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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

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Cemetery Flowers and Cut Roses

All-Souls' Day is November 2. This religious holiday following All-Saints' Day has traditionally involved the placing of flowers or plants on the graves of loved ones. This practice is not new. The custom of placing flowers and flowering shrubs or trees in cemeteries comes from the ancient Mediterranean and Middle East. Flowers were found, for example, in King Tut's tomb. Still today, cemeteries are frequently adorned with a variety of flowers, plants, and trees. The same Iris x albicans (White Flag) used as a cemetery plant by the Muslims can still be commonly found in most American cemeteries.

The most commonly used cemetery flower has to be the rose. So common are roses in cemeteries that even the names of the graveyards are often derived from this plant. You may often see many "Rosehill", "Roselawn" and "Rosedale" cemeteries. Virgin Mary inherited the rose symbol from her prototype and is herself the "Rose of Sharon". Often in paintings, the Madonna is shown with roses. Not surprisingly, then, the rose bush became a typical European cemetery plant, particularly in the provinces once ruled by Rome, including England. The lily is also a common cemetery plant, often replaced in Southern cemeteries by other lily?like plants including crinums, narcissus, amaryllis and other hardy bulbs.

Yet, by no means do the rose and lily complete the list of typical cemetery plants. Evergreens, irises, crape myrtles, bluebonnets, true myrtles and nandinas are common. Of these, the evergreen, represented in Texas by the cedar or juniper, appears most consistently. The frequently seen nandina (Nandina domestica), a native of Eastern Asia, is often known as heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, where it is used as a traditional cemetery plant. The Japanese also use Rosa whichuraiana, known as the memorial rose, as a groundcover for individual graves. In rural cemeteries, rambling roses are often most frequently found—particularly Dorothy Perkins, a 1901 whichuraiana hybrid.

Deeply ingrained in southern cemetery custom, the use of flowers has spread to new varieties over the years. The traditional rose and lily have been joined by such flowers as gardenia, magnolia, azalea, bluebonnet, crape myrtle, nandina, and a host of others.

Cut Flower Roses and Care

The link of the rose to the mother goddess is well known, for this flower appears in many surviving depictions of her. Demeter and Isis are often shown riding on a rose?wheeled cart, while in Rome, the Magna Mater's attendants were garlanded with roses. We still associate roses with motherhood, particularly on Mother's Day, when offspring wear them to church. Not surprisingly, then, the rosebush became a typical European cemetery plant, particularly in the provinces once ruled by Rome, including England.

The lily, derived according to Mediterranean mythology from the milk of Hera and later well established as a symbol of the Madonna, is also a common cemetery plant. It seemingly made a transition from paganism similar to that of the rose.

The iris, especially common in cemeteries, is perhaps best interpreted as simply another representative of the traditional flower custom. It possesses the added advantages of helping hold the scraped earth in place and requiring little care. However, some folks ascribe a Christian symbolism to the iris. The say that growing in clusters, its pointed blades collectively resemble palm fronds, symbolizing Palm Sunday and Christ's last journey into Jerusalem. Some also identify the iris with the Nile reeds that hid the infant Moses. The flower of the iris was an ancient Egyptian regal symbol but seemingly had no funerary significance there.

If you decide to put homegrown roses on a grave site or just want to cut some roses for home use, BE SURE to "harvest" the blooms so they will last for the longest possible time. When you cut a rose from the plant, you sever it from its life support system. And, as soon as the cut is made, the rose, like an astronaut with a temporary life support system, is in trouble.

The components of the life support system for the cut rose, obtained from the plant before the cut was made, are: nutrients, sugar, cool temperatures, anti?aging compounds and most importantly, water.

All these ingredients of the life support system are dependent on a continuous and ample supply of water since they are all soluble, or carried into the rose through water.
Research has shown that a molecule of water can move from the base of a 24?inch cut rose up to the petals in 30 seconds or less. Such movement occurs when the cut rose is in the light at room temperatures.

The cells in the stem of a rose, which carry the water, are like a handful of soda straws. As long as the straws are in a glass of water, you can draw water up through them. Take them out of the water while sucking on the straw, and you draw up air.

The rose stem does the same thing, as its demand for water is continuous even when severed from the mother plant. The big difference, however, is that the cells in the rose stem have "end plates" or small screens that allow water to pass, but block the passage of air. A small bubble of air is formed and trapped at the end of the rose stem when it is cut from the plant.

Of course, with the base of the stem blocked with air, more water cannot get up the stem even if you replace that stem in water. In short, the rose is very near its life support system but cannot get to it.

Another phenomenon that shortens vase life occurs when a rose is removed from the plant, and sugars which move from the leaves down to the root continue to flow for a short time, but as the flower is cut from the plant, they have no place to go. These sugars can move across the cut surface of the stem and be drawn up into the water conducting cells where they can crystallize (become solid) and block the water conducting cells. This is particularly true if air have moved into these cells first.

In the case of air or sugar blockage, (or combination of both) where the life?giving supply of water is cut off or seriously reduced, the rose could wilt and die, even if it is placed in water!

Fortunately, both air and sugar blockage that occurs in the rose stem are restricted to the first ½ inch of the stem from these base cut. Simply re-cutting the base of the stem removes the block and gives the rose a chance to again get hooked up to its life support water system.

To avoid letting the base of the stem "gulp" in another air bubble when the new cut is made, however, we suggest the re-cutting procedure take place under water. Using a sharp knife or shears, with the base of the stem under water in a pan or sink, OR, by simply holding the stem end under running water when the cut is made, you insure a water supply to the rose.

Once the cut is made under water, a small droplet of water lands on the cut end, so you can then safely move the stem to the vase with water where you plan to show off your handsome blooms. Care must be taken that the cut end of the stem doesn't dry off before it reaches its new water supply.

Occasionally, a rose will wilt or develop a weak stem just below the bud causing the bloom to tip over. If you will remove the bloom from the arrangement, re-cut about one inch from the base of the stem (under water, of course), then submerge the entire bloom stem and foliage under water for 20 or so minutes. You will find the flower revives nicely and can be placed in the arrangement.

When reviving a rose in this manner, we suggest the water be about 100 degrees F and that you be sure to straighten the angle of the head or it will revive with "bent neck." For long?stemmed roses, a couple inches of water in the bottom of your bathtub works well as a place you can lay the bloom out flat underwater.

The vase life of your roses can be increased by 30 to 50 percent if you ask your florist for a packet of floral preservative or "flower food", as it is sometimes called. Using this material in the base water according to directions on the packet or from your florist will keep your roses in good condition much longer.

Remember, too, not to place your roses in direct sunlight, in front of a heater or air conditioning register, or in a very warm room. They don't like a lot of heat and drafts. If convenient, we suggest you put your roses in a cool, dark place at night. This will slow their opening and keep them fresh for your enjoyment much longer.