rose model for practice

Hello, total newbie here, only been working with blender for two months or so. While I realize the geometry of the model isn’t perfect yet (corners of each petal need to be rounded out), that I can work on on my own. What i am trying to grasp is photorealism and improving my renders. The level of realism attain by some of the artists on here is uncanny. I try and soak up all the information I can get from all the great tutorials to be found. What I gather so far is that while geometry and scale are important for realism, the biggest sellers are material textures and lighting. I struggle with all the complexity that can be put into textures. Don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that the node system in cycles offers so much precise control over everything, there is just a huge learning curve to go along with it. I made my own grain texture in gimp (great, as if learning Blender alone wasn’t enough) which I tried to apply lightly to the petals and I took a leaf png and did the whole alpha/transparent background deal (forgive my lack of knowledge here, cant remember what exactly that process is called) on the leaves. I also tried messing with a sss shader on the petals to give them a more organic look I’ve seen in photos, but that effect has also kinda eluded me. I know the stem needs some work, I’d like to get that light color variation you see on thorns but that is going to be more research on the uv painting deal which I’ve yet to even begin to look at. As far as the lighting goes, I initially set up a 3 point lighting, but due to the camera angle, I couldn’t seem to effectively hide the rim lights reflection off the ground plane, which looked terrible(tried messing with the light path node which is really cool, but can be a brain scrambler to think about too much for a beginner), so I currently just have a key and a fill in this shot. Why is it that materials and lighting take 7 times longer than the actual modeling? Lol, anyway, thanks for enduring my ramble. I know some of the stuff I need to work on, but any tips or pointers or critiques anyone can offer are much appreciated. And should anyone want to help this charity case out with his struggles, I’ll gladly let you guys poke around at my node setups. Thanks again in advance!