, garden roses cost more than standard roses, but they are a cost-effective alternative to peonies.
Garden roses are sometimes described as having “powder puff” petals that mirror those of peonies and make them a good substitute when peonies aren’t available.
Peonies require frozen soil – and therefore seasons, Alexandra Farms explained. The plants must freeze in the ground for months in order to sprout in the spring. Based on time of year and availability, peonies can be considerably more expensive than garden roses, which are available year-round.
But Alexandra Farms, which grows 61 varieties of garden roses in Colombia, noted that garden roses don’t have to be limited to weddings and other special events.
They “can be used for anything including home décor, vase work, etc.,” according to the grower. “The garden roses grown at Alexandra Farms were bred and selected for longevity, as well as beauty. They are hardy and work well for any use.”
The HGTV series “Property Brothers” always starts with a couple oohing and ahhing over a gorgeous home that, ultimately, they can’t afford.
Never fear, the twin-brother hosts help the couple find a fixer-upper that affordably mimics their dream home.
That dynamic is not unlike what we encounter with some prospective brides who come to us with photos of gorgeous photos they’ve found online, such as on Pinterest. Sometimes the flowers in those photos are more expensive than a wedding budget will allow.
Erica Bixby, store manager for us in Hershey, cited the example of a bride who fancies peonies.
“Well, they’re available in the spring, but in the winter you’re going to pay five times the amount for them,” Erica explained. “But there are flowers that we could get in that could create that look.”
Peonies in the winter might run $25 per stem. As an alternative, she suggested polo roses, which open like peonies.
“It’s very pretty, and it’s more affordable,” she said.Click to view slideshow.
‘CREATING THAT VISION’
Erica and the rest of Royer’s wedding designers can customize a wedding plan that captures the bride’s vision but also falls within her budget.
“You can have centerpieces and bouquets and boutonnieres and everything you need, but sometimes your vision might be $20,000,” Erica said. “Well, I can create that vision for you for less.”
Royer’s has more than 30 designers and store managers trained in weddings, many of them with 25 or more years of experience. In a single year, we’ll serve more than 500 brides, big wedding (photos above and video below) or small, start to finish.
We offer wedding packages, but we also do lots of custom work. For instance, Beth Ruf, wedding designer at our Lancaster North store, helped bride-to-be Valerie Beyer with her “Alice in Wonderland” theme.
Royer’s wedding consultations are free.
Erica said most wedding work begins with a phone call. She will ask the bride-to-be a series of questions: name, wedding date, venue, vision. If the future bride has pictures that capture her vision, she can email them to Erica ahead of their consultation or bring them to the appointment.
Erica also keeps her own book of ideas. She sets aside an hour for each consultation and recommends three months for planning purposes; flowers are ordered one month prior to wedding day.
“Everything should be finalized a month before your wedding,” she said, “but three months gives us enough time if you want anything out of the ordinary.”
Whether it’s Erica and Stephanie Allen in Hershey, Beth Ruf at Lancaster North, or a wedding consultant at any of our other stores, you can find contact information for them here.
Our wedding consultants are always happy to answer any questions that brides may have.