When growing roses, one glance at the perfect form, good color, large size, strong stems and healthy foliage at a Rose show convinces many visitors that “this grower” really knows how to grow roses. The truth is each grower’s method of caring for their rose plants is as interesting as it is different.
In this article, you’ll hear from two old-time rose growers – E Burke & RC Allen – and how they approach growing these colorful, cherished, and loved garden flowers. You’ll find they have some things in common but approach things differently. Let’s begin with Mr. Burke.
Mr. Burke shares that… I don’t believe you must follow all the hard and fast rules of planting roses as set down by experts. Find out what works for you, then use your own judgment.
The elaborate methods of soil preparation so often advocated are rarely necessary. If the soil is average, loosen and work it up with a garden fork to a depth of 12″ to 18″ inches. Mix in a cupful of bonemeal per plant. If the soil is sticky or heavy with clay, add a liberal amount of peatmoss or compost and some sand.
Growing Roses: Tips For Blooms And New Rose Plants
Plenty of organic matter in the well-drained soil is essential for producing good blooms, but I think it is a mistake to use a lot of fertilizer at planting time.
Plants come to us from nurseries with their roots pruned back to about 6″ inches. During the first season myriads of tender roots must form. These roots can easily burn by contact with any unusual plant food, especially of a chemical nature.
I remove enough soil to accommodate the full spread of the roots of each plant and make a soil mound at the bottom of the hole; the plant is set on this. I place the plant so that, when planting is complete, the bud union is an inch or two above the bed level. In due time the soil will settle, and the bud will rest at about ground level.
I carefully cover the roots with earth until the hole is almost filled. Then I’ll pour in a bucket or two of water. When the water drains off, I fill the hole with soil and form a mound of the soil 8″ inches high around the base of the plant. Many rose growers tramp down a half-filled hole of soil with their foot. I don’t.
Related: Does Soil Make The Rose?
How Much Space Do Growing Roses Need?
If you want roses to give their best performance, don’t start them off by coddling them. I prefer to space plants 24″ inches apart in rows 30″ inches apart. However, due to limited space, my plants enjoy a spacing of about 18″ inches apart.
I must admit this compact planting, together with the shade produced by the trees, does create a high horizon. This coaxes the plants upwards to produce somewhat longer flower stems than they would otherwise.
Most rose plants appreciate afternoon shade. Large trees in the proximity of rose beds should have the ground trenched between their trunks and the rose beds. Completely sever all tree roots directed toward rose plantings.
Preparing Roses For Spring
With the approach of early spring, I gradually remove the protective earth mound from each plant and hose the crowns off with water. I then prune my roses with an eye to retaining as much vigorous healthy wood as possible.
I stagger the pruning operation to make sure of having blooms at the proper time. One-third of the rose bushes get trimmed at one-week intervals, and all cuts are then covered with “tree paint.”
I feel it’s a crime to cut down healthy canes which the plants put forth with such great effort the previous summer. Healthy stems are a valuable source of food supply which helps to produce first blooms of a better grade.
Small mature canes about the size of a lead pencil, normally snipped out right at the crown by many rose growers, often produce the best blooms.
Caring For Roses During Summer
During the entire growing season, some amount of summer pruning is carried out.
Where new basal shoots arrive and top growth flourishes, it is permissible to remove a certain amount of the older and weaker growth, thus favoring the remaining structure. With the advent of winter and dormancy, the tall canes are topped a bit to protect them against wind-whipping and to facilitate winter handling.
Fertilizing And Feeding Roses With No Special Formula
I have no special formula or practice when it comes to feeding rose plants. In fact, I have not followed the same practice any two years in succession.
My annual cycle goes about like this:
- Late each fall, I dispose of about two tubs of soot and ashes from my stoker furnace by placing a shovelful here and there in the spaces between roses.
- About the first of the year, I get out the gypsum and sprinkle it over all the rose beds until the ground has the appearance of a light snowfall. Around February 1, a tablespoonful of sulfate of iron for each bush is evenly scattered over the surface.
- A month later, I give each rose bush a cupful of steamed bonemeal. During the latter part of April, a cubic yard of the best manure possible is obtained. This is not too fresh nor so old that it is leached out — about four to six months old is fine.
- With a standard tined garden fork, I dig out the soil to about 4″ inches, the size of a wash basin, equidistant between two bushes. A good forkful of the manure is thrown in, spread out, and covered with soil. I call this the “hidden force.”
- The first all-purpose spraying is done about one month after pruning when the flowering shoots are off to a good start. No exact schedule is followed in spraying. It is done about every ten days, I would say.
Still, there are certain periods when things look all right in the garden, and no spraying is done for as long as three weeks.
I prefer spraying to dusting and aim to get complete coverage with an emphasis on the underside of the foliage.
Dealing With Pests And Diseases On Roses
Cleanliness and good housekeeping in the garden reduce the problem of controlling rose enemies to a minimum. As much as possible, keep your roses away from fungal diseases such as powdery mildew by cleaning their containers.
