SPRING ROSE CARE

When spring comes it’s time for gardeners to roll up their sleeves and  get busy and I can’t wait!

Here are some tips that I follow for getting my roses off to a good start in my Zone 5b garden.

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1. PLANTING

For early April planting, I buy bare root roses from online vendors (my preferred list here). When they arrive they are “bare roots” wrapped in wet newspaper. Very humble beginnings for a plant that will be so lovely later!

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A good moo poo start...
Bare roots soaking in Moo Poo Tea…

I immediately unpack them and soak them in a bucket of Moo Poo tea for 24 hours before planting.

Planting decisions are dependent on the type of rose…

Grafted Roses: Many hybrid teas, floribunda and grandifloras are grafted roses.

This means that a rose is created by being grafted onto strong, hardy rootstock, creating a “bud union.” Plant the bud union (knobby part just above the roots) 3” below the soil line to protect it from harsh winters we often have.

Own Root Roses: These roses were started from cuttings and are on their own root, so there is no bud union to protect. I plant them as I would any other shrub.

Soil: We ask roses to bloom for us all summer, year after year, so it is best to give them a good start by planting them in good, rich soil. Our neck of the woods has horrible gray clay soil so we dig BIG holes–holes much deeper and wider than the root system to allow for soil amendments and deep enough to protect the bud union. (At least 18″ by 18″.) To the soil removed, we add compost and a quality grade of top soil. Your roses will appreciate your gifts of more nutrients and better drainage and will reward you handsomely! You will never regret giving your roses a good foundation.

Roses Already in Leaf and Bloom…

If you purchased something from a garden center that is already leafed out and perhaps has buds or blooms, wait until the frost date has passed to plant them in the garden. In my zone that date is May 10. I will confess to occassionally planting a little earlier than May 10, but you have to be prepared to cover them if frosty nights come!! #notpatient


2. PRUNING

First tip: DON’T BE AFRAID TO PRUNE. I’ve made countless “mistakes” through the years and the roses always forgive and come back!

Here in the midwest, it is  difficult to know when winter is really over and it is time to prune. For many years, I have let the forsythia tell me. When the forsythia is blooming, I start pruning. This year the temps have been up and down and there has been a lot of pressure on the forsythia. So use your best judgement! 😬

MOST of the time, the forsythia plan works.

Tools of the trade…

You will need protective gloves and a sharp pair of pruners. My choices are Bionic Gloves and Barnel Pruners from Wendy Tilley, owner of The Rose Gardener Garden Shop and Harlane Garden Labels.

Different types of roses have different pruning needs. Read more about pruning here.

The Ingenious Mr. Fairchild from last summer. Amazing David Austin!


3. FERTILIZE

Once our roses are starting to grow, it’s time for fertilizer. Most any fertilizer will do—but do read labels carefully–too much of a good thing can be harmful! I use a combination of Moo Poo Tea, Mills Magic Mix and inorganic fertilizer on my roses. Fertilizer applications are about 6 weeks apart for most of my roses. Old Garden Roses and Rugosas are fertilized in the spring. Shrubs and Knockouts are only fertilized twice a season–spring and summer.


4. WATERING

Once the fertilizer has been applied, you will want to give your roses a deep watering to get those nutrients down to where they can do some good.

A good rule of thumb is to water at the base of the plant especially if you are watering in the evening, as wet rose leaves are more susceptible to fungal diseases (e.g. Black Spot & Powdery Mildew). Although, if I am watering in the morning I give them a good all-over shower. This is great way to remove dirt and any insects that have shown up for the tasty and tender buds! I think roses appreciate a refreshing shower just as we do, just don’t put them to bed wet.


5. MULCHING

This is one of my favorite parts. Mulch is so good for your roses … retains moisture, helps to keep down weeds and gives the garden that fresh, finished look!

One thing to remember when applying mulch … when mulch breaks down, it uses nitrogen in the process, so add a layer of compost on top of the soil before you add the mulch layer then the nitrogen in the soil can be used by the rose. If you are working in an established bed and last year’s mulch is still there, leave it… it becomes a “compost layer.” Win. Win.

I can’t wait to see these early bloomers!


MY FAVORITE TIP…

My favorite tip is to visit your roses daily or as often as you can to enjoy their beauty and to get to know them. Getting to know them can be key in early detection of any pest or disease.

And, when you have beautiful roses outside, who can stay in!

Let’s grab our wagons and go gather some blooms!

 

FALL ROSE CARE

Even though the temps are still high and the rain has decided to pour down on us, it’s time for me to admit that fall is near and winter is coming. Time to prepare the garden for the long winter’s nap. In my Zone 5b garden that could mean most anything as I’ve seen winters with more days than I care to count below 0 and then there are the mild midwest winters. From the blizzard of 1978 to the polar vortex to jacket weather–we’ve seen it all!

