In 2003 when the Tinseltown Rose Society was formed I was privileged to write the Novice Corner for our newsletter “The Rose Reporter” for the first two years. “The Rose Reporter” was and still is edited by Luis Desemaro and he has won countless awards for it. And deservedly so.
Below are 20 columns that I wrote. Remember, these were in the early days of my rose career so be kind. Also, keep in mind these were written for growing roses in Southern California, but many of the principles apply across the country.
All material copyright Paul F. Zimmerman
All material appeared
originally in “The Rose Reporter from 1993 – 1995.
Novice Corner #1 – Feeding Your Roses.
Novice Corner #2 – What Type of Rose Should I Buy?
Novice Corner #3 – Bloomin High. (Using climbers in the garden).
Novice Corner #4 – Six months or 30 buds whichever comes first (Spring maintenance).
Novice Corner #5 – Timing the Ka-Bloom.
Novice Corner #6 – Falling out Of Summer
Novice Corner #7 – Deeper, Deeper. (Watering tips)
Novice Corner #8 – The Rosarian and the Amazing Technicolor Rose Garden
Novice Corner #9 – Deadheading
Novice Corner #10 – The Dirt on Dirt. Preparing the Soil
Novice Corner #11 – Roses with an Accent. The English Roses
Novice Corner #12 – Rethinking the Hybrid Tea
Novice Corner #13 – Return of the Killer Mildew
Novice Corner #14 – Their Heeeerre. (Spider Mites)
Novice Corner #15 – SON OF K.I.S.S. (Another feeding program)
Novice Corner #16 – To Bud Or Not To Bud. (Own root vs. grafted roses)
Novice Corner #17 – Planting Container Roses.
Novice Corner #18 – Just When You Though It Was Safe To Come out Of The Garden
Novice Corner #19 – Summer Care
Novice Corner #20 – Taming the Wild Rose
Novice Corner #1
Feeding Your Roses
One thing I noticed when I began growing roses is there are two kinds of rose people. First there are the folks who seriously collect all the different roses then put them on a scientific care program and are rewarded with the beautiful blooms we see at shows and in books. These people can be spotted at meetings arguing over the salinity of different brands of Epsom salts and engaged in heated debates over what produces the best fish emulsion. The Pacific Chinook salmon or the Idaho Freshwater Trout. And I’m glad they do. After all, many of the beautiful roses we grow come about as a result of their tireless efforts.
But we’re not all like that. Some of us love roses but don’t want to exhibit, don’t really care if our “Pristine” reaches it’s maximum bloom size and are afraid fish emulsion will attract every cat in the neighborhood. We grow roses because we love the way they look against a white washed wall on a pink-sky summer evening. We like the way the blooms nod hello at us on our way to the garage before we go to work in the morning. And most of all we like to putter amongst them on Saturday morning before the Southern California sun begins to bake the city.
My back yard is a rapidly expanding collection of Old Garden and English Shrub roses. Bourbons grow into Hybrid Perpetuals, Portlands shelter Chinas from the Sanna Annas, miniatures peek out from behind a veil of dusty miller and a Graham Thomas rises some seventeen feet into the iron lattice work of a Spanish style banister. I feed them, water them, care for them, but most of all I enjoy the way they make me feel when I move among them in the evening after a typically stressful Los Angeles weekday. That’s what this column is all about. It’s our column. A place we can feel free to demystify whatever we wish about growing the queen of flowers. It’s called Novice Corner but perhaps our motto is K.I.S.S. Keep it simple stupid.
With this simple thought in mind I decided to make our first column about fertilizing. Of all the things I came up against when I first started growing roses this is the one that confused me the most. I’d overhear discussions of all kinds of secret concoctions and would fly home to my roses certain they were dying of starvation as I descended further and further into an ignorant void of how to feed them. Every little discoloration on a leaf served to convince me more and more I was guilty of rose abuse. So recently I sat down with our President Thomas Carins on a Saturday morning with the intention of taking some of the confusion out of feeding roses. So here’s a basic feeding program that will satiate any rose just fine.
First of all grab a pencil and paper. You’re going to make a shopping list. Ready? Osmocote (16-18-5) and nitrohumus. That’s it. You’re done. Take this list to your local nursery, show it to them, grunt a few times to make them understand you want these items and then follow the directions on how to apply them. Your roses will do great and you’ll be rewarded with years and years of blooms.
If you like you can leave now, not read another word and your roses will never know the difference. But stay with me here. I have an optional item you should consider.
Redwood mulch as a top dressing. It slowly enriches the soil, roses love it, and it cuts down on your water bill. Now, if you like, some more details. But remember, you don’t have to know how these items work in order for them to work.
Osmocote is a time release fertilizer lasting about three months. The numbers after it refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the specific fertilizer. Osmocote makes several different kinds but for roses in general ask for 16-18-5. One note though. Osmocote is not the cheapest way to go but for the average person it’s the easiest and until you get into growing a lot of roses the cost won’t be much of an issue.
Nitrohumus is basically sterilized sewage sludge. No, it doesn’t smell but it’s a great source of nitrogen and it helps the soil. Why’ll we’re on the subject of sewage I’d like to interject a personal note about horse manure here. I use it. A lot. My roses love the stuff and I have yet to find anything like it. But, as Tommy constantly warns me, make sure it’s well aged. Luckily my girlfriend is an avid horse person and let me tell you, the woman knows her manure. If you can get some and you are certain it is well aged go for it.
I wish I could tell you just follow this advice and you’ll never feel anxious about your roses again but I can’t. Some day you’ll be at a meeting and someone will be saying their Great Aunt’s Sister’s Father’s Mother swore that a red rose will bloom redder if you give it a regular dose of aged camembert cheese. Your stomach will churn, you’ll forget everything I told you and before you know it your Visa card is being rejected at the garden center. So for your own information here are some of the items the specialists use, what they do and why we don’t really need them.
Bandini and other kinds of rose fertilizer including Miracle Gro for Roses. All good products but you’re already using Osmocote so these things aren’t needed. Leave them on the shelf.
Bone meal. This is something you should put in the bottom of the hole when you first plant the rose. But this is another column. For now trust your President and throw a cup in the bottom of every rose hole you dig.
Fish emulsion. This is a good source of nitrogen but the Osmocote and nitrohumus add this so leave it for the fish.
Epson Salts. Basically it’s magnesium sulfate and it improves soil fertility but the nitrohumus will also take care of that.
Now you’re thinking. Wait a minute! If Osmocote and nitrohumus take care of everything why do the specialists use all this other stuff? Because they like to fine tune their roses to get the most out of them the way some people fine tune their cars. There’s nothing wrong with that. Heck, I admire people like that. But for those of us who just like a car that performs well and gets where we’re going the above feeding program will suit our roses just fine. They’ll give you an extra wave on your way to the garage, your neighbors will envy you and you won’t be kept awake by the sounds of howling cats night after night. Honest.
That’s it for our first column. As I said above this space is ours so if you have any questions you’d like answered let me know. I’ve got enough ideas for a lot more column
Novice Corner #2
What Type of Rose should I buy!?
Boy, here’s a loaded question. We rose growers are blessed to have several different types of roses with sometimes hundreds of different varieties within each type. While this is exciting for some for the novice it’s enough to send you screaming to the silk flower store. Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, Old Garden Roses, English Shrubs, Shrub Shrubs; the list goes on and on.
So where do we begin? Most articles that tackle this question just list the different types of
roses, tell you what they do and off you go. You know, Modern Roses in this corner, Old Garden Roses in the other. I thought I’d try a different approach. Instead of concentrating on type I’m going to break them down by bloom shape and growth habit. This way you can pick a rose by where you need it in the garden. Not unlike the method used by most gardening books for selecting perennials.
I separate the bloom shapes into two types. (see figure). Modern Bloom shape and Old Garden Bloom shape. Modern blooms are best represented by the Hybrid Tea rose. Old Garden blooms are what you tend see in old drawings and on David Austin English Roses. A cupped shape with sometimes dozens of intricate petals.
From bloom type we divide the roses into growth habit. Upright, sprawling and climbing. Upright bush’s growth habit goes straight up and the blooms tend to be on top of the canes. Ala Hybrid Tea. Sprawling are the bushes where the canes go out away from the center and bend over to the ground They bear flowers all along the cane. Climbers scramble along
fences, walls and trellis. I’ve then subdivided the first two categories by height. Short, medium and tall. There is no need to subdivide climbers because if they aren’t tall the only thing they’re good for is covering the curb at the end of the driveway.
Before I plow into this a quick word. The roses types listed are all repeat blooming. Most of us getting into the roses for the first time don’t have the space for a garden of once bloomers. But don’t overlook these. If you have a space for an Old Garden Rose that blooms only in spring by all means put one in. They are spectacular. I’d also like to add that any rose looks good on it’s own without anything else around it. So if
you’re just looking for one to put by the front door buy any type you like. You won’t be disappointed. Okay, here we go.
Modern Bloom Shape.
Short Upright. These reach up to 3′ in height and include Miniatures and Floribundas. Miniatures are the small plants you see mostly in pots with little leaves and flowers. But besides looking wonderful in pots they look nice at the front of a border either alone or as a small hedge to line the garden. Unlike miniatures, Floribundas have
full sized flowers and leaves.
Medium Upright. 3′-5′ in height there is no true class for this height but some Floribundas will go over 3′ particularly in Southern California. Check the labels or ask a fellow Society member.
Tall Upright. Over 6′ in height these are the Grandifloras and Hybrid Teas.
The difference between the two is Grandifloras are more of a true bush in that they have foliage all the way to the base of the plant. Hybrid Teas give us the classic long stem rose and are the most popular rose bush grown.
Sprawling Bush. There is only one and it’s knows as the Modern Shrub Rose. These are all tall reaching over 6′ in height and sometimes more in width.
Climbers. Look for Large Flowered Climbers.
Old Garden Bloom
Short Upright. These include Chinas, Teas and Polyanthas.
Medium Upright. You can use Portlands and someEnglish Roses. Be sure to check the labels on the English Roses for height because some of them can get huge.
Tall Upright. These are the Hybrid Perpetuals.
.Medium Sprawling. With training some of Portland and English Roses can be kept to a medium sprawling shape. Ask one of the society members for tips on how to do this.
Tall Sprawling include Bourbons and most of the English Roses but be aware they
can get huge. Before you know it they are calling themselves “Audrey” and eating your neighbors. But with training they are manageable and extraordinary when covered in blooms.
Climbers. All of the Noisettes are climbers. But in addition there are some true climbers to be found under Teas, Bourbons and English Roses.
That’s it but before I go let me leave you with a few more.
Ground Cover Roses. These are gaining in popularity and are exactly what they sound
like. Most grow no more than 1′ high and will sprawl out some 8 to 10′ happily sending up suckers and choking everything in their path. But with light pruning they can be kept in check. The bloom types range from single to multi petal.
Rose Hedges. Any of the Upright Bushes will make a wonderful rose hedge it just depends on the height you want. But for a quick, beautiful hedge about 5′ high there is a modern bloom rose called the “Simplicity Hedge Rose“. It comes in white, pink and red and you can’t go wrong with this choice for a hedge. (You can use the sprawling bushes for hedges but you’ll end up with more of a hedgerow than a hedge. But that might not be too bad if you want to keep the local dogs out of the yard.)
Roses for Containers. Any rose can grow in a container but some do better than others.
Under modern bloom Miniatures and Floribundas. Most Hybrid Teas also take to pots quite nicely. Under old garden bloom Chinas, Teas and Polyanthas. .
I hope I haven’t confused you further. If I have I apologize and I’ll try to make it up to you with one last succinct thought. Think about what kind of garden you want. Then use the table to see what kind of rose bush will suit your needs. If you want three different levels of modern upright bushes just look under modern upright, go down the list and you see you
could use a combination of Miniatures, Floribundas and Hybrid Teas. Maybe you want Old Garden chaos so look under Old Garden Sprawling and mix in Portlands, Bourbons and English. Or a two level combination. A neat short border of minis fronting a riot of Old Garden Sprawling. The range is limited only by your imagination.
Okay, that wasn’t real succinct but I’ve been pruning all week and I have an urge to leave
The Tinseltown Rose Society’s Handy Dandy Table for Picking Roses
“Simplicity Hedge Rose”
Novice Corner #3
Getting tired of roses that are difficult to grow, are boring in their sameness. What you need is new way of growing roses and I’ve got just the thing. Welcome to the wonderful world of climber, rambler and pillar roses.
You keep putting off painting the garage? Plant one“Silver Moon” rose near it and in three years you’ll never see your garage again.
You have a section of your garden too small for a rose bush? Train “Kathleen Haarop” as a pillar rose. What is a pillar rose? It’s a rose wound around a pillar or wooden post and allowed to fountain off the top well above the other roses in your garden.
What about that ugly tree you’ve wanted to take out but can’t afford to. Cut off the top and use it to support “Purple East”.
Or perhaps you want something genteel and kind to cover the arbor of your front gate. Try the climbing Bourbon “Zepherine Drouhin”. Pink, intensely fragrant, flowers all year, shade tolerant and thornless
The point I’m trying to make here is there is a whole group of roses often overlooked. These are the roses that grow and bloom above the garden.
The trick with climbers is how you train them. The blooms on climbers are borne on “laterals” that come off the main canes. Don’t make the mistake of growing them straight up the wall and getting frustrated when they only flower 15’ above the ground. You need to train them horizontally. This triggers a chemical reaction in the rose causing all the bud eyes along the main cane to break and produce laterals thereby giving you blooms along the entire length of the plant.
This is easy if you are growing them along a fence. Plant the rose next to the fence and train the canes in an outward fan shape along it. But what if you want to grow them up a wall? Training them horizontally will only give you a climber 4’ high and 20’ across. Not the desired affect. Instead snake the canes back and forth across the wall at 45 degree angles. This way you get height and it triggers the desired chemical reaction. Also, since roses don’t naturally attach themselves to the wall you’ll have to give them something to hang onto. Trellis work out of wood or wire, concrete screws you tie the canes to are solutions.
