December is a busy time at Roses For Autism. We’re trying to maintain tropical-like temperatures in the greenhouses (74 degree days and 64 degree night temperatures) and harvest a large crop of roses for the December holiday season. The December crop is an obvious focus right now, but my real concern and attention is actually further down the calendar at the most important holiday of the year: Valentine’s Day.
Our roses cycle from crop to crop in about 7 weeks. Rose bushes that flush with roses toward the end of December will naturally come back perfectly for Valentine’s Day. In addition to the roses we harvest, we go over other sections of rose bushes and “pinch,” or remove the growing tips of the rose stem that are off this holiday cycle. Pinching is our tool for managing and controlling crop timing for major holidays. It resets the cycle of the rose to bloom 7 weeks in the future, and when pinched at the proper time, those future roses will add to our Valentine’s Day bounty.
It’s interesting, or in my case frustrating, to note that the roses we harvest for Valentine’s Day start growing on the shortest day of the year. Roses love sunlight and the amount of sunlight that we get during the period of December 21 through February 14 directly affects the quantity and quality of the Valentine’s Day crop. As a grower, I’d much rather have cold, clear, sunny winter days than cloudy, warm weather. We can always heat the greenhouses, but we have no substitute for sunshine. A covering of white snow on the ground is an added bonus as sunshine reflects back into the greenhouse.
A friend of mine always brings his 2 kids on an annual visit to the greenhouses during one of these sunny winter days. He calls it a “mini-vacation,” like jetting away to a tropical island. It’s heart-warming and relaxing just to feel the tropical heat and humidity of the greenhouse, as if you were half a world away.
Maybe the difficulty of growing roses this time of the year is exactly why they’re so special. Cabin fever tends to set in by the middle of February, and we’re anxious for spring to come. We crave the days of warmth and sunshine; we need a vacation in the tropics. A dozen roses in the home, opening fully and smelling as if growing on a bush outside, is a wonderful respite from the cold, dark winter, a mini-vacation from the cold, and a little reminder that spring is indeed around the corner and summertime on its way.