Regardless, good fall care makes spring all the sweeter.

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STOP FERTILIZING & DEADHEADING

About 6 weeks before expected frost, it is time to stop fertilizing and deadheading the roses. Since in my neck of the woods, the first frost date can be anywhere from October 5 – October 28.

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Stopping the deadheading process tells the roses it’s okay to begin to go to sleep and start producing seeds in the form of rose hips. (Read more about rose hips here.) Don’t trim those off either–the birds find them particularly yummy.

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Rose hips…

GENERAL CLEANUP

Remove all diseased leaves from around your roses. Black spot and other fungal diseases are not discouraged by cold temperatures and will just over winter and be there next spring– so they must go! Don’t add any of your diseased leaves to your compost pile … they will overwinter there too!

PRUNING

I don’t do much pruning in the fall (Read about spring care here.), unless there are rose canes that have gotten extra tall or spindly. Those I trim back to prevent them from flapping in those cold winter winds as there is a danger of loosening around the roots and making the roses more susceptible to damage from the cold. Pruning says, “Let’s get busy growing.” That is the wrong message to send in the fall!

MULCH

I think it is very important to add an extra layer of mulch to protect the roses through the winter. And, for roses that are more tender, I will mound the mulch much higher on them–to about 1/2 the height of the shrub.

NOW WHAT?

Now it’s time to sit back, relax and pour through those beautiful catalogs and websites and get to dreaming, plotting and planning. Spring will be here in about 174 days. 🙂


 

Although fall and winter are not my favorites, I am thankful for every season in life and in the garden. My heart knows that… He makes everything beautiful in its time. Ecclesiastes 3:11

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Bloom Thyme Friday: Now you see it. Now you don’t!

If you have been following my blog for a while you know that I have posted my fair share of pictures of my New Dawn Roses. They were spectacular last year (summer 2013).

New Dawn over the Potting Shed
New Dawn over the Potting Shed

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But you will not be seeing pictures like these for quite a while — maybe years, as the Polar Vortex and New Dawn did not agree on conditions fit for roses this winter. I have grown New Dawn for more than 15 years and have never had to do a hard pruning. But, this year I pruned all the way to the ground. Yes, to the ground.

Take a look.

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A clean canvas ready for new possibilities…
Don't mess with a girl with a sharp pair of Barnels in her hand!
Don’t mess with a girl with a sharp pair of Barnels in her hand! The bionic gloves and long reach Corona loppers sure came in handy too!

 

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Job done. Where’s my Coke?

Vita Sackville West once said, “I am not an armchair gardener. For the last forty years of my life I have broken my back, my fingernails and sometimes my heart in the practical pursuit of my favourite occupation.”

I think Vita could identify with the day I’ve had. 

It had been my experience that gardens are ever-changing and I am glad for that. If things were always the same, I most likely would get bored. So, this year we will focus on other plants. There are 3 clematis that also grow in this area and I am asking that they step it up this year! They need to be more than fabulous! I think they are up to the task. Henri I, Etoile des Violette and another one (whose name I can’t remember at the moment) … you are on!

I’ll keep you posted.

MORE  ABOUT SPRING…

How are things going in your garden this week? Anything that didn’t make it through the winter? Are you moving ahead with Plan A or are you like me looking for the positive side of Plan B?

Other than the New Dawn roses, things are shaping up nicely this week. The roses that had to be pruned WAY back are recovering nicely and doing very well!I am seeing some strong growth and am hopeful for June blooms!

Here are some of the bloomers in my garden this week…

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Daffodils we planted for Uncle Tony...
Daffodils we planted for Uncle Tony…

Bloom Thyme Friday

HAPPY BLOOM THYME FRIDAY!

Daylight Saving Time, The Polar Vortex and Spring Chores

Okay if you are the geeky, grammar type like me and thought there was a typo in my title because I left out the S at the end of Saving, I have to tell you it really is officially Daylight Saving Time. I know. I know. It just sounds wrong. But, in my humble opinion, there is nothing wrong with DST. I just love it. It allows me a whole extra hour of daylight to work in the garden after work, so I’m all in for DST.

THE POLAR VORTEX

The Polar Vortex has left us winter weary around here. We have had a record-setting 50-something inches of snow. And, even though it is still lingering, it is soon to be history! Warmer temps are coming and I am in full spring-fever mode.

First up this spring will be to assess the damage left by our winter companion, Mr. Polar Vortex. My quick tour of the garden last week encouraged me as I saw a great deal of green at the base of the roses I could see. (Some were still snow covered.) So, I think they are going to have a slow but sure start. Roses are not the “Prima Donnas” some think them to be.

Next on my list will be to use a weak mixture of lime-sulfur on the roses that were showing fungal disease last fall. This is something you do only when the roses are dormant. (You can read more about using lime sulfur from Paul Zimmerman on the Fine Gardening blog here.)