Ramblers are the next class and they get BIG. And by big I mean 30’ minimum and I’ve seen some easily hitting 60’. Mostly once bloomers they are the roses we think of growing into trees and covering houses. Another use for a rambler like “Lady Banks Rose” is as a backdrop for other roses. I often grow them up walls and let other repeat blooming climbers grow up into it. I get a spectacular spring flowering when everything is in flower and blooms from the other climbers set off against Lady Banks’ wonderful foliage the rest of the year. Also keep in mind Mermaid. One of the few ramblering roses that will bloom all season
Ramblers are at their most beautiful when grown up a tree and allowed to drape from the branches. Plant the rose at least 3’ from the trunk of the tree. As the rose gets bigger, and it will, train the canes up into the branches. Within a couple of years it’ll figure out what you want it to do and take off on it’s own.
Pillar roses are not a true class but in general they are climbers with main canes of “lax” enough growth they can be wrapped around a pillar. Pillar roses are wonderful because most of the action takes place 6-8’ above the garden so they can be planted in a very small space. Noisettes, Wichuraiana Ramblers, some Bourbons and Climbing Teas make wonderful pillar roses.
The easiest pillar to make is a 4”x4” post about 8’ high but anything will do. Wind them loosely up and around the pillar. Once you hit the top allow the rose to spill off for an informal look or train it back down the pillar.
So far I’ve mentioned fences, walls, trees and pillars to climb roses on but this is only the beginning. What you climb your roses on is limited only by your imagination.
What about three logs in the shape of a teepee with the rose planted in the middle? A free standing section of fence where the roses grow up the back and spill over the front. Two poles set about 10’ apart with a rope or chain hung between them. The roses grow up each post and crawl towards each other along the rope or chain. Or three pieces of long copper tubing bent into giant upside down “U” shapes. These are joined together at where they all hit the center giving you a shape not unlike a giant umbrella with the tips stuck into the ground.. Six roses, one at the base of each pole, are planted and trained up and around the structure.
What I’m saying is don’t think of climbing roses as useful for only walls and fences. Look around your garden and I’ll bet you’ll see lots of things to grow them on. And when your friends ask you why you’re planting a “Seven Sisters” at the base of that old dead tree tell them it’s because you’re “bloomin high”.
Novice Corner #4
Six Months or 30 Buds, which ever comes first.
By now your roses should be growing along. Leaves are emerging, new canes are extending forth and the buds are either appearing or bearing flowers. If you’re still looking at three canes thinking they’ll break dormancy any day now I’m afraid I have some bad news. You purchased a silk bareroot rose.
With spring and flowers also come some minor maintenance. By now feeding and mulching is done, you’ve finger pruned new growth heading for the center of the bush and you’ve swore over and over to get a better pair of gloves next time. The next step is learning how to deadhead. No, this doesn’t mean quitting your job, buying a van and following Jerry Garcia all over the country. It means removing any flowers that are fading and dropping their petals all over the alyssum.
Why do we do this? To encourage the rose to recycle the flowering process faster during the bloom season
The process is simple. It’s all in the leaves. Look at the leaves on your bushes. They are attached to the cane either in groups of three or five. We’re interested in the five leaflet group. The bud eye which will give us the stem for the new flower is contained right where the leaflet group joins the cane. Take your pruning shears and make a cut about 1/4” above any five leaflet leaf group (more on how far down the cane later). Remember to make it at a forty five degree angle. Gently peel off the leaflet group and you’ll see a bud eye. That is where your next time flower will come from. Just make sure to make the cut on a five leaflet group facing away from the center of the bush. This continues the growth up and out.
Sometimes your job is made easier by a new shoot already starting to grow out from the base of the leaflet group. If you see this the rose is telling you this is a great place to cut so go ahead and do it. If you don’t want to peel of the leaflet group you don’t have to. I’ve just found it speeds the process along. Don’t be alarmed by the leaflet group eventually falling off and turning yellow. This is normal as it makes way for the new growth.
So how far done should we cut? Depends on the type of rose. For any Hybrid Tea in a general garden setting you can cut as much as you like but try to go down to at least the third leaflet group or lower. And make sure the cane is at least pencil thick at this point otherwise it won’t support a new stem.
The English roses are another story. I cut mine back to the first five leaflet group I can find. They don’t like being cut back much on a regular basis. Once hard in the winter and once lightly in summer is enough for them. Same thing for climbers. The first five leaflet group you can find.
For Old Garden Roses follow the same rule of thumb as for English for all but the Hybrid Perpetuals. These can be deadheaded like a hybrid tea but I’d advise not going below three leaflet groups. For once blooming Old Garden Roses deadhead sparingly in the beginning but allow them to set hips. They aren’t going to flower again no matter what you do and the hips are a lovely show all to themselves.
So just remember the basic principals and you can’t go wrong. Hit the bloom when it’s fading or the petals are all off and always cut above a five leaflet group. That’s it.
How often should you go out into the garden and do this? Depends on your schedule but try and do it at least once a week particularly during spring. I do it almost every evening just before the sun goes down. I love being among the roses in that light puttering with my shears.
As for the rest remember what we talked about last time. Aphids (squirt with water, use Safer’s soap, lady bugs or Orthene), Blackspot and powdery mildew (funginex, baking soda and oil when it’s not above 80 degrees or wash your roses with water but only in the morning).
The new cast member for this month is the spider mite. Tiny little white bugs living on the underside of leaves. They generally start near the bottom of the bush and work their way up. Sometimes you’ll see their webs on the leaves particularly if the leaf is curling up. If they are out of hand hit them with a product called Avid. Wipes them out. If they aren’t bad yet they can be washed off with water from a water wand or some other kind of waterier that directs the spray up from ground level towards the underside of the leaves. Whatever will release about 4 gallons a minute will do. (The average water wand will do this.)
That covers it for this month. April is an a great month for roses. They are in full bloom and all they require from us is a little attention to keep them happy. Now if we could only raise kids that way.
Novice Corner #5
Timing the Ka-Bloom
It’s May. The rush of spring is over and the heat of summer is not yet here. The roses are finishing with their first flush of bloom and hopefully our efforts paid off.
This gives us a chance to relax a little and learn some new things about rose care. Some things that, while not essential, are fun to know. With this in mind let’s use this month to teach you how to time the bloom cycle on your roses.
What is the bloom cycle? This is the time it takes the rose bush to produce a flower. The beginning is the moment you deadhead off the old bloom and the end is when a new bloom opens up.
Why would we want to do this? Say you have a party coming up in August and you want your roses in full bloom for the event. Or maybe a backyard wedding. Maybe you need a lot of cut flowers for a special event. Or your in-laws are coming to visit and you want to score some points. Regardless of your reasons it’s a fun thing to know how to do.
But I already deadhead.
Yes, but this causes the blooms to open at different times during the season. Except for the first flush of the year the blooms don’t all open at once. Timing the bloom cycle involves cutting off all blooms and buds so the bloom cycle for the entire bush begins and ends at the same time. Exhibitors do this to get ready for a big show.
Let’s be clear on one thing before we go on. The only time you might want to do this is if you want to show off the garden for a special day. Otherwise follow the normal deadheading procedure we talked about last month.
We’ll start with how to do it and then you can use the chart below to determine what the bloom cycle is for your particular plant.
How to begin
As you remember from last month deadheading is the process of cutting off the dead blooms to encourage the bush to put out new ones. You count down to the second or third five leaflet group and make your cut at an angle just above it. Make sure there is a bud eye where the base of the leaflet group joins the stem, only cut above an outward facing bud-eye and the stem should be at least pencil thick. I know this sounds like a lot but if you look at the plant you’ll see most roses will accommodate you quite well. (With minis don’t worry about the pencil thick part.)
Take it all off.
During deadheading we only have to worry about cutting off the blooms that are faded or no longer have petals. This encourages the bush to constantly replenish itself and gives you a pretty constant bloom over the growing year.
But for this we are trying to time the bush to cover itself in blooms all at once. Not only one bush but your whole garden. Beautiful? Yes. But it calls for radical surgery to pull it off. All the blooms, new and old, and all the buds have to be cut off. No exceptions. A true expert can play with this rule but this kind of touch is beyond most of us.
First the easy part. Start with the normal deadheading process, taking off all the blooms past their prime. Then go back and take off all the other blooms. This part isn’t so hard either because you can put them in a vase and enjoy them in the house. Now the hard part. Cut off all the new buds. That’s right all of them.
This leaves you with a bush containing no blooms and no buds with a lot of clean cuts just above five leaflet groups.
If the sight of all those bloomless bushes is more than you can handle you can always tie the blooms you cut off back onto the plants. If nothing else you can make a bush with five different kinds of blooms on it. That should be enough novelty to get you through. Now sit back and wait for the busy to do it’s job.
A couple of things to remember.
The chart is timed using cuts at the level of the second or third five leaflet group below the bloom or bud. The further down you go the longer it takes for the blooms to come back. The general rule of thumb is to add about five more days for each additional five leaflet group you go down.
Deadheading in general is good maintenance. Let the plants go without doing it and you’ll get hips. As will your plants.
Using the chart below is easy. Look up the type of plant you have and the number of days in the bloom cycle. Find the date of your event on the calendar, count back the numbers of days in the bloom cycle and that’s when you should make all your cuts.
That should do it. Just remember the simple rules. Take it all off and make your cuts above the second or third five leaflet group. Those are the basics. Now get out there and impress your guests.
The Tinseltown Rose Society’s Guide to Timing the Ka-Bloom
|Type of Rose||Number of Days in Bloom Cycle|
|English||They are all different but figure 50-60|
|Floribundas (cluster flowering)||50-55|
Novice Corner #6
Falling out of Summer
Welcome Back. If your summer has been anything like mine by know you are wondering what can hit the roses next. Between the strange weather bringing on powdery mildew, the caterpillars eating holes in your leaves and the cool mornings/hot afternoons causing you to burn leaves while spraying (I did it twice) I’m glad fall is just around the corner. Yet despite everything our Southern California climate has decided to throw our way somehow, someway the roses are still alive and blooming. Go figure. The plant everyone says is fussy, needs a lot of attention and is incredibly difficult to grow is still standing tall in our backyards. So much for the naysayers.
I think this month we won’t so much as jump into something new as review what we’ve learned to get us ready for the big fall bloom. Even though we have a longer bloom period than most of the country we all share having one thing. Two really big bloom periods; Spring and fall. For us the spring blooms peaks right around mid-April and the fall one right around mid-October. The spring big bloom we are always ready for because we’ve done all that spring feeding, mulching and planting. But what about fall?
Most people don’t think about getting their roses ready for the fall show and it’s a shame. It’s the last burst of color before we start to settle into winter where our hues comes mainly from catalogs and dreams of new rose gardens.
The best way to approach getting ready for the fall bloom is to simply think about what roses need to grow and bloom their best. They are food, water, spraying (if you choose and at your own rate of application) and deadheading. The only thing we are going to add to this list for the fall is some mild pruning.
No, not pruning! Yes, pruning. I remember from my own experience the thought of taking shears to canes for the first time resulted in many a sleepless night. I’d dream of going out there and making my cuts and then realizing I cut to low, or to high or to wide. Name the dimension and in my mind I blew it. Relax. Pruning is not the monster it’s made out to be. But we’ll get into it more later. Right now I want to start with the things we know to get our confidence up.
Feeding. Remember back in the spring when us followers of the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) method used Osmocote (by the way the Osmocote formula is the eight month indoor/outdoor plant formula not the one mentioned in a previous article. My mistake, I must have been suffering separation anxiety during the past spring’s move at the thought of leaving some roses behind) instead of elaborate fertilizers, fish by-products and salts culled from the sub-layer of the Dead Sea? Remember all your non-K.I.S.S rose friends in the 100 degree heat dragging around fertilizer buckets and hoses? Pat yourself on the back. Your Osmocote has been feeding your roses during all this time and in fact it still is. So far you’ve been on your own for two months and you’ve done the first thing right. Congratulations on your first solo rose flight!
So you can not do anything and you’ll still be okay. But if you like it’s certainly okay to give the roses a swift kick in the plants to goose them up for fall. Again, this is an option and not something you have to do. It’s kind of like deciding if you want to put wax on your car after your wash it. Either way your car will look clean but if you don’t mind the little extra effort the wax will make it look just a little better. It’s the same with this little fall feeding boost.
If you choose to do it I’ll recommend either using Bandini Rose Food in solid form or Peter’s 20-20-20 which comes in a powder you dissolve in water (Just like Miracle Gro which is not a bad product either but it costs more) Use the Bandini Rose Food at the rate of one cup per bush and the Peters 20-20-20 at the rate of 1 Tbs. per gallon of water giving each bush two gallons of water. Bandini is available from Mordigans and Sego Nurseries as is Peter’s 20-20-20. There is another 20-20-20 product available through the rose society at a great discount. Contact Tania Norris for more information.
Okay, the roses are now extra fed, or still fed by the Osmocote and it’s time to move on to the next thing we have to worry about. Watering. I know, I know you’ve been watering all along so this seems obvious but how efficient is your watering? Here in Southern California we need to save every drop we can and those of us who grow roses need to be double sure we do so.
First check the basins around the roses. For those of you not familiar with basins (I don’t think I’ve ever covered this in depth) they are the little dirt circular mound you build around the base of each rose to hold in the water. With a basin the water, instead of running off onto the sidewalk and down the street, stays around the root area of the rose and slowly sinks deeply into the earth. I have a theory that if we all deep water our roses at once it’ll flood in China but zen that’s another article. So check those basins and spend a little time building them back up.
