It’s Spring! Lets Plant Roses!
Not so fast…
Everyone can appreciate a rose. They´re beautiful, hearty, fragrant and relatively easy to grow. They add beauty and accent to any garden and captivate the masses. They symbolize our emotions and stir childhood memories. Who wouldn´t want roses? Well, let’s discuss some basics of rose planting and care. To help with this article we enlisted the help of Richard Lesser. A recently retired employee of Mission Hills Nursery and Certified Master Gardener who volunteers his time at Balboa Park keeping the rose gardens looking stunning year round. With his 20 years of experience, we think he´ll have some wise advice to share
According to Richard ¨you must have a passion for roses” and ¨the time to dedicate to the garden if you want great roses.¨ It starts with planting. First, you must dig a hole twice as wide and the pot it’s in from the nursery and equal depth. Once the rose is placed in the ground, fill remaining space with potting soil amended with Milorganite fertilizer and fish emulsion. ¨Adding a bunch of organic nitrogen to the soil helps the new plants root extra quick,¨ says Richard. Once planted, deep water the roses (more then 6¨ below the surface) and continue watering regularly. While the roses are new (first 2 to 3 weeks) you should water every other day and deep water once a week. Congrats! You have roses! Now what?
¨If you want happy roses, you must feed them. You need food to look pretty too, right?¨ asks Richard in typical Richard fashion. He has a good point. According to him, the biggest mistake people make with roses is not feeding them regularly. Roses are fairly heavy feeders when growing and need regular meals. ¨Monthly feeding are mandatory!¨ dictates Richard. ¨Plants get hangry, too.¨ Richard recommends feeding with Milorganite or fish emulsion and organic rose food monthly. Always remember to water in your fertilizer well when feeding your plants. Just like people, plants cannot rise to their fullest potential without regular meals.
Richard says ¨ watering is simple and always forgotten.¨ It´s easy for 3 or 4 days to go by before we realize we forgot to water the garden. Richard recommends setting up drip irrigation or setting a strict watering schedule that you can realistically stick to. If you forget for a few days to water your roses won´t die. However, If you don´t keep the soil moist during the growing season, you will not get your best showing of blooms. As he bangs his hand on the table in succession Richard commands ¨WATER, WATER, WATER!¨
Now, this is where some skill and knowledge come in. For proper pruning, ¨you have to consider the shape of your plants, airflow, stem thickness, and directionality.¨ Without a basic understanding of these ideas, you may cause more problems then you solve.
Let us take airflow first. ¨If your roses look like a birds nest you gotta clean em out!¨ proclaims Richard. Remove all crossing branches and anything growing in the center of the plant to create a ¨martini glass¨ shape to your rose. This will allow air to flow freely and prevent fungal diseases.
Stem thickness is simple. ¨If it´s not as thick as a pencil, take the whole branch or don´t trim it.¨ Richard is saying that if you trim a branch that is too thin it will not support a head of beautiful blooms. Either take the whole branch or leave it to grow a bit more.
¨Not paying attention to directionality is the biggest pruning mistake I see,¨ says Richard. When trimming or dead-heading your roses, be sure to cut at least 5 sets of leaves below the flowers and be sure that the bud you cut above is pointed in the direction you want it to grow.
Once the weather cools and the roses have dropped their leaves, it´s time to give your roses a severe haircut. If you do not cut your roses way back at this time, you are setting yourself up for a real mess come spring.
You will need to prune the branches back to about 18¨ to 24¨ above the ground, depending on the variety of rose and your growing intentions. Be sure to remove everything except the main structural branches and be sure to create the ¨martini glass¨ shape, leaving the center of your plant open.
You will also want to reduce your water to once a week at this point and cease feeding until new growth flushes in the spring.
Follow these basic rules and you should have a beautiful garden of roses year after year. Richard says “passion and time are the two most important qualities in a gardener,”. If you have the passion and the time to dedicate, your roses will not disappoint you.