SPRING CHORES

I am often asked what I do in the spring to “all those roses.” So here are some tips that I follow for getting my roses off to a good start.

1. PLANT
ING

For early April planting, I buy bare root roses from online vendors. (Click here for a list of rose companies.) When they arrive they are “bare roots” wrapped in wet newspaper and plastic. Very humble beginnings for a plant that will be so lovely later!

Bare roots soaking in Moo Poo Tea...
Bare roots soaking in Moo Poo Tea…

I immediately unpack them and soak them in a bucket of Moo Poo tea for 24 hours before planting. Click here for a great video on planting bare root roses by Guinivere of Roses of Yesterday and Today.

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Planting decisions are dependent on the type of rose…

Grafted Roses: Most hybrid teas, floribunda and grandifloras are grafted roses.

This means that a rose is created by being grafted onto strong, hardy root stock, creating a “bud union.” Plant the bud union (knobby part just above the roots) 3” below the soil line to protect it from harsh winters.

Own Root Roses: Roses that have not been grafted but were started from cuttings, so there is no bud union to protect. In the past I have always planted them as I would any other shrub (to the same depth as they are in the pot they were growing in), however, after such a harsh winter, I now plan to plant even the own root roses about 2″ below the soil line for some extra protection.

Soil: We ask roses to bloom for us all summer, year after year, so it is best to give them a good start by planting them in good, rich soil. Our neck of the woods has horrible gray clay soil so we dig BIG holes–holes much deeper and wider than the root system to allow for soil amendments and deep enough to protect the bud union. To the soil removed, we add compost and a quality grade of top soil. Your roses will appreciate your gifts of more nutrients and better drainage and will reward you handsomely! You will never regret giving your roses a good start.

2. PRUNING

It is  difficult to know when winter is really over and it is time to prune, so I let the forsythia tell me. When the forsythia is blooming, I start pruning. All you need are protective gloves and a sharp pair of pruners. I must have been very good because Santa brought me a pair of Bionic Gloves and Barnel Pruners from Wendy Tilley, owner of The Rose Gardener Garden Shop and Harlane Garden Labels. Maybe Santa listened to our Rose Chat Podcast with Wendy. You can listen to Wendy too. Just click here.

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Gene Boerner Floribunda

Pruning tips for different types of roses…

Hybrid Teas: For hybrid teas, I shape, cut out any dead wood and remove the canes that cross the middle to create more air circulation in the center of the plant which can help control fungal disease. These roses I will cut back to about 10 – 12″ high to give them a strong start. If you are going to exhibit roses in a rose show, there are some other tips you will need and the American Rose Society website is filled to the brim with excellent information.

Old Garden Roses: To me bigger is better as far as old garden roses are concerned so I do very little pruning. For one-time blooming roses, do not prune until after they bloom! And, when you prune, just thin out old wood, remove any dead wood and spindly canes.

David Austin English Roses: Very little pruning is required as they don’t appreciate a lot of cutting, just remove dead wood and give them a light shaping. Except in the case of some of the ones that tend to get very tall, like Graham Thomas, I prune those down farther to keep them within bounds.

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Sunny Knock Out Rose

Shrub/Landscape Roses: These are so easy… Just shape to fit your space. I have several Knockout and Drift roses and I usually trim them back about 1/2 their size in the spring, but it is not required. I often give them another hard pruning in mid summer to refresh them into another spring-like bloom cycle in early fall.

3. FERTILIZE

After I prune my roses I apply fertilizer. Most any fertilizer will do—but do read labels carefully–too much of a good thing can be harmful! I use a combination of Moo Poo Tea and Mills Magic Mix on my roses.

4. WATERING

Once the fertilizer has been applied you will want to give your roses a deep watering to get those nutrients down to where they can do some good. A good rule of thumb is to water at the base of the plant especially if you are watering in the evening, as wet rose leaves are more susceptible to fungal diseases (e.g. Black Spot & Powdery Mildew). Although, if I am watering in the morning I give them a good all-over shower. This is great way to remove any aphids that have shown up for the tasty and tender buds! I think roses appreciate a refreshing shower just as we do, just don’t put them to bed wet.

5. MULCHING

This is one of my favorite parts. Mulch is so good for your roses … retains moisture, helps to keep down weeds and gives the garden that fresh, finished look!

One thing to remember when applying mulch … when mulch breaks down, it uses nitrogen in the process, so add a layer of compost on top of the soil before you add the mulch layer then the nitrogen in the soil can be used by the rose. If you are working in an established bed and last year’s mulch is still there, leave it… it becomes a “compost layer.” Win. Win.

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My garden…

MY FAVORITE TIP…

My favorite tip is always to visit your roses daily or as often as you can to enjoy their beauty and to get to know them. Getting to know them can be key in early detection of any pest or disease.

And, when you have beautiful roses outside, who can stay in!