The other item affecting watering is mulch. The Nitrohumus and Redwood Soil Builder we put on at the beginning of the year is helping keep the soil moist and thus reducing the amount of water we have to use. But is it still there? Take a quick look around the rose beds. If you are seeing a lot of dirt it’s a good idea to lay down another inch of Redwood Soil Builder. I wouldn’t worry about the Nitrohumus this late in the year. It’s more trouble and expense plus we don’t want it to be feeding our roses into December which is the month we really want them to start slowing down for a quick winter nap.
Spraying is next on the agenda. This summer has been a powdery mildew festival but for those of you using Funginex on a regular basis ala Tommy and Luis’ instructions you should be in good shape. And if you do have it certainly products like Rally will take care of the problem. But I’d like to address those of us who don’t like using chemicals if we can avoid it.
I don’t mind living with some powdery mildew and if it gets really bad I just pull off the leaves affected the most. Yes, it’s not the greatest thing to look at but all in all I’d rather live with a little than use hard chemicals on a regular basis. When it seems to be getting out of hand here’s a little trick I’ve picked up. (I always use it when blackspot hits) Use Dormant Lime and Sulfur spray to kill off some of the spores of the fungus. If you choose to do this pay careful attention to the following. Lime and sulfur can very easily burn your leaves so the trick is to do three things. First spray only in the morning. The earlier the better. Second spray it on at the rate of 1 Tbs. per gallon and, this is the important part, DON’T use a sticker. No Vlock oil, Safer’s soap, no nothing. Just the Lime/Sulfur spray and water. And last after about five minutes wash the plants with water. Here’s the way it works.
Lime/Sulfur spray will kill any spores it hits in about five minutes. After that it doesn’t do much good. So to prevent burning the leaves we wash off the remaining Lime/Sulfur with water. That’s right, water. Rinse the plants completely and you won’t have to worry about turning the leaves a nice shade of crispy brown. Also be sure to hit the underside of the leaves as Lime/Sulfur does not penetrate the leaves. As with any organic method this won’t be as affective as man made chemicals but it will help.
A lot has been said about using baking soda to control powdery mildew. Some say it works and some don’t. I’ve not had the chance to test it on a on a regular basis so I have no personal experience and therefor no opinion. I do know this. It can damage the leaves to some extent so care must be used to only use it in the morning and only on cool days under 80 degrees.
The other thing to spray for this year are the caterpillars. They’ve been taking leaves right down to the skeletons. There are some good products out there like Orthene. Mordigans and Sego carry a good supply of these. For those of you going green try Safer’s soap or the Safer’s Caterpillar Spray. I’m having good luck with both this season. (I’ll try and do an article on organic rose care this year as some of you have been asking.)
Now we’ve taken care of food, water and spraying so it’s on to deadheading as a way to ease us into pruning. Here’s something to think about. Do you know deadheading is pruning? If you didn’t you do now and even more so you have been pruning all this time and your bushes are still alive. How about that?
Let’s just list the basic rules of deadheading. Cut down to the second or third five leaflet leaf on an outward facing bud eye. That’s it. Also for those of you planning big fall parties don’t forget about timing the Ka-Bloom. Go back and take a look at the chart from the article about it and have fun.
And now it’s time to prune. If we had sound I’d be playing the theme from “Jaws” right about now. But believe me, pruning is not the big land shark we all make it out to be. All you need is a little common sense. And we are not going to be doing the big prune so think of us as a little warm up.
Go back to the rules of deadheading. Five leaflet leaf group on an outward facing bud eye. Make the cut clean about 1/4” above the bud eye at a 45 degree angle so any sap will run down the cane back behind the bud eye. The same applies to pruning.
I can even make it easier. Let’s start with pruning the obvious. Take a good look at your rose bushes. Some canes are green some are brown. The brown ones are dead therefor let’s prune those first because no matter how badly you mangle it, it doesn’t matter. The cane is already dead. Follow the brown cane until you find green cane. Make a cut at the first appropriate bud eye that is on green wood. Do you see a white center? If you do you’re done. If the center is slightly brown then go down to the next appropriate bud eye and prune again. Keep going until you see a white center. Seal the end of the cane with Elder’s Glue and that’s it. If the cane is dead to the base of the plant cut it off there and seal with the glue. Cut off anything else that’s dead and you’re done with the first part.
Next look at the center of the bush. See anything twiggy growing in there. Twiggy meaning canes under a pencil thickness. Cut them out of the center and give the rose some breathing space. I usually cut these little stems off where they hit the main cane. It cleans the place up.
If you like you can quit here but if you are brave here’s another step. Let’s bring the bush back to a manageable size. Select a height you’d like the bush to be. Then cut all the canes even at that height. Remember the outward facing five leaflet rule and you’ll be okay. It probably isn’t possible to get all the canes the same height but get as close as you can. While this step isn’t necessary it does give the rose garden a more groomed look as we go into fall.
That’s it for this month. During the rest of the fall months we’ll work on selecting rose for the new year, planning a garden and of course getting ourselves ready for that first big prune. Welcome back.
Novice Corner #7
Believe it or not this month we are going to talk about watering. I know, I know you already water your roses and since they aren’t dead you must be doing something right but are you doing it efficiently and in a way that’s best for the roses?
Here in Southern California we are blessed with a great growing season but cursed with no rain for most of the year. This means our roses are dependent on us for almost all their water needs. And they need water which of course leads us to a dilemma. We grow plants that need water (but not as much as a lawn by the way) but we live in an area where we should conserve water. How do we reconcile the two? Fear not. I’ve been pondering this one sitting in the bathtub, under the shower while listening to the sound of the leaky faucet running into the sink and I’ve come up with some thoughts. Hence this article.
First and foremost let me say while roses need water what they really need is deep water. This doesn’t mean water pumped up from beneath some Navaho Indian Reservation in New Mexico it means they need the water to get down to the roots 2-3 feet below the surface. The reason for this is because it encourages a deeper root system. Roses with deep roots are less susceptible to the fluctuations in ground temperature and the drying out/wetting of the surface area. Also deep watering washes away any unwelcome salts that may have gathered there.
According to experts roses need about 1-2” of water per week. Now personally I don’t know anyone who measures water in inches so this leaves most of us in the dark. After all can you imagine going into a restaurant and asking for an inch of water? From what I can tell it translates into this. During average growing conditions here in Southern California roses need about 2 gallons of water every three to four days. If it gets above 90 degrees go to every two to three days. Two gallons are distributed in about 15 seconds from the average garden hose. But the question to ask here is, is the rose getting all of the two gallons we put around the base? What’s the point in watering two gallons if half of it ends up on the sidewalk? There is no point, a lot of water is wasted and so the first thing we are going to talk about is basins.
A basin is simply a dirt wall you build around the base of the rose. Nothing more complicated than that. Make the basin about 2” inches high and about 2-3 feet in diameter depending on the size of the rose. Now when you water simply fill the basin and let gravity slowly sink it down to the lower roots. This will keep the rose happy and the sidewalk dry.
If you have trouble getting basins to stay built try digging a hole about 2 1/2 feet across and planting the roses about 2” below the surface of the soil around the hole. This is not unlike planting the rose in a well about 2” deep. The water collects in the well where it will stay until it can get down to the lower roots. As long as you have good drainage you don’t have to worry about the rose getting water logged.
The next important consideration for watering and conservation is the use of mulch. Up to now we’ve talked about mulch as an additive to help feed the plant but as I touched on in lasts month’s article mulch is also important in helping to conserve water. Why? Because a lot of water is lost through evaporation. We fill our basins, the water sinks down but then some of it comes back up, drawn by out Southern California sun. Mulch impedes this process. It acts as an insulator keeping the soil moist and cool throughout the growing season. This also keeps the roots closer to surface in an environment of a constant temperature and moisture condition, hence less shock. What’s good for the deep roots is good for the surface roots. So keep the mulch on to a depth of at least 1-2”. Also be sure to use plenty of organic materials like Soil Builder in the hole when planting the rose as this will hold the water better than most soils.
There is a man-made product out on the market which helps conserve water and it’s called Broadleaf P-4. It’s a water polymer crystal designed to hold hundreds of times it’s own weight in water. Mix it in with the soil when planting and it’ll cut down on the amount of water you need to give your roses Here’s how you use it
Mix the Broadleaf P-4 in a bucket with some water in order to expand it. It’s important you expand it before you water or else it’ll expand when you water for the first time giving your garden that nice volcano effect. Use about 1 cup of the expanded polymer per bush mixing it into the soil mixture you put back into the hole. But only mix the polymer with the soil that is at least 1’ below the surface otherwise you’ll encourage shallow roots.
But wait! I’ve already planted roses and I don’t want to dig each one up. Relax, here’s a little trick. Take a broom stick and jam it into the ground around the rose. You want to go about 2’ deep making 4-6 holes. Pour about 2” of polymer into each hole and then fill it back up with dirt. This gets the stuff down the lower roots and saves you the trouble of having to dig up the rose.
As I’ve planted this year in gardens all over Southern California I’ve encountered some odd conditions so here are some tips. Particularly for those of you planting roses on slopes.
On a steep hillside water will sometimes move down the hill even though it’s underground. You can combat this by digging a hole big enough for one of those 15 gallon black plastic nursery pots and then literally burying the pot in the ground. Plant the rose in the pot with your soil mixture and you’ve got a great basin for holding water not only above the surface but below as well. Drill some holes in the bottom of the pot to let the roots escape and you have a rose that’s happy for a long time.
Another helpful hint for hillsides is to take some of the stones lying around and with a little bit of mortar build yourself a small retaining wall in front of the rose. This will also help hold in the water as well as prevent the rose from sliding down the hill during a rainstorm.
We’ve talked about conserving water by using mulches, basins and polymers but what about the best way to get the water to our roses? Believe it or not the way we water sometimes hampers a lot of roses from reaching their full potential. People just splash on a little water or just run the sprinklers for a few minutes every other day. It’s not enough.
So how do we apply the water? There are several different ways. Sprinklers, bubblers, drip irrigation, the garden hose; they all bring water but how efficient are they?
Let’s take sprinklers first. The kind most of us have built into our lawns. They simply aren’t enough. Sprinkler systems will send water into the rose beds but very few of them put out enough water in a the short time needed for the right amount of water to collect in a basin and hence get down to the lower roots. Another problem with using sprinklers in a rose bed is as the roses get tall the plants in front block the water from getting to the ones in back. Also sprinklers throw a lot of mist in the air and that’s wasted water. So while there is nothing wrong with using sprinklers to water the roses to keep them going do your roses a favor and get the hose out there about once a week. Or use a supplemental system.
There are some good automatic systems out there for watering roses and for one of the best look no further than Tommy’s article in last’s months Rose Reporter. The Dramm system works well and it’s economical. The other good thing about it is all the water goes right to the rose and none is wasted in the air.
As much as I like the Dramm System and the thought of each rose having it’s own emitter the problem I have is I have a lot of other plants in the rose beds. I like all kinds of perennials amongst my roses and need to water them as well. It would look pretty funny to have a lush rose next to a dried up foxglove.
After looking around I found a soaker system at Home Depot I really like. It’s just like those black soaker hoses you see in the nurseries but unlike those this one is very, very flexible in how you set it up.
You buy the hose in 50 or 100 foot rolls. There are no connectors on it. It’s just the soaker hose. Then you buy the individual components you need to customize it to your garden. From T’s to connectors, to end caps; you name it everything is available so you end up with a system that is exactly what you need. And the connectors are all pressure sealed so there is no glue to mess with.
What I’ve done is to run the hose through the beds getting as close as I can to each plant. The plants I can’t get close to I run a “feeder” line to. The procedure for this is easy.
Simply cut the hose where you want the “feeder” line to run from. Insert one of the “T” components and run the “feeder” line off to the plant you want. Put a cap at the end of the feeder line and you’re done. I like this system because it not only waters all the plants in my beds but because it’s a weeper system it really saves on water. The only thing I will say is you should still deep water the roses with the hose about once a week. Unlike the Dramm system this one does not put out enough water in a short enough time for the water to get down to the lower roots. But as a quick water during the week or while you’re on vacation it works great.
In the end if you’re anything like me you’ll probably end up with a hodgepodge of systems. I have the weeper hoses for those days I don’t have time to hand water, then I have a hose end sprinkler for the grass and I allow it to water into the beds to soak everything and about once a week I water the roses with the hose to make sure they get the deep watering they need.
In the end somehow the roses seem to get the water they need, I conserve water by being more efficient which keeps my landlord happy. But of course not as happy as if I’d put in a cactus garden but that’s the way it goes.
Novice Corner #8
The Rosarian and the Amazing Technicolor Rose Garden
With fall upon on us and the rose garden slowly winding down this month we’ll delve more into the abstract part of rose gardening. That is designing the garden. And by designing a rose garden I’m talking a rose GARDEN in every sense of the word. To me a rose garden is not and never will be a bunch or roses in a nice little line in a skinny bed. That’s a rose factory. Now if you exhibit or grow roses for cutting it’s the way to go but if you want the garden to be a show piece of your lawn think again.
If I may be allowed a few moments to proselytize here I feel we need to start thinking of roses as something more than a flower manufactory. Too many of us go out, buy a bunch of rosebushes and pay no attention to how and where they are planted. Then as long as they don’t get disease and the flowers keep coming we’re happy. What we end up with is a row of little soldiers all proudly wearing epaulets on their shoulders but unfortunately the overall look sometimes leaves much to be desired. Perhaps you’ve seen a bed of roses with the odd Floribunda and Grandifloria thrown in making the rose garden look like an out of balance skyline. Roses are nice plants and should take their place proudly in the garden with the other plants. After all, how many other plants are there that give color all year around?
So try not to think of your rose bushes as a separate entity from the rest of the garden. You know, “here’s the garden and here’s the rose bed.” And by thinking of your roses this way I think you’ll see with a little effort you can end up with a rose garden that is beautiful to look at as well as being a wonderful place to smell the blooms and/or cut them to bring into the house. After all, would go out and buy a bunch of geraniums in every color of the rainbow and then plant them without a thought of how they will all look together?
