This column is being reproduced with the permission of Steve Smith, The Whistling Gardener, and owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville.
It’s that time of year again when garden centers fill their benches back up with a whole new crop of bare root roses. Our crews have spent the last several weeks carefully pruning and planting several thousand of them so they can be taken home and lovingly plunged into your gardens.
Please remember that roses are seasonal, and they are only ordered once a year, so when they are gone, they are gone until another year comes along. Here are some tips on how to grow fabulous roses in our maritime climate…
All of the varieties that we carry in the nursery are well suited for our climate, but if you see “disease resistant” on the label you can be assured that they will do especially well. If you currently have roses that seem to be prone to diseases, don’t be afraid to tear them out or be willing to spray them several times a year. There is a category of roses called landscape or shrub roses that are almost completely disease free and bullet-proof in the garden. Many of the Rugosas are also disease free.
There are so many wonderful varieties to choose from these days, you are sure to find one (or many!) that catch your eye and scream “take me home.” Once you’ve narrowed your choices down and selected those lucky few to bring home, set them in a very sunny location with good air circulation. They have already been pruned, so you shouldn’t have to worry about that.
When planting this time of year, expect some soil to fall away from the roots. Get them watered-in immediately and add some transplant fertilizer and they will be fine. You can also add a rose planting soil mix to improve the soil and help them happily adjust to their new home.
For established roses, fertilize this month with an organic rose food - two cups isn’t too much since it acts very slowly - by scratching it into the soil around the base of the rose. Repeat this procedure after the first flush of blooms in late June and one more fertilization in late August completes the cycle.
When watering, roses respond best to being watered from below. Making a watering well or basin around each plant is an easy way to properly give them water and you should only have to fill it once or twice a month in the hot season.
The spring has a tendency to bring up some disease issues. The trick is to “spray before you see any disease” because it is a whole lot easier to prevent mildew and black spot than it is to cure it. You can spray a fungicide after there is six to eight inches of new growth and you should only need to spray three times a year, if done right. Do not spray Rugosa roses as they will burn.
Spring also tends to bring up bug issues. You can try hosing off any infestations and there is always a great selection of natural and synthetic products you can use occasionally to help control those unwanted bugs. Bonide Rose RX (which contains Neem oil, a natural oil extract from the seeds of the Neem tree) is a helpful option that we recommend in the nursery. Releasing lady bugs is also a natural way help.
In late May or early June, plan on picking some beautiful bouquets. Mix in some summer blooming perennials from your garden and you’ll have a stunning, proudly homegrown, lovely bouquet - to keep for yourself or share with a loved one. Tip: Almost everyone loves a freshly picked, grown-with-love bouquet!
Once the romance of a blooming rose bush is gone, help them “rest” so they can be their best the following year. Around Thanksgiving, mulch your roses and prune them back to two feet tall for the winter. In mid to late March, finish the winter pruning by selecting four or five strong canes and cutting out any dead wood or crossing branches. Just remember… “Hip high in the fall, knee high in the spring.”
Roses are a wonderful, classic addition to any garden or landscape. Have fun with the varieties you choose and don’t be afraid to ask your local garden center for any help or knowledge you may need along the way!
Sunnyside will be hosting a free class “Roses for Everyone” next Saturday, February 22, 2020, at 10:00 am. For more information visit www.sunnysidenursery.net.
Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and you can send your gardening questions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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