This shows just one layer of roses in their packaging. Notice how the cups are alternated left and right, which helps them to fit in the cooler evenly. The 80 quart cooler should be able to fit at least four layers for a total of 16-20 large roses. The rose specimens in the above example are on the short side; there is still plenty of space in the cooler to have longer stems for hybrid teas than my example shows. Other types of roses might have shorter stems, i.e., OGRs, floribundas, and shrubs.
First let me state that the above hybrid tea rose is NOT exhibition quality form unless you intend to enter the open bloom class as it is too far open and lacks form. But, it was the only bloom I could find in my garden in the middle of July when I took these photos. I just want to show you how the bloom fits inside of the chile cup. This will work for any type of large rose such as hybrid tea, shrub, and old garden rose with one bloom per stem. This will not work for sprays.
Here is the bloom inside of the chile cup, with rubber band around the top to hold the slitted side together, and the rose cone fit over the stem and pushed up around the chile cup.
Next, we push a chunk of moistened Oasis over the end of the stem, going only halfway down into the Oasis. Depending on your stem length, you might have a space between the end of the cone and the Oasis chunk. You may want to snip off some of the thorns at the bottom of the stem. In this example about 2 inches of the rose cone has been removed from the bottom because it was too narrow for the stem.
A square of aluminum foil is wrapped tightly over the wet Oasis chunk to hold it into place and keep it from leaking water. It also helps to keep the rose stem in the cone.
This is how a completely packed rose specimen will look before packing it into the cooler. Make sure that the chile cup is fitted snugly down inside of the plastic rose cone to keep the bloom securely in place. Also make sure the foil is wrapped tightly around the bottom of the cone to keep the Oasis securely in place.
For transporting our hybrid teas (and other large roses) by air to roses shows, we use the Rubbermaid 80 cooler which was formerly called Gott. Some rose exhibitors still refer to it as the "Gott Box." It is a big, white camping-type cooler that has inside dimensions of 28" wide x 14" deep x 13" wide. This cooler has an 80-quart capacity. There are three large coolant containers that screw inside the lid of the cooler. The containers are filled with special U-tek gel coolant that is rated at +30 degrees and holds at 42 degrees for 50 hours.
Make sure to pre-chill your cooler with a sack of regular ice at least 2 hours, or even overnight, before packing your roses. Do not pack the regular ice with your roses as it will be too cold. Use only the special gel coolant. Also, make sure to pre-freeze the gel coolant at least 3 days before packing.
First, re-cut each rose stem under water with sharp cutters before you begin to pack each rose.
Large, 16-ounce Styrofoam "chili" cups, 4" x 4", are placed around each bloom. A hole is made in each cup by poking a pencil through the bottom. Then one side of the cup is sliced open with an Exacto knife, drawing the knife from the top, down through the side, and continuing to the center of the pencil hole. A cup is then easily placed around each bloom. We place a small plastic bag over each cup, which is held in place around the bloom with a rubberband. The bag is recommended, but optional. The rubberband is a must.
After the cup is on the rose bloom, we carefully place the rose stem inside a flexible plastic (.0007") rose cone and pull the stem all the way down until the cup and bloom fit snugly inside the cone. This cone protects the bloom as well as the foliage. The cones we use are 18" long and are tapered from 3-1/2" diameter at the top to about 3/4" diameter at the bottom. You can purchase these rose cones from Kimbrew-Walter in Grand Saline, Texas, for 75¢ each, and they are reusable. Their phone number is (903) 829-2968. For thick stems, you might have to cut off a portion of the small end.
Next we place a chunk of Oasis (about 1" x 1" wide x 3" long) that has been pre-soaked with cold water containing Chrysal RVB onto the bottom of the stem. Incredibly, a small piece of Oasis this size can hold up to 4 ounces of water more water than a glass orchid tube can hold. A piece of aluminum foil is then wrapped over the Oasis to make it stay on the rose stem for the duration of the journey.
For sprays: Do not use the cup around the blooms, but instead hand roll a sheet of plastic film into a larger cone to accommodate the large size of each spray (such as floribundas, shrubs, etc.) Then fasten the hand-made cone with tape. Use the Oasis and aluminum on the bottom of the stem.
SPECIAL NOTE: Because of current airline security concerns, it may be advisable to use plastic wrap or a plastic bag over each Oasis chunk INSTEAD of the aluminum foil.
The roses inside their cones are then laid on their sides and placed into the cooler, alternating the blooms from one side to the other so that two or three blooms are on one side, then two or three on the other side and so on. In this way, you can easily fit about 18 blooms into each cooler. They should fit snugly, but even if they do shift, the cup on the bloom should protect the bloom from hitting the side of the cooler during transit.
We made a wire cage that fits over all the cones so that if the containers of coolant should come loose in transit, they will remain in place and not damage the roses below. We then lay a few paper towels on top of the cage to catch any condensation from the frozen coolant.
As soon as the roses are packed into the cooler, we place the frozen gel coolant in the lid of the box, close the lid, tape the lid closed with duct tape, and attach a luggage strap around the cooler to keep it securely closed. We do not open the cooler until just a few hours before prep time when we want the roses to start warming up.
This is the cooler after it is closed, secured with duct tape around the edges, and strapped for extra protection.
Here is the cooler when fully open. The 3 containers are filled with gel, then frozen, then screwed into the lid. Inside the cooler bottom is the wire cage that holds the tubes in place and protects the roses if the gel containers should come loose.