This all being said let me pass on something I believe in. First and foremost pick out the roses you want for your garden. Unless you are a landscaper designing a rose garden purely for show there is no reason to deny yourself that bush of Rio Samba. There is a way to make them all fit in. So regardless of rose type or color hit the catalogs and dream away.
Off we go. First a little visualization. Picture a teeter totter balanced in the horizontal position. Now think of rose garden in the same context with the center of the teeter totter being your center rose. Try to always plant in odd numbers by the way. More interesting. We want to keep our rose garden, like the teeter totter, in balance. Add to much weight to one side of the teeter totter and what happens? It gets out of balance, tilts and sends everything crashing to one side. The same thing can happen to your rose garden. Add too big a rose to one side or add to much strong color to one side and the whole garden gets out of balance seeming to lean towards one side. All in all a disturbing affect.
So where do we begin? Simple. First and foremost it’s time to stop dividing the roses into the Modern (Hybrid Tea) group vs. the Old Garden Rose Group. All roses have a place in the garden and if used properly all are quite beautiful. I love the Old Garden Roses and make no bones about it but I have some lovely Hybrid Teas growing beneath my living room window. Why there? Because unlike Old Garden Roses most Hybrid Teas carry their blooms on the top of the plant and I wanted a rose I could view from the inside as well as the outside of the house. Hence the Hybrid Tea is the perfect rose for that situation.
Which leads me to the first criteria in laying out a rose garden. Shape. That’s right shape. Think of the rose plant as a solid block of mass. The Hybrid Tea will be a tall thin block of mass, the Floribunda and short square one, the big Old Garden Roses that sprawl will be wider than they are tall (See the February 94 Issue of The Rose Reporter for the article “What kind Of Rose Should be Planted In the Garden” for a chart on shapes and growth habits of roses.)
Take a look at your list of roses. Mark down the type of rose it is and then think about the shape it will hold when fully grown. If you like cut out squares of paper to represent the shapes. Or you can draw out the shapes on paper. What are we looking for? Simple. Balance.
By balance I mean a tall rose in the garden should be balanced by a tall rose at the opposite end of the garden. Just like our teeter totter needs to balanced by “heavier” shapes at opposite ends. Think of it this way. Imagine a bed of seven Floribundas with two Hybrid Teas thrown in. Picture the nine roses in your mind. Got it? Now move the Hybrid Teas to one end of the bed. Looks odd doesn’t it? That’s because the bed is out of balance. It’s “heavier” on one side so visually it “tilts” to that direction. Now move one of the Hybrid Teas to the other side of the bed. Better, huh? Now do one more thing. Move the Hybrid Teas in two roses from the end. In other words you’ll have from left to right two Floribundas, a Hybrid Tea, five Floribundas, a Hybrid Tea and two more Floribundas. A little more interesting isn’t it? The reason is because now you’ve got some different heights working throughout the “skyline” of the rose garden. If you like take out the middle Floribunda and put in a Hybrid Tea to give you even more up and down movement. As long as you balance the rose’s shapes of mass on either side of the center rose you can’t go wrong.
But let’s go a little further. Imagine five roses. One Floribunda, three Hybrid Teas and an Old Garden Rose that grows in the sprawling shape. The three Hybrid Teas are easy since they are the same shape. But what about the Floribunda and the Old Garden Rose? They aren’t the same rose type so how do we balance them. Easy, they can balance themselves. The Floribunda is a short squarish shape, the Old Garden Rose is a short wide shape and while they are not the exact same shape in terms of balance it’ll work because both are shorter than the Hybrid Teas. So the first lesson is to think of the roses in terms of shapes, line them up and then move the shapes around until they balance.
The next thing we get into is foliage, the leaves. Why? Because leaves that contrast sharply in texture and color aren’t going to look good together. Yet on the other side of the coin by looking closely at the color and texture of the leaves of our roses we can create some interesting looks even without blooms.
Rose leaves are all about the same shape so this isn’t much of a problem. The only real standout are the Rugosas. They tend to run towards lighter green and have a ribbed texture. But even amongst Hybrid Teas for example there are different colors of leaves from a light green to dark.
Back to the balance thing. Look at the colors of the leaves. How many are lighter green how many darker? If you have some contrast intersperse them throughout the garden but always keep in mind balancing leaf colors and textures on opposite sides of the center rose.
So far we’ve balanced our rose garden in terms of shape and leaf color/texture. The overall shapes are visually interesting with some up and down movement as well as some different widths in some of the roses to make a pleasing affect. The leaves and colors are different and are balanced from the center. Now we come to the one thing that is going to throw everything out of whack. The blooms.
Rose blooms come in some amazing shapes, sizes and colors. From the tiny little white single petal blooms of Francine Austin to the giant blooms of Double Delight there is a huge selection to choose from. But this huge selection is also a land mine waiting to go off. Again it all comes back to balance. Too many large blooms on one side of the center throws the whole thing out of balance once more. Or too many single blooms on one side versus fully double blooms on the other has the same affect. So start with the bloom size and shape of the roses you’ve selected. Keeping in mind the first two rules see if you can get some balance going or get as close as you can. Because while this step is not to be trivialized I don’t consider it to be the most important consideration so just get as close as you can.
After this step we move on to the last one. Color. Again roses come in many colors which is wonderful but watch out some of the colors are bright. I’ve seen ranges of pink going from soft to a neon that would make the residents of Hollywood Blvd. blush.
Start by thinking about which colors are going to stand out. Reds, oranges and yellows are always a good place to start. These are the three colors that seem to jump right out of the garden at you. From there move to the bright neony shades of certain colors. These will also jump out of the garden. After that we’re usually into the shades of pink and white and these blend quite well.
Keeping in mind the rule of balancing everything place the stand out colors on opposite ends of the “teeter totter”. Then think about how the colors will look next to each other and make sure nothing is going to wildly clash. If you find this to be a problem think about putting a white rose between the two clashing ones. White is the great equalizer in the garden and is the color used to separate two colors that don’t quite go well together.
But what about if you have a lot of colors? Okay then, this brings us to another rule of thumb when it comes to color.
The other rule of color to watch out for is to make sure you don’t swing wildly across the color wheel as you move from bush to bush. This makes the garden look to busy. Here’s a little trick. Say you have two yellows and two oranges. The first inclination is to separate them putting one orange and one yellow on one side and the other orange and yellow on the other. This can look to busy. Think about putting the oranges together on one side and the yellows together on the other. In other words if a garden of many colors is your choice then group the colors to keep it harmonious. Yellow and Orange are both hot colors and groups of each placed on opposite sides of the center works quite well. The only hard color to balance is red since it is so dark. But sometimes if you have a deep pink or even a mauve rose you can use it balance the red and while I do encourage you to buy the roses you want think about getting reds in pairs. But if this doesn’t work for you fear not there is one more recourse.
The final rule of color is simple. If you can’t balance it with anything put it in the middle of the bed and make it the center rose. Chances are you really like the odd rose out and won’t mind making it the star of the garden.
That about does it for planning the garden. Remember the order of considerations. Shape, foliage, bloom type and color. Follow this step and keep in mind the rule of balance and you should end up with a garden you can be proud of.
Novice Corner #9
April is here and from the looks of things the blooms are coming in abundance this year. Unlike last year when the gloomy skies nipped everything in the bud (sorry about the pun) this springs sunny skies and warm weather looks to give us a banner year. But what happens when those blooms start to fade and the petals drop off. What do we do with what’s left? How do we ensure the blooms continue? This is what deadheading is all about.
The spent blooms need to be removed or else they will form what is known as hips. Hips are nothing more than those red “berries” you see on your neighbors roses because their gardener who promised to take care of the roses isn’t. Rose hips, besides being a great source for tea, are the rose’s seed pods. Inside those hips are seeds, which if you plant will grow into a rose bush. Not necessarily the same rose bush as the plant they came from but with some work they will grow.
If a rose is allowed to “set” hips it will cease to flower. Any plants drive is to reproduce and flowering is part of that. The rose flowers, sets hips, the hips break open and the seed is sown. The rose is done and it slows down the flowering for a while. I’ve even seen a few smoke a cigarette. By cutting off the hips, deadheading, we fool the rose into thinking its job isn’t done thereby causing it to set more flowers. But how we deadhead is important to the health of the plant.
The rules for deadheading are simple. There are three. First make your cut above a five leaflet leaf group. Second cut only above an outward facing bud eye. Third make sure you cut where the stem is at least pencil thick. A little more about the first two.
A five leaflet leaf group is nothing more than a set of leaves with five leaves on it. If you look closely some will only have three. Generally the bud eye behind this leaflet group will not produce a flower.
But what is, and how do you find an outward facing bud eye? Simple. A bud eye is a slight bump on the cane where the next stem will come from. An easier way to find it while deadheading is to simply remember this. Every place a leaf group joins the stem is a bud eye.
An outward facing bud eye is a bud eye facing away from the center of the overall plant. The leaflet group is another good guide to finding one. Look for a leaflet group pointing away from the center of the plant. In other words the tip of the last leaf is pointing out and away from the plant. This an outward facing bud eye. We cut above these to make sure the rose doesn’t grow back in on itself.
Make your cut about 1/4” above the bud eye at a 45 degree angle. The “low” side of the angle should be on the side opposite of bud eye. This will cause the sap to run down the “back” of the cane so it will not cover the bud eye.
The next question that arises is how far down the cane does one cut? This depends on the type of rose but there are some good general guidelines. For Hybrid Teas go down to at least the second or third five leaflet leaf group. There the cane is usually pencil thick and will be able to support the next bloom. This is not to say you can’t go further. In fact if you like long stems feel free to cut two foot stems. Just remember to make the cut above an outward facing bud eye. Two words of warning on cutting long stems. First off do not do this on a new rose bush. To do so merely makes it difficult for the rose to grow to maturity and you chance stunting the bush. Best to wait until the rose is at least a year old even though this can be moved up a little for roses that are especially vigorous. Lynn Anderson comes to mind. Secondly be aware that the longer the stem you cut the longer it is going to take for a new bloom to develop on that cane. About five days longer for every leaflet group you go down. This is not a problem in terms of the health of the rose but I wanted to mention it in case you cut a bunch of three foot stems and then wonder why it’s taking so long for the rose to re-bloom.
Floribundas I like to deadhead at the first appropriate five leaflet group below the start of the “bloom spray”. A bloom spray is nothing more than several blooms that “spray” off into a group from end of one stem. If you follow a bloom spray down from the blooms you will find the spot where they all come together to become one cane. This is the start of the bloom spray. Cutting just below this ensures your next bloom spray will have strong enough canes to support the blooms.
Minis I deadhead just below the bloom unless I’m trying to shape the bush or make it shorter. These little roses tend to be very forgiving and in this way are always a pleasure to work with.
Climbers deadhead just behind the bloom. Don’t worry much about outward facing bud eyes as on a climber this doesn’t really matter. I will advise that if the laterals (the side shoots coming off the main cane) start to get long go ahead and cut them back to about eight to twelve inches. This tends to encourage re-bloom. The exception is if you purposely want the rose to take on a more cascading effect. I do this with my Noisette climbers as I like the way it looks. I might get a few less blooms but I can get the landscaping effect I like.
On English and Old Garden try not to take long stems. The Hybrid Perpetuals and Teas are the exceptions to this rule. The former you can take long stems and the latter bloom in sprays so feel free to deadhead like a Floribunda. As to the really large Old Garden and English Roses that sprawl all over the place here is what I advise. Let the bush go through it’s bloom cycle snipping off the dead blossoms just behind the bloom. (A little further down if you want to cut them for the house). After the bush is bloomed out cut all the laterals back to about eight to twelve inches. I’ve noticed this tends to encourage the rose to give you another large re-bloom instead of just a few blooms here and there. There are exceptions to every rule and so much of the way one handles English and Old Garden Roses depends on the particular rose. Because of this feel free to experiment but I find the above rules are a good place to start.
Deadheading is not a difficult thing and if done in the right frame of mind it’s a pleasurable to spend an evening after a long day. I like to go out into the garden with my clippers and a small bucket and visit each rose. As I leisurely deadhead I can observe the bush for impressions on its general health. After about 30 minutes I’m relaxed and out of work mode.
That’s it on deadheading. Just remember these three rules and you will ensure you rose bushes have roses all year long.
Novice Corner #10
The Dirt on Dirt – Preparing the Soil
This may seem like an odd article to be writing as we move into the bareroot season. After all, with all the new roses coming out shouldn’t we be talking about bloom size, disease resistance, fragrance, color. Why an article on dirt? The reason is simple. Unless you prepare the soil properly no new rose bush is going to grow into a beauty. So I’m going to leave the others to sing the glories of this variety or that. Instead I’ll take up the issue of getting that rose planted in the right soil. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it. (Sorry, couldn’t resist)
Gardening experts say it’s okay to make mistakes when you garden because this is how you learn. For the most part I agree. If a plant doesn’t look good where you put it, “Don’t worry about it. You can always move it.” If you mis-prune something, “Relax, it’ll grow back.” If you have two colors next to each other that clash worse than a rack of used leisure suits, “take one of the plants out and replace it with something else.” No matter what the problem the sentiment is always the same. Gardening is a very forgiving hobby in that it allows us to make mistakes and since plants individually are not that expensive changing those mistakes will not break the checking account.
Not so with soil. You get one chance at correctly preparing the soil in your garden and you better get it right. I’m going to repeat that. You get one chance and if you don’t get it right now you will spend the rest of your gardening season cursing plants that don’t grow, water that doesn’t soak in deep and shovels that won’t penetrate the concrete in your garden bed that is trying to pass off as soil. Your only solution to this problem is to take the plants out of the bed and start all over again and that is expensive. All gardening starts with good soil; it’s that simple. If your soil is poor your garden will be the same. But if you take the time to prepare the soil properly ahhhh; now we find out why so many people love this hobby.
Imagine a garden in which you can plant a bareroot rose with a hand trowel. A garden where the water just soaks right in instead of running down the sidewalk. A garden where every plant you put in the ground visibly starts to grow the minute you tuck the dirt around its roots. A garden where the roots grow deep, the earthworms big and the necessary microorganisms in abundance. This is not some Martha Stewart fantasy, this can be a reality if you take the time to properly prepare the soil. And this is what this article is really about. Whether you are preparing an entire bed, moving some roses or merely getting a few spots ready for some new bareroot roses we are going teach you the dirt on dirt.
We are going to be working with a combination of two basic amendments. The first is what I like to call the “forest” amendment the second is what I like to call the “horse egg” amendment. The first choice for a forest amendment is Bandini Soil Builder. It’s basically redwood shavings and it is also marketed by other companies under different names. But just remember to look for redwood shavings. I like this product for roses and every rose I plant gets redwood shavings. It holds in moisture, has enough bulk to keep the soil loose and is slightly on the acidic side; a big plus in our more alkaline soil.
An alternative “forest amendment” that a lot of people (Tommy and Luis included) use is Spagham Peat Moss. It’s of a finer “grain” than soil builder but it really holds in the moisture. I like putting in some when I plant in pots. I still prefer the redwood shavings for roses in the ground but this is a personal choice based more on feel than on evidence.
The “horse egg” amendments are nitrohumus or steer manure. (Or if you can get it aged horse eggs.) Nitrohumus is sterilized sewage sludge and is a great product, but as for the latter a lot of folks say not to use steer manure when planting roses. I’m not so sure. Again, I like the consistency of it and it really brings on the earthworms. The rap against it is the higher salt content. This is why it should never be used as a top mulch by the way. It does have a higher salt content but if you are practicing the deep watering we always harp about this becomes a non issue very quickly. Call it another gut feeling but after planting a lot of roses I still use steer manure and redwood shavings to build a rose a happy home. But which ever combination you use remember the recipe is redwood shavings or spagham peat moss combined with Nitrohumus or steer manure.
If you are merely planting a rose in a new hole your job is simple. Dig a hole 2’ wide and 2’ deep. Keep 1/3 of the top soil. I say top soil because this is the best stuff. Most anything beneath that has very little nutrients so just get rid of it. Don’t ask me where but all I’ll say is don’t get caught.
To the kept top soil add 1/3 “forest” and 1/3 “horse egg” amendments. Mix well. Toss about 2” of the mix in the bottom of the hole. To this add a cup of bone meal and as an option a handful of gypsum (a must if you have clay soil). Blend this together and then add the rest of the mix on top of it. The reason for keeping the bone meal and the gypsum in the bottom of the hole is this is where it is most affective. Now relax and when the bareroot roses come in you can smirk with knowledge your hole is ready.
If the hole is to go where a rose has just come out you need to do things a little differently. When you pull a rose out of the ground it leaves lots of roots behind. These roots ferment and can harm the new rose you plant. What you need to do is discard all the soil you dig out of the hole and to the above mix substitute 1/3 potting soil for the top soil. Don’t bother to buy expensive potting soils because you are adding amendments to it anyway. I like Bandini Potting soil for the consistency and because it seems to hold moisture better than most.
That about covers preparing the soil to plant a rose in hole. I’m going to move on to preparing a new bed but before I do a quick word. Don’t make the mistake of only preparing individual holes in a new bed. While you might save a little money in the end it won’t be worth it. All that bad soil around the holes is going to somehow find its way to the roots of the rose. If you take the time to properly prepare an entire bed even if you are only going to plant roses three feet apart you will be rewarded with years of beautiful blooms and bushes.
Preparing a new bed for planting be it roses, vegetables, perennials or any combination of them is a unique chance to really get your garden off to a roaring start. It will also pay off in the years to come as the soil continues to be alive with the mere applications of the yearly mulch in the spring. I’ve seen beds planted both ways and I know I will never try and shortcut preparing a new garden bed.
So, where do we start? The main thing you need to add to any soil is organic material. Lots and lots of it. Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have huge yards with compost bins so this means buying it. If you have a small bed you can run down to the local nursery, buy the stuff in bags and it won’t set you back too much. But what do you do with a large bed? Simple, buy the compost in bulk.
The first place that comes to mind is of course the Los Angeles Equestrian center. You can either bring a pickup or do what I do rent an open 4’x8’ trailer from U-haul. The Equestrian center fills it with a front end loader and it holds a lot. About three yards. A yard being the standard measurement for bulk compost. One yard is equal to 27 cubic feet. Figure that Nitrohumus comes in 2 cubic foot bags at around $6 a bag and you can see where the savings come in. The trailer costs me about $20, the manure/mulch $15 so for $35 I’m getting about almost $275 worth of compost. Call the Equestrian Center business office for information.
If you don’t have a truck fear not. There is a place in the valley I like called PLC Organics (818) 768-6722 that will deliver. They have several different products which they will combine for you. I like the redwood shavings/manure combined with the mushroom compost. I tell them to mix together half of each. This runs for about $20 per yard plus delivery charge but if you order at least two yards or more you will still come out ahead.
If your area is small and you want to use bags I like to use Redwood shavings and steer manure. Keep in mind the higher salt content in steer manure but by watering the area heavily before you plant you can leach a lot of the salts out. If you are nervous about the steer manure substitute Nitrohumus. It’s just as good but it costs more.
How much you will need is not hard to figure out. You want will to cover the bed to the depth of at least two inches. I come to this by figuring you are going to down about a shovel’s length or the depth of a rototiller and this should give you a ratio of roughly 1 part compost to 2 parts native soil. You need 18 cubic feet to cover an area 100 square feet two inches deep. Measure your bed, figure the square feet and you’re own your own for the rest of the math. Just order a little extra as it doesn’t hurt to go a little deeper than two inches and you will want to have some on hand for planting.
Spread the compost out on top of the bed and then using a shovel or a rototiller mix it in well. A rototiller will automatically mix it in but with a shovel you will have to go back over it a couple of times to get it thoroughly mixed. Again, don’t take shortcuts as you are only going to get one crack at this.
Before you start the mixing I’m going to advise you add gypsum and bone meal as per the directions on the package. It takes no time to spread it and these are two products that are best placed right into the soil.
You will notice that the level of the bed is higher than when you started. Don’t worry too much about this as it will settle over a short time. If you aren’t going to plant right away water it a couple of times a week to really get everything cooking.
There is not the need to be as fussy with preparing the hole in a newly prepared bed but I’m going to ask you to do more than dig a hole and drop the rose in. Go ahead and dig a hole 2’ deep but you can cut the width down by about half a foot. You will notice that the bottom foot of the hole contains dirt that is not nearly as nice as the top half you mixed. You don’t want to put this back into the hole with the rose but instead add some to the good soil from the top half. About half as much as there is good top soil from the top half. To this add enough compost to be able to fill the hole and you’re ready to go. Also go ahead and toss a small handful of bone meal in the bottom of the hole when you plant. If you have clay soil a little gypsum is also a good idea.
That’s it for preparing the soil for planting roses. I know this may not sound like one of the glamorous jobs in the garden (and it’s not) but if you do it right you’ll be happy you took the time.
Novice Corner #11
Roses with an Accent. The English Roses
English Roses and David Austin are two names that are interchangeable for most rosarians. Back in the late fifties David Austin had an idea to cross Old Garden with Modern roses in the hope of hybridizing a rose with an Old Garden style bloom but with the constant blooming ability of the Modern Rose. While many Old Garden Roses bloom throughout the season most are not in bloom all the time. Rather, they bloom in cycles which is known as repeat blooming. That is they have a bloom flush, go dormant for a little while and then bloom again. But now with the English Roses we a class of roses with an Old Garden style bloom that for the most part bloom constantly. And while other hybridizers have introduced “English Style” roses it is David Austin whose name remains synonymous with this group. During this article we will explore many of the different English Roses, discussing their growth habit, fragrance and use in a rose garden.
As a quick side note most of these varieties will be available via mail order from Arena Rose Company or locally from Limberlost Roses or Hortus Nursery.
In order to coexist happily with English Roses you have to know how each individual one will grow. I say this because unlike most classes of roses this is one group that when it comes to size and the way you work with them, runs the gambit. From the 3’ Fair Bianca to the 15’ Graham Thomas these are roses that don’t like to be stereotyped.
I feel the key to as to why they grow to all different sizes lies in the parentage of these roses. Unlike most classes of roses where a new rose is achieved by breeding within the same class or by breeding the same two different classes together, English Roses can have any class of rose in their lineage. For example Emanuel claims the Floribunda Iceberg as a parent while The Prioress claims the Bourbon Reine Victoria as one of its parents. Emanuel stays small owing perhaps to the growth habit of Iceberg while The Prioress gets big owing perhaps to La Reine Victoria’s eventual large size. I won’t suggest you familiarize yourself with the parents of each and every English Rose you grow but it’s nice to know why they grow the way they do.
While the sizes may be different the English Rose bloom is of a very definite type. Mostly all are in the style of Old Garden Roses. Cupped or rosesette shaped with a lot of petals and many even display the quartering so often seen in the old roses. A few are semi double and a very few are even single but even they somehow retain an old garden feel.
In terms of color they range from white to pink to red to apricot to yellow but don’t let the latter colors turn you off. If the modern rose version of yellow/apricot sends you screaming for the Ray Bans don’t be concerned about them in English Roses. Even the warm tones blend well in most any border.
The other characteristic they possess is fragrance. While not every fragrance is available to everyone’s nose the range of a delicate tea scent to the rich fragrance of the Damask roses to the unique scent of myrrh is enough to make sure everyone’s proboscis will be pleased.
English Roses are best grown as shrubs, short climbers or in pots with other perennials and annuals. David Austin created them with the idea they would be used in the landscape; freely mixing with their horticultural cousins. How each individual is best used is best determined by size so I’ve included some guidelines for the proportions these roses will grow to in Southern California. For those of you in other parts of the country please ask someone who grows English Roses in your area. They behave far differently here there elsewhere in the country.
Care of English Roses is simple. The good ones are rugged and they don’t need much. They do like to be fed so keep the fertilizer coming during the growing season. As to pruning, the smaller ones can be cut back hard and the larger ones should be pruned like the bigger Old Garden Roses. Leave the main canes and cut back the laterals. As I say this I must confess I have an experiment going with my Gertrude Jeckyll You remember, the one that wouldn’t bloom. Thinking I was going to move it I cut it back to about 1 1/2’ recently from its height of 9’. Then I got busy and forgot about it. When I looked at it again 3 weeks later it was covered in buds and is now in full bloom. The flowers are smaller than normal but this might be due to the heat. What I plan to do is let it bloom out this cycle and then cut it back again. I’ll let you know what happens.
The other thing you’ll need to grow the larger English Roses is patience. Abraham Darby, Othello, Heritage and the others don’t come into their own until their second or third year. They will spend the first few years growing and getting established blooming mostly in the spring and sparsely throughout the rest of the season. But when they settle in stand back, it’s showtime!
The following list are some recommended English Roses for our climate. Some of you will notice some English Roses missing from the list. Mary Rose is probably a standout (boring). I’m using roses I’ve worked with because I know how they do here in our climate. If I’ve missed a favorite of yours I apologize but contact me at one of the meetings. Maybe I can make it rose of the month. I’ve also kept the list to the ones available from the above mentioned nurseries. What’s the point in recommending a rose that is hard to find? So with a final tip of the cap and a reference source thank you to Clair Martin for his wonderful book “English Roses for Southern California” here we go.
Abraham Darby. One of the most popular English Roses and with darn good reason. Large cupped blooms of a pink/peach with apricot that when taken care of get the size of small dinner plates. This coupled with a strong fragrance makes this a great English Rose to start with. The size is large reaching 6’ as a shrub or 8’ as a climber.
Ambridge Rose. This is a little favorite of mine. Right at home at the front of the border or in a small pot. A warm apricot with soft pink edges that blooms it’s little heart out. In the landscape it’s best planted close together in groups of at least three. 3’
Brother Cadfael. A sleeper that is not easy to find. Big and I mean big fragrant salmon pink blooms on a handsome shrub that is nearly thornless. Pam saw this at the Huntington and to this day it’s the only rose she has told me I had to buy. Need I say more? 7’ and sprawling.
Bow Bells. This is one of the ones that everyone wants but alas is difficult to grow. I find it to be not very vigorous and a bit susceptible to mildew but armed with this knowledge in advance Bow Bells can be grown successfully. If you can start it or keep it in a pot. Keep feeding it and place it in an area that gets the early sun and good air circulation and you will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful cupped soft pink blooms you’ve ever seen. 4’ with time.
Bredon. This is a sleeper that I’ve used a couple of times. It doesn’t disappoint. The blooms are heavily petaled and flat on a plant that prefers our dry climate. This is good rose for that mid border spot that could use a spot of white to tie in everything around it. Upright growing to about 4’
Cardinal Hume. Not a David Austin Rose but an English Rose all the same. This is a WIDE growing rose that produces sprays of deep red-purple flowers with white veining that don’t seem to mind the heat, on a low spreading bush. I’ve got one going about 8’ in either direction. Also a great small climber or think about using it as groundcover on a hill side.
Cottage Rose. Another little rose for the front of the border or a pot. Medium sized, cupped soft pink blooms on a great little bush. 4’.
Country Living. Deeply cupped pink flowers that fade to white on small bush make this another great candidate for a pot. 3’.
Ellen. Another in color range of apricot/orange this is a wonderful little rose that I like a lot. It stays under 4’ making it growable in most any garden.
Emanuel. A great rose for mid border. Fully quartered blooms of soft apricot-pink that blends well with other plants. Upright to about 6’
English Garden. Here is a great little yellow/apricot to peach colored rose. It blooms its head off constantly throwing off wonderful rosette shaped heavily petaled blooms. 3’ and is great for a pot.
Evelyn. Named for Crabtree and Evelyn, I’m not sure what came first the rose or the fragrance but rest assured this one is very fragrant. A very sought after rose so order early. The blooms are the Austin apricot/peach color on an upright growing 7’ plant. I wasn’t sure about this when it came out but it is rapidly becoming a favorite. I might even get one for myself if I can decide what will come out of my garden to make room.
Fair Bianca. Right up there with English Garden even though some folks don’t like it. Flat, heavily petaled white blooms it could be considered a smaller Bredon. Great in a pot or groups of three. 3’. I like this rose.
Gertrude Jeckyll. My nemesis rose and one of my favorites. This is a rose I can’t imagine being without but considering her parent Comte de Chambord is also one of my favorites it’s easy to see why. This is a big shrub or a small climber so give it room. I notice Clair Martin also says you can prune it hard after each bloom cycle so maybe this is the way to keep this treasure in check. Though I still want to check the size of the blooms when the weather cools off. Very fragrant with long arching canes to 10’.
Golden Celebration. Some of you will notice the absence of Graham Thomas from this article. It’s not because I don’t like it (I own one) it’s because Golden Celebration looks just like it but the bush behaves itself in our climate. Unlike the 15’ Graham Thomas this one has the same butter yellow, cupped, fragrant blooms on a 5’ plant. The blooms of this and Graham Thomas draw a lot of folks to this class of rose.
Heritage. Cupped, fragrant white flowers blushed with pink on a large shrub. It tends towards mildew but if you keep on the alert this is not a problem. Like other large English Roses give it two years to come into it’s own. This is a wonderful rose and one you should grow if you have the room. A spreading 6’
L.D. Braithwaite. Probably the best English red rose that is a true red and not a purple red. The bush behaves itself and it tucks neatly into most any space. 5’
Lillian Austin. Another low wide grower with cupped, slightly open flowers with an eye catching pink/lemon/orange color that is not garish. Even at Limberlost Roses surrounded by 3000 other roses this one stands out. A good rose to plant where you need a shot of color. 3’x5’
Othello. One of best known Austins. Blooms that are crimson purple in cooler temperatures (or with shade from the hot afternoon sun) and reddish pink in hot sun. This one can get some mildew; make sure you plant it where it gets good morning sun so it can dry off early. 6’ as a shrub, 8’ as a climber. While it is a good purple/red read what I say about The Squire below.
Perdita. Pale pink to almost white in some gardens, this is a wonderful medium sized rose for the border or a pot. One client of mine still says this is her favorite. She says it cuts well. 3’
Pretty Jessica. One of the best small English Roses around. At home at the front of the border or in a pot the deep pink, cupped, fragrant flowers just keep coming. I use this one a lot. 3’
Queen Nefertiti. Another sleeper in the English Rose group and one that should be grown more. The large blooms vary in color from yellow to apricot yet they blend well with other perennials. Also at home in a pot. 3’
St. Cecilia. An upright shrub with large, cupped, deep pink, fragrant flowers. If you keep the twiggy growth out of the center this is a shrub that keeps an airy feel to it and looks great towards the back of a border arching over the other plants. 7’
Symphony. This is a new one and if you are looking for a pale yellow get it! I have three in a client’s yard and they are never out of bloom and the foliage is wonderful. Similar in color to The Pilgrim but not as tall. 4-5’
Tamora. Another rose I use a lot and one I can’t recommend enough. At home in a pot or in the border (plant close together in groups of three). The flowers are apricot and deeply cupped and bear the strong myrrh fragrance found so often in David Austin’s roses. Once the dust settles on this English Rose thing you can bet Tamora will still be there. 3’. Order early!
The Dark Lady. If you have the right spot this is one worth growing. Deep purple crimson flowers on a small bush. However like mad dogs and Englishmen keep this one out of the midday sun. Morning exposure is best and since it does well in a pot accommodating it shouldn’t be hard. If you like dark colors this is must. 3’
The Pilgrim. This is a big rose that possesses the wonderful pale yellow color David Austin is able to get. The blooms are rosette shaped and fade to white without looking dirty. Plant at the back of the border and allow the canes to arch up and over plants around it or use it as a climber in our warmer climate. 8-10’
The Squire. In my opinion a better deep crimson/red than Othello. Up to now not easy to find but now that it is it’s worth getting. Large blooms that are fragrant on an upright growing bush. 5’
That’s my list. Again I realize it’s not complete but these are the ones that stand out in my mind for one reason or another. Either way I hope it helps clear up some of the questions surrounding this relatively new group of roses. I also hope in encourages you to try some in your own garden. You won’t be disappointed.
Novice Corner #12
Rethinking the Hybrid Tea
It’s been an interesting summer. I spent some time at the farm and am happy to report the Noisettes are still in full bloom despite on onslaught of Japanese Beetles. This was my first encounter with the little guys so I tried a quick shot of Orthene and it seemed to help for a while. Alas I hear they have returned but the Roses are braving it well. Once again those Old Garden Roses show their ruggedness.
Then it was up to New Hampshire to spend some time with Mike Lowe of Lowe’s Roses. Mike has one of the best Old Garden Rose collections in the country so naturally the trip was an obvious one for yours truly. I got there not long after the peak bloom so there was still plenty of flora to add to the ever-growing wish list. Mike and his better half Irene are very gracious hosts and after three days I departed with an urge to do one of two things. Acquire a bigger garden here in Los Angeles or tear up the front yard of the place we live in now. As my landlord won’t approve of the latter and I don’t feel doing the former I will be content to wait. At least for now.
The summer was capped off with a very interesting and informative trip to visit the always fascinating Ralph Moore of Sequoia Nursery and Moore’s Miniature Roses fame. Mr. Moore is the epitome of the cliché, “He has forgotten more about roses than I will ever know.” At eighty something he can still run me into the ground after a day at his nursery. I’ll be going back up to see Mr. Moore soon and will see if I can translate this unique gentleman into an article in the near future. For the purpose of this article suffice it to say Mr. Moore is not breeding Hybrid Teas so this was one more summer rose sojourn that had nothing to do with the rose in the form most people know.
Couple this with a reading of a few articles here and there pronouncing the era of the Hybrid Tea over and the era of the “landscaping” rose about to begin, I find myself stopping to ponder just what does all of this mean. Is the era of the Hybrid Tea over? Is there room in our gardens for a plant that is so monotonously predictable in it’s bloom and growth habit? And what about this fragrance thing?
The summer was merely the fuel for this article, the catalyst was an hour spent in a clients Hybrid Tea garden cutting blooms for their house. It was late in the day, I was tired, but after a bit of cutting I began to relax and find the calmness we seek when we choose to garden. After cutting a particularly lovely Olympiad with a three foot stem I turned to carry it back to where I had rested the aluminum rose buckets my client thoughtfully provides. Maybe it was the light, maybe it was because I was tired but I found myself standing still and gazing at five buckets of Hybrid Tea blooms in colors of soft white, yellow, apricot, pink and red resting upon one to three feet stems. And something occurred deep within me.
No, I’m not a born again Hybrid Teaian and the Old Garden Roses still rest easy in my back yard but I did realize that the Hybrid Tea rose is getting an onslaught of bad press (and I put myself in this group) that perhaps it doesn’t truly deserve. I think the key to all of this lies in rethinking why and where we should grow Hybrid Tea roses. First the where.
Most Hybrid Tea roses in my humble opinion do not make good landscape shrubs. Particularly the more recent ones. First of all their flowers are huge. Dinner plate size seems to the be the goal and I suspect the first hybridizer to come up with one the size of a medium sized English Bulldog’s head will instantly be given the distinguished bud union award. But in the landscape this display of excess is just that; excess. Landscaping is the art of blending plant foliage and flowers into harmony. This is difficult when of the participants insists on wearing a neon orange bass drum.
Which leads me to my second reason why so many don’t make good landscaping shrubs. Color. Every try to subtly place a Rio Samba into a border? Enough said.
Plenty has been written about the hybrid tea being an ugly plant, a rap I’m not quite sure is totally fair. I’ve seen hybrid teas that are covered with foliage from top to bottom. This takes some work and care but then again so do a lot of other plants. So, should we banish them to some obscure corner of rose history? Well no, I think there is a use for them in the landscape.
Where softer colored, reasonably sized Hybrid Tea can shine in the landscape is towards the back of the border to lend color or mid border to lend color and structure. Hybrid Teas grow rigidly upright and carry their blooms on top of the canes. As I mentioned earlier this gives you a very predictable plant in growth habit and in the location of at what height the flowers will be carried. And it is this predictability that potentially make some Hybrid Teas very useful landscape shrubs. Anyone who has grown various different types species geraniums will know I’m talking about.
The practical application is simple. Say you have a spot in the border in the four to seven foot range that needs a splash of color. First decide what color you want since as Hybrid Teas come in all shades we have this luxury. Then decide the height. Also easy because hybrid teas will bloom at almost whatever height you groom them to. If you want something in the five foot range just keep note of what the average stem length is and make sure you deadhead about that far below your desired height.
If you are locating them mid border do not be afraid to plant something at their feet to disguise the bottom. And may I remind you this is a normal landscaping practice with a lot of shrubs. If you want to stay in the rose theme maybe try a miniature rose at its feet. This might be very effective if you can find a mini that resembles the larger rose. Other choices are things like species geraniums or the classic Artemesia “Powis Castle”. Very few plants can set off a rose like the soft silvery foliage of this perennial. If you are going to grow Powis Castle be sure to keep it cut back as it will take off on you. For color contrast try the salvia “Purple Majesty”. Deep purple bloom spikes on a plant that grows about three to four feet high. I find it doesn’t get thick and invasive if you deadhead the stems back almost to the ground. It will constantly throw up new wood so don’t worry about taking the clippers to it.
These are just a few ideas of ways Hybrid Teas can be used in the landscape. I’m sure there are many more and with some imagination you can come up with other choices and other companion plants and I urge you to do so. Too many old roses were lost to us when they fell out of fad and it would be a shame to allow it to happen again. Only by using all the different types of roses can we ensure they will stay with us for a long time to come.
While some Hybrid Teas can be useful in the landscape this is not the only place the plant can be utilized. This leads us to the why we might choose to grow them.
Where the Hybrid Tea shines is as a cut rose. A vase full of long stemmed Brandys is something hard to duplicate. This is the reason that even though I love the Old Garden Roses I will always be sure to grow several Hybrid Teas. I may float a Sombreuil in a bowl, or arrange a group of Bourbons in a short vase but there will always be room for Ingrid Bergmans in a tall cut glass vase.
Yet this is what creates a dilemma. If we want to use them for cutting how do we reconcile this with using them in the landscape where we are counting on the blooms to give us color in the border? Unless we have the room to plant a lot of them thereby ensuring a constant supply of cut flowers by taking one from this bush and one from another we’re stuck.
The solution lies in reviving an old idea in garden history. That of the cutting garden. This was a space in a tucked away corner of the property where flowers were grown for the purpose of cutting and bringing into the house. While this was easier on a large estate it can be done today. I know because I have one and anyone who has seen my back garden can attest space is not something I possess.
Yet I found a piece down the side of the house that gets good sun and is not visible from anywhere. This is where I’ve located my “cutting roses”. About five Hybrid Teas in all. I’ve planted them close together because after all if I am going to constantly cut them why worry about them needing a lot of space to grow into? They grow very happily there and Pam and I have the option of going out at anytime and cutting roses for the house without worrying about how it will affect the landscape.
Every garden has this kind of space if you just look around. Maybe an area by the air conditioner, or something in a corner where the garbage cans sit; look and you’ll find something. Create one by bringing a border in away from the side of the garden and planting the cutting roses on the other side where it won’t be visible from the house. You’ll lose some lawn but lawns just drink a lot of water anyway. If the only area you have is paved over fear not. Pots. Hybrid Teas grow well in containers and with today’s simple irrigation systems keeping them watered automatically is not a problem. My point is look around your own garden and find, or create, a corner you can use to grow roses for cutting. It’ll give you a chance to keep cut roses coming into the house while also allowing you to slowly begin to turn the rest of your garden into a garden grown around roses and not just a garden with roses. Just think, you’ll be on the cutting edge of the landscaping trend.
I feel the future of the Hybrid Tea lies in being integrated into this trend in “landscaping type” roses. For too long it’s been thought roses can only be grown in a separate area. Yet as gardening rises in popularity and as these new gardeners continue to integrate wide varieties of plants into their borders there will be less and less room for a plant that is perceived as not being able to intermingle with it’s botanical neighbors. If we with to ensure the continued development of this popular and lovely class of rose we rosarians must point out that this myth of the Hybrid Tea having to remain in a separate bed is just that; a myth.
As to this fragrance thing keep your fingers crossed.
Novice Corner #13
Return of the Killer Mildew
It’s time for round two of powdery mildew. I’m starting to notice it on a lot of roses so be on the lookout. If you are not familiar with powdery mildew it shows up as a white, almost powdery coating on the leaves. It tends to attack the younger leaves first and move on from there. The treatments for it are simple.
The first line of defense against powdery mildew are healthy rose bushes. Keep them feed and deep watered. I also like to wash my roses early in the morning with the hose. This can wash off powdery mildew spores before they have a chance to adhere to the leaf.
The ways to treat mildew are twofold. Preventative and erradicant. A Preventative is a product like Funginex. You apply as per directions BEFORE powdery mildew strikes. Funginex coats the leaf thereby making it harder for the spores to grab hold. Another preventative is the baking soda formula Tommy came up with. 1/2 tbs. baking soda, 1 tbs. Canola Oil, 1 tbs. White Vinegar, 1 tbs. Safer’s Insecticidal Soap. Mix well in your sprayer and shake often while you spray. Use this either very early in the morning or late in the afternoon after the sun has gone down as it can cause leaf burn.
Once it shows up it’s time for the eradicants. The above mentioned Baking Soda formula is the first line of defense and since it’s organic it’s safe to apply. If it persists and you want to move on to harder chemicals there are two products I’m having success with. Rally and Bayleton. Bayleton is available at Mordigans and Rally is available only from Orange County Farm Supply. Rally and Bayleton are applied in the strength of 1 teaspoon per gallon. I like to mix Funginex with it at the rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon. The Funginex acts as a spreader sticker as well as giving us a preventive line of defense.
If you use Rally or Bayleton please consider buying a good respirator and a pair of goggles. I have a little respirator I bought at Orange County Farm Supply for about $30. It fits over my nose and mouth and is very comfortable. Be real careful when handling Rally as it’s baby powder like consistency tends to make it fly everywhere when touched. I don gloves, mask and respirator before I even open the jar I keep it in.
That’s it for the mildew. Keep an eye out and nip it in the leaf before it gets out of hand and you shouldn’t have any major problems.
Novice Corner #14
Spider Mites have arrived. I know because I’ve seen them in several gardens including my own. What do we do about them? There are several options depending on how bad the infestation is.
Spider Mites are not easily spotted but the symptoms are. Yellowing leaves at the base of the plant that start with a mottled look then turn brown and drop off could be a sign your infestation is well under way. To spot them before then turn a leaf over and look for tiny white dots or very small webs. Use a magnifying glass if you have to. If you spot see any of the above it’s time to take action before they get out of hand.
The first response is to blow them off with a good stiff spray of water. Work from the bottom of the plant up spraying the underside of the leaves as this is where Mites dwell.
If this is not working use Insecticidal Soap. It’s a good product and very easy and safe to handle. The various kinds of soaps can be found at any nursery including Mordigans and Sego. Agan spray the under side of the leaves.
Your last resort is the most affective but also needs the most care in application. The product is Avid and it’s available from Orange County Farm Supply. The proper mixture is 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water. You’ll need something to help it stick to the leaves and I’m going to recommend Funginex at 1 tablespoon per gallon of water. This will get rid of the Spider Mites and help keep the fungus down.
The key to treating Spider Mites is to know you need to spray once and then again five days later. The first application kills the mature Spider Mites and the second their offspring. Without this second application the problem will persist.
That’s it. If you have any questions be sure to catch me at the next meeting.
Novice Corner #15
SON OF K.I.S.S.
It’s March. The daffodils are up, tulips are blooming, perennials are leafing out again and the roses are budding. What does this mean? It’s time once again to K.I.S.S. the roses. And this year after two years of exhaustive field trials resulting in modifications arrived at under the most stringent testing conditions I am proud to unveil for the first time anywhere, SON OF K.I.S.S.
What does K.I.S.S. stand for? “Keep It Simple Stupid”. (There are some people who think it stands for “Keep It Simple Sweetie” but I believe they are merely folks who are uncomfortable being around a different rose style.) The idea of this rose program is to give the novice grower a way to grow roses that give you beautiful blooms and bushes without taking up all your time. The first year of rose growing is overwhelming enough without feeling like you are ignoring your roses while indulging in things like say, sleep. I’m not saying this is the best way to grow roses. In fact I hope that as you get more comfortable you begin to incorporate some of the other methods of feeding and care that you will read about here in the Rose Reporter. But if you do nothing else than follow this program you will end up with roses that are the envy of the neighborhood.
Let’s begin with fertilizing.. Of all the things I came up against when I first started growing roses this is the one that confused me the most. I’d overhear discussions of all kinds of secret concoctions and would fly home to my roses certain they were dying of starvation as I descended further and further into an ignorant void of how to feed them. Every little discoloration on a leaf served to convince me more and more I was guilty of rose abuse. Not so. Feeding is not the monster it’s made out to be so here we go.
First of all grab a pencil and paper. You’re going to make a shopping list. Ready? Osmocote (18-6-12), Epson Salts, Bandini Soil Builder and Nitrohumus. That’s it. You’re done. All of these products with the exception of Epson Salts are available from your local nursery. If you have a lot of roses I advise getting the Osmocote and Epson Salts in bulk through the rose society. If not get them from the nursery and Epson Salts from a cheap drugstore. Just be prepared for strange looks.
As to how much you need this is a simple guide. Osmocote and Epson Salts come by the pound. A pound yields about three average handfuls. At the rate of one handful per rose (a lighter hand for minis) figure about three roses per pound. Nitrohumus come in bags measured by the cubic foot. Figure about 1/2 cubic foot (to the depth of 1”) per rose. Spread it around the rose but keep it about 3” away from the base.
The Soil Builder comes the same way but you will spread it differently from the Nitrohumus. If your roses are in beds by themselves spread Soil Builder to the depth of 1” all over the bed. Each cubic foot covers 12 square feet to the depth of 1”. Figure out the square footage of your bed, divide by 12 and that’s how many cubic feet of Soil Builder you will need. If you grow roses among other plants I’m still going to advise you spread it around the entire bed. Mulch is good for everything, not just roses. It is important that you spread the Nitrohumus first and the Soil Builder on top of it. The reserve will leach nitrogen from the soil.
If you like you can leave now, not read another word and your roses will never know the difference. But, if you like, some more details. But remember, you don’t have to know how these items work in order for them to work.
Osmocote is a time release fertilizer lasting about three months. The numbers after it refer to the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the specific fertilizer. Osmocote makes several different kinds but for roses in general ask for 18-6-12. One note though. Osmocote is not the cheapest way to go but for the average person it’s the easiest and until you get into growing a lot of roses the cost won’t be much of an issue.
Nitrohumus is basically sterilized sewage sludge. No, it doesn’t smell but it’s a great source of nitrogen and it helps the soil. While we’re on the subject of sewage I’d like to interject a personal note about horse manure here. I use it. A lot. My roses love the stuff and I have yet to find anything like it. If you have a truck make a trip to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and get some. I use it instead of the Nitrohumus and Soil Builder.
Soil Builder is Redwood Shavings. An added benefit to mulching the entire bed with it, is it keeps the ground at a more even temperature and moisture. During the summer it will help prevent the top of the bed from drying out and becoming hard. This helps water absorption.
Epson Salts is Magnesium Sulfate. It enriches the soil and helps the rose draw nutrients from it. I akin it to like getting cable television. You’re getting the same crap but it comes in a lot clearer.
That’s the spring feeding and your roses will be happy from now till August. The only thing to watch for is if the mulch starts to look a little thin come June add a some more. What you put on in the spring wasn’t stolen it was just broken down into the soil. Adding more keeps the process going.
Come August we are going to do a supplemental fertilizing to get ready for the fall show. We use one product. Whitney Farms Organic Rose & Flower Food. This is a wonderful organic product full of all kinds of good things that will enrich both your roses and your soil. The instructions on the back are very explicit so I’m going to tell you to follow them. August 15 is a good date to target for this.
This covers it. During the year I’ll get into spraying, deadheading and other things but I like to get the feeding out of the way first. It’s the one that stupefies us the most but once you do it you can relax and enjoy a peaceful nap.
SON OF K.I.S.S. feeding program.
|Month||What to do|
About a month after pruning
|Put Bandini Rose Food around each rose as per directions on the package|
This is the big one
|A handful of Epson Salts and a handful of Osmocote 18-6-12 per rose. 1” of Nitrohumus around each rose. 1” of Bandini Soil Builder over the entire bed.
Be sure the Nitrohumus and Soil Builder don’t come into contact with the base of the plant. Remember to apply the Nitrohumus first and the Soil Builder second.
15. A supplemental feeding
|Whitney Farms Organic Rose and Flower Food as per directions on the package.|
Novice Corner #16
To Bud Or Not To Bud.
This one is going to open a can of worms. Own Root vs Budded roses is one of those subjects most rosarians have strong opinions on and they are not afraid to fling them. I’m spend a lot of time on the “Rose Forum” on Compuserve and this subject comes up at least once a year and when it does stand back. The keyboards heat up.
I’m not totally sure as to why this subject divides rosarians the way it does. After all, the vast majority of roses sold today are budded plants and the reasons behind doing so are sound. First there is the pratical reason on the part of the growers. It is much easier for them to produce the vast numbers of plants sold in this country via budding than growing them on their own roots. Budded plants can be grown outdoors in a field and harvasted as such. To grow own root plants in any kind of numbers you need greenhouses and misting systems all of which gets expensive if you sell as many roses as the big growers do. From the rosarians point of view the majority of modern roses simply perform better as budded plants. Why? Simple. A lot of modern roses are bred more for their flower than for the vigor of the plant. Because of this a lot of modern roses, if left to their own devices would be spindly little things with large flowers. The solution has been to marry the plant to another rose that is a vigorous grower therby ensuring not only large blooms but a healthy plant to grow them on. It is for these reasons among others roses are sold primarily as budded plants.
But wait, there’s another side. Think about this. If budded roses are budded onto the rootstock of a different rose and own root roses are roses grown on their own roots hence the rose below the ground is the same as the rose above the ground maybe own root is the way to go. After all it makes sense to have the rose be the same above and below the ground. One of the problems we all deal with are suckers. You know, those annoying shoots that come up from below the ground and are not the rose we paid for. With own root roses there are no suckers. The roses is the same below the ground as above so no matter what comes up it’s the rose you want. After all, you wouldn’t buy the body of a Mercedes motorcar only to put in a Chevrolet engine would you? No, you would want the whole thing to be Mercedes. Follow this logic and you start to ask why are budded roses sold at all?
See what I’m driving at here. There is no simple answer. But, being of sound mind and strong opinions here are my two cents worth. I think they might strike a middle ground we can live with.
First let’s clear up exactly what is a budded plant and exactly what is an own root plant. Budded plants are roses budded onto the rootstock of a different rose. In out part of the world usually Dr. Huey, out of Canada R. Multifloria and lately in Florida R. Fortuniana; the latter doing well in Florida’s sandy soil. But regardless of the rootstock a budded rose is different below the ground than above. Own root roses are cuttings rooted in a growing medium or sometimes right in the ground. Because of this the entire rose and root system are the same plant.
The difference is particulary noticeable at purchase time. Budded plants are the big bareroots we see at the nurseries. They usually have three canes or more and are blessed with a large, vigorous root system. Own root plants are generally only available through mail order and arrive very small usually with only two or three small canes and can be only 6-8” in height. The way to deal with own root plants after purchase differs but more on that later.
First we have to begin to find the elusive middle ground between the camps I spoke of earlier. I’m going to start with a sweeping generalization. For most modern roses go with budded plants. As I stated above most modern roses are not bred for vigorous growth so they need the help a strong root system will give them. Sure, there are exceptions (I suspect Lynn Anderson is one of them) but generally this holds true. For most Old Garden Roses and climbers get own root if you can. Why these choices? It comes back to growth habit and what you want the rose to do.
In previous articles I talk about growth habit of the rose you select and why you are growing the rose. Is the growth habit upright, does the rose climb, is it a big shrub? Are you growing it for flowers, for landscaping, to cover the ugly shed in the backyard? These are things that help me determine if I but a budded or own root rose.
For a rose in the landscape which are most of the Old Garden, Shrub and English Roses I want a big bush with plenty of foilage. To me it makes sense that the more canes I have the more foilage I am going to get hence the better the plant will look in the landscape. Still with me here? Own root roses send up lot’s of canes because no matter what comes up from the base of the plant it’s true to the rose you bought. Therefor the possibility of a thick well covered plant is greater with an own root rose. As to the question of vigor most Old Garden Roses are vigourus by nature so this becomes a moot point. The English Roses are closely allied with Old Garden Roses so they too are quite vigorous. Anyone with a Graham Thomas can attest to this. But why climbers on their own roots?
This is a real personal thing but I strongly urge you to try and get climbers on their own roots if possible. And with Ramblers there is no issue for me. It’s own root or wait. Climbers by their nature have to cover a lot of area and most of them need a lot of canes to do it. Unfortunately most budded roses will not give you a lot of canes. I’ve seen a lot of climbers barely covering a fence because there is just not enough growth from the base to give the draping affect we look for. In the end the climber looks anemic.
I have an example. I own two Sombreuils a great white climbeing tea rose. One is own root the other is budded. The budded one is on my front fence and while it ’s a nice plant it’s not covernig the fence as much as I would like. The own root Sombreuil is in my back yard climbing up the overhang that shades our little back patio. It’s a mass of buds but more so a mass of foilage and canes, with big healthy new canes coming along all the time. This is what a climbing rose should look like.
Which brings us to another problem. What if you can’t find the rose on it’s own roots. Rest assured the solution is simple. When you plant the rose plant the bud union about 3” below the ground. In about three years viola! A rose on it’s own roots. The hardier varaties will soon overwhelm the rootstock.
But the modern roses are another story. Most of us buy Hybrid Teas for their flowers. As I said above these same modern roses are not very vigorous so the rootstock is needed to bring them the nutrients they need to produce the flowers we want. This is why I suggest you buy them as budded plants and plant them with the bud union above the ground to keep them that way.
So to recap where we are so far think about why you are buying the rose. If it’s to give you flowers and it’s a modern rose buy a budded one. If it’s for the landscape get it on it’s own roots or plant it so it will go to it’s own roots.
As a last thing I mentioned I’d talk a little about dealing with small own root plants from mail order nurseries. My advice is do not put them right into the ground. They are too small to compete with the surrounding plants. Put them into a one gallon black nursery pot with good potting soil and let them get some size, both above and below the ground. In the end you will be much happier.
Does this leave us with any concrete solutions. No. As I said at the top this is an issue that has been raging for a long time and I suspect it will contine to do so. But I hope this at least gives you a general guideline as to wheather you should buy a budded rose or an own root rose.
Novice Corner #17
Planting Container Roses.
Our new members and new rose growers may be noticing that roses are no longer available bareroot and are only coming in containers. Not to worry. Container grown roses are just as healthy and just as good as bareroot. But just like bareroot how you plant them is very important.
Dig the same 2’ x 2’ hole. Keep 1/3 of the top soil and discard the rest. To this mix add equal amounts of Bandini Soil Builder and Nitrohumus. What you now have is a good mixture consisting of 1/3 soil, 1/3 Soil Builder and 1/3 Nitrohumus. Place enough mixture in the bottom of the hole so the soil level of the container rose will be 1” below the surface when it’s planted. This will help to form a natural well making it easier to water the rose. When you have enough pull the rose out and toss in a cup of bone meal. Mix this together well, slip the rose out of the container and place it in the hole. Start piling the soil mixture into the hole around the rootball tucking it down along the sides firmly with your hand. Stop when you are level with the soil level of the rose and water well. That’s all there is to it.
I know this sounds simple but I want to pass along a couple of tips on getting a rose out of a container. As most of the roses are new they have not quite yet formed a good root ball. This means you have to be careful getting the rose out or else the dirt will fall away and the rose will go into shock. First gently tap the sides of the container, then the bottom. Tip the pot upside down to a vertical position. Place your hand flat around the base of the plant to support both the plant and the surrounding dirt. Gently shake the pot until the rose begins to slide out. At this point you should be able to slide the rose out until it is resting upside in your hand. Place your free hand on the “bottom” of the rootball (now the top as the rose is upside down). Press the rootball firmly between your two hands and quickly turn it over. Then ease it into the hole.
If for some reason the rootball should break just get the rose into the hole as best you can and plant as above. Then strip off all the leaves, put a hose on slow trickle next to the rose and let it run for about half an hour. I find this helps the plant get over the shock. I’ll also water the plant about once a day for the first week. After that it should be able to make it on its own.
I hope this has helped. If you have any questions catch me at the next meeting and I’ll be happy to try and answer them.
Novice Corner #18
Just When You Though It Was Safe To Come out Of The Garden
For you new rose growers among us welcome to novice corner. This is an area you can turn to for monthly advice on rose growing for the first time rose grower. Even though roses are much more rugged than people think, to the first time grower they are made to be these fragile things that with one mishap will wither, rapidly regress back to the bareroot stage and leave your garden seeking a better life. Not so. The only thing complicated about growing roses is the overwhelming amount of advice on how to do it. That’s why I’ve dubbed this the K.I.S.S. method of growing roses. Keep It Simple Stupid.
Not that I expect you to ignore the other advice you will read in this and other magazines. On the contrary, I hope as you gain in confidence you will begin to incorporate them into your gardening. Many of the methods are quite good and they work very well. But if you are new to our horticultural hobby stay with us during the year. Each month we will cover a subject that directly relates to growing roses in Southern California.
Before I jump in a quick word on pruning. By now it’s over with and along with that should be your first time worries about if it was done correctly. whether you or your gardener pruned your roses I’d like you to not look back during the year and through your newly gained rose knowledge and obsess over mistakes that might have been made. Outside of cutting the rose flush with the ground there is no pruning mistake that cannot be fixed after a season’s worth of good healthy growth.
Reread the last statement. Notice the words “after a good season’s worth of good healthy growth”. The subliminal message in this is that we are going to spend this year getting your roses ready for next years pruning. Healthy canes, good growth and new basal breaks (new canes growing from the bottom) is what we are after. Once we’ve achieved this next years prune will be the culmination of a terrific rose season.
In the meantime there are a few things you should be doing between now and when the roses start to bloom. We won’t start feeding until March 1 but in the meantime I have some chores for you.
During the first week of February I want you to buy some Bandini Rose Food to put around each rose. About 1 cup per bush is the proper amount. Bandini Rose Food is sold by the pound and each pound yields around two cups so you do the math. The reason we recommend Bandini Rose Food is it contains sulfur which is a good preventive against fungus spores germinating in the soil. It won’t solve your fungus problems but everything helps.
If you see powdery mildew or rust on the young leaves I’m going to advise you don’t spray yet. The new foliage is still tender. Instead gently pick off the infected leaves and throw them away. If you feel you have an epidemic on your hands try Funginex at regular strength but use it only if you feel you have no other choice.
For aphids squirt them off with water. If you want to use Safer’s Soap that’s fine but again let’s not go crazy with it. For now stick to the water.
Keep an eye on your watering. This time of year with the rains, the cooler days and the sun lower in the sky it’s easy to over do it. Overwatering can stress a plant just as easy as underwatering. If you feel your rose bed is too wet cut off the irrigation timer. When you sense the roses need a drink go ahead and water either with a hose or by turning on your irrigation system manually. But don’t leave it on a clock and forget about it. What I tend to do is spot water. Since the sun is in different locations in my yard than normal I use the hose to water just the areas that are getting the sun. The shade areas I water less frequently. Or I can water that new bareroot rose I planted without overwatering the established ones.
Another thing I’d like you to pay attention to as the bud eyes begin to develop, swell and burst forth in leaf is the direction they are growing in. If an eye is growing towards the center of the bush I want you to gently break it off with your fingers. Why? Because later in the year we don’t want growth clogging up the center of the bush cutting off air circulation. This only invites disease and does not give you extra blooms. Think of keeping the bush open in the center with the canes emanating away from the center of the bush. Not unlike a candelabra.
That covers it. These are not complicated things but they are a good way to get your roses off to a great start. Like I say above rose growing does not have to be complicated. By doing a few simple things at key times you can make the rest of year a pleasure instead of a chore.
Novice Corner #19
As I sit here on Memorial Day looking out at an overcast day of temperatures around 60 degrees it’s hard to believe summer is just around the corner. El Nino has brought us a long, cool and rainy winter/spring which is great for the roses. I could have done without the rains during peak bloom a few weeks ago but no severe damage done. I suspect we are going to have another great bloom in a few weeks time as a result of the late rains and cool temperatures.
But all this wonderful weather does not mean we can sit around and ignore the summer weather that will come. You remember good old Santa Anna winds drying up the garden overnight. Days of 100 degree temperature coupled with a sooty haze. Ahh, the Southern California summer. It’s enough to make one want to flee to rainy Northwest. When it does come we need to be prepared. With that in mind here are some tips.
To begin with I like to think of summer as a good time to clean the roses up a little. A chance to remove the dead wood, the spindly growth and the sad looking leaves without having to worry if you are cutting off another soon to be flower. Roses in Southern California go semi-dormant during the summer so why not do a little serious grooming. Notice I said grooming, not pruning. This is not the time to whack things back to the ground. You’ll only get upset when the interior canes sunburn and the plant gives up the ghost. Let’s begin with grooming.
Remember how I separate roses into two types of growth habits, upright and sprawling? The former are the Hybrid Tea types that grow up and the latter are the Old Garden Rose types that send out long arching canes. Be sure to note how the rose you are going to groom grows because it is different for each type. First the upright growers.
I like to cut them back to a more even height. What height that is up to you and up to how the plant is growing. For the average Hybrid Tea this might be around 4’, Floribundas 3’, Grandifloras 6’. The short English Roses like Fair Bianca, English Garden, etc. treat like Floribundas. The upright growing Old Garden Roses treat like Grandiflorias. Keep them tall. These would be mostly Hybrid Perpetuals. Chinas and Teas only need some cleaning out of dead wood and twiggy growth. Be sure to follow the rule of outward facing bud eyes. In other words look for a bud eye facing away from the center of the plant and make your cut just above it. If you get lost, a bud eye can always be found where a five leaflet leaf group joins the stem.
After doing a lot of reading of old rose care books I’m going to advocate grooming the sprawling shrubs a little harder this year. These were books written in the late half of the last century when these types of roses were at their height of popularity. Most of the reading I did advocates cutting the laterals back fairly hard to encourage the rose to put on a big display for the fall. A lateral is nothing more that the side cane coming off the main cane. Look at the rose and find the long thick canes coming from the base of the plant. These are the main canes. Then find the thinner canes growing out from this main cane. These are the laterals and these are what bear the flowers. Knowing how to work with the laterals is the key to growing florifus sprawling shrubs and climbers.
I think our summer heat gives us another good reason to cut these laterals back. Our roses here grow so fast and so vigorously that come summer the big sprawling shrubs are nothing but a tangle of laterals and leaves Taking back these long laterals will clean up the plant without it thinking it’s being pruned into dormancy. These include the bigger English Roses such as Gertrude Jeckyll, Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby and Old Garden Roses from the Bourbon, Hybrid Musk and Portland class. Also most modern shrubs fall into this category. Sally Holmes for example.
Climbers? Work with them the same way you work with the big sprawlers. Take the laterals back but leave the main canes alone. The exception will be those of you with an overgrown Mme. Cecile Brunner. This a great time to cut them hard. Keep all the main canes and cut the laterals back to within 8” of the main canes. Now you can repair that trellis she has managed to pull off the wall. If you are not sure how to do this come to Wattles Mansion for our June session on June 27. There are several old Mme. Cecile Brunners we are going to restore.
After you’ve groomed the roses finish up by taking out any twiggy growth from the center of the bush. This stuff just clutters up the middle inviting fungus and also takes energy away from the main canes of the plant. Last strip off any leaves that still show remnants from spray or fungus. Now is the time to reinvigorate the plant for the fall. Stripping off old leaves does just that.
Next let’s clean the beds. Remove old leaves as they might still be carry fungus spores. Rake them up and toss them in the trash, not the compost heap. We don’t want to reintroduce the fungus spores back into the garden. Remove any weeds or for those of us who garden in the “English” style now is a good time to cut the perennials back off the roses. My species geraniums have decided rose canes are the perfect trellis to use in their quest to reach the sun. This can leave me with a big tangled mess that also cuts off air circulation. Last but not least check the mulch. What mulch you ask? If you do ask then get thee to a nursery. Mulch keeps the ground and the roots moist and cool which can make a big difference in how well the rose survives the summer heat. Two inches is a good amount. You can go the K.I.S.S. method of one inch Nitrohumus one inch Redwood Compost, you can go with just Redwood Compost or you can take a truck out to the Los Angeles Equestrian Center and fill it with the chipped manure-shavings mixture they sell.
Now that we’ve groomed the roses and the beds let’s talk about a few tips to help get us the roses through the summer.
Water. It’s so basic we sometimes forget about it but as the heat climbs the roses are going to need more of it. If you are on a sprinkler system check your timer. That twice a week might have been good enough for the spring but it’s not going to carry your roses through the heat. Go to every other day if you have to but keep the roses watered and remember to water deeply!
Now here is where I’ll probably have my membership revoked but I am going to tell you to get out in the morning and wash your plants with one of those misting nozzles. That’s right I purposefully want you to get your roses wet. Think of it in the same light as misting your house plants. Our summers get so dry they can pull the moisture right out of the leaves. Misting the roses cools off the plant, the air and helps lush up the leaves. It also can help wash off fungus spores before they have a chance to attach themselves to the leaves. Do this only in the morning before the sun gets up there and don’t do it if you think the day is going to be cloudy. This is real important for those of you living near the ocean where the marine layer sometimes doesn’t burn off till early afternoon. Only mist the roses if you feel the day is going to be sunny and hot. Trust me on this one. I do it all the time and it helps. Combine this with the good layer of mulch and the rose’s root systems will stay cool and moist.
Keep feeding your roses. The best defense a rose has against disease, insects or heat is its own health. For those of using the K.I.S.S. method lay down some more mulch and come August toss down some Bandini Rose Food as per the instructions on the package. The mulch I talked about above and the rose food is a nice little boost to the Osmocote we put down this past spring.
Those of you using Magnum Gro keep it up. The extra food, not to mention the once a week hand watering the rose gets is a great thing. After the spring bloom the fall pageant is our biggest so we want to start getting ready for it during this time.
Keep cleaning the old or diseased leaves off the plant. Good air circulation is very important to a rose’s health and keeping the interior clean becomes even more important during the hot, still wind day’s of summer.
Another reason I’m going to advocate picking off diseased leaves is to cut down on the spraying. We are quick to pick up the fungicide to deal with fungus but during the hot days I feel we should think twice about doing this. First off most fungus will not live during this weather so even if your rose shows signs of getting something the chances are good the heat to follow will wipe it out. Secondly it is real easy to burn the leaves during the heat and why risk putting the plant into shock. Last but not least sprays stress plants so why make it even more difficult for the plant to deal with the summer conditions Picking off the leaves causes no stress for the plant so I’m going to advise is as the method of first choice.
If you have to spray do so judiciously. By this I mean don’t spray the entire garden because Double Delight has a spot of mildew. Spot spray only the plant infected and only the areas of the plant infected. Remember to spray only in the morning before the sun comes up so as not to burn the leaves.
By now you might be starting to recognize a theme in all this. Your right, there is one and it’s this. Don’t place any undue stress on your plants over the summer. Keep them watered, keep them fed, keep the roots moist and cool, keep the air circulating and don’t lace them with sprays. As I’ve said before the rose is a lot tougher than people think and the best thing we can do for them during the summer is let them be and only do those things that help them naturally.
Novice Corner #20
Taming the Wild Rose
If any of you have planted some of the larger English Roses, Shrub Roses or Old Garden Roses in your garden and are wondering what to do with them now that the long canes are growing into everything around them here is a suggestion.
Take a sturdy stake at least 1” thick and 10’ long. Wood or metal will do. I like bamboo myself. Drive it about 1-2’ feet into the ground right next to the base of the rose. Take the long canes and tie them to the support so they stick straight up. Take the ends and GENTLY bend them into a loop so they can be tied back to the stake about 1/2 way up. Think of a giant letter P. Do this with all the canes and you’ll end up with most of the rose bush above the surrounding plants. It gives a tidy affect as well as lending some vertical interest to the flower border.
The other side benefit is a lot more flowers. Roses with long canes, like climbers, need to be trained to an almost horizontal position to give more blooms. What this does is cause basil breaks where every leaf contacts the main cane. The “laterals” that will emerge will all bear flowers as opposed to only having flowers at the end of a vertically trained cane.
I hope this encourages some of you to try and grow some of these larger growing roses bushes. Most are quite beautiful and the sight of a large rose bush covered with well over 100 blooms at once is something to see.