Frequently inspect the beds and the potted roses as well for signs of pests such as spider mites, aphids, and more.
It is essential to pick off not only the diseased leaves but those near the bottom of the plant which has yellowed, discolored, or become spotted. All fallen leaves should be removed from the ground, and all blossoms picked as soon as they have passed their zenith.
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Insect life can be discouraged and dislodged with water. I direct the full volume of the hose at the crown of the bushes to wash away the insects that have chosen to make a breeding place in the lower part of the plant or the surrounding ground.
As winter approaches and new growth starts to let up, all spraying and insect control ceases.
Shortly after, the weak and twiggy growth on each plant is cleared out, and the beds are raked clean. Then the bud union and the ground directly around the base of the plant is given a light sprinkling with naphthalene flakes, and the crown is hilled up with soil about four inches above the union.
Dormant spraying with the conventional 1 to 10 solution of lime sulfur is done about a month before the spring clean-up and pruning begins.
Summer care starts immediately after the cyclone of the June Rose show has taken its toll. Plants are badly out of balance with their root system after having the long-stemmed blooms cut off for exhibiting.
#1 Requirement For Roses During July & August
The # 1 requirement of rose plants during July and August is plenty of water. It is also advisable to let up on the fertilizing. Exhibitors’ gardens are loaded with ample remains of food to carry the plants through the season.
A diligent program of proper spraying or dusting to keep foliage in healthy condition is an important part of summer care.
To further favor the plants during this rebuilding period, we rarely cut any blooms. Where a bush is attempting to flower rather profusely, we nip out most of the buds as soon as they appear, to preserve the vitality of the plant.
by E Burke
Mr. RC Allen Shares – How I Grow My Roses
One of the reasons why roses are so popular in the gardens of America is that they are of easy culture.
There are many gardeners, I suppose, who would dispute that statement, and I admit it’s often said that roses are hard to grow and require the most exacting care. But look at the facts!
In the first place, there are more rose plants grown than any other one kind of ornamental woody plant. There are more gardens devoted entirely to roses than to any flower, More books and articles are written about roses than any other plant specialty.
The American Rose Society has the largest membership of any single-plant society in the country. If roses were really difficult to grow, they would not lead all other flowers in so many ways.
Gardeners Make Growing Roses Difficult
Rose growing becomes difficult only when the gardener makes hard work of it. I’m all for simplification and easy methods so that I can enjoy my roses. I want my neighbors to enjoy them, too.
I want to talk with my friends about the beauty and personality of the varieties we grow and not about the labor of producing them.
Planning A Rose Garden
There are several tricks to planning a rose garden. The beds should not be more than 4′ or 5′ feet wide, accommodating only two rows of bushes in a bed. Wide beds are hard to work in, and it is not convenient to remove withered flowers or cut blooms.
In the narrower beds where only two rows of plants are used, each bush can be reached from the walk, and cultivating and other care can easily be given.
I like turf between the beds for appearance and because it is simple to maintain. Of course, the beds must be edged two or three times a summer, but this isn’t laborious. Be sure to keep the soil in the beds at about the same level as the sod so that one wheel of the lawn mower can run in the bed and eliminate much hand trimming.
Planting roses too close together is a mistake, even in cold climates. If they are given the room, they grow larger, produce more, and are easier to work around. I never plant any of the common Hybrid Tea varieties less than 2′ feet apart, and 2′ 1/2 or 3′ feet is not too much for the more vigorous or spreading kinds.
It is always well to recognize one’s personal limitations and not try to grow more plants than time and strength will permit. Twenty-five well-grown roses will give far more pleasure than 50 that are inadequately tended.
Five hundred plants are about the maximum a family can manage without extra help and with the average amount of free time in the evenings and weekends.
Selecting Your Rose Plants
While I realize everyone wants a representative collection of types and varieties, it is nevertheless much simpler to grow only the tried and true roses – those with the highest American Rose Society national rating.
However, I don’t practice what I preach in this matter, because I do not have the willpower to resist the exciting new introductions that promise so much. I will admit to having a place for old roses in my garden.
Personally, I like to obtain my bushes from nurseries specializing in roses, or from local firms that have good facilities for caring for the plants in their stores. It is easy for a rose to become dried out, and once this happens, the plant is severely weakened.
Never select plants with long, white shoots. If I am selecting plants in a store, I much prefer those that have been properly pruned and are ready for planting.
Roses Must Have Good Drainage
If it doesn’t exist naturally, the only real remedy is to install tile drains. Roses also require sunlight, and unless the plants get at least six hours of full sunshine a day, no amount of careful attention or hard work will produce good results.
Keep the beds as far away as possible from trees or shrub roses whose roots may penetrate the beds and give the gardener an everlasting struggle to keep them out.
Preparing The Soil For Your Roses
If one wishes, they can make the preparation of the soil exceedingly laborious and burdensome. Some even like to brag about the depths of their excavations.
Me, I don’t worry much about this aspect of rose growing because I am sure there are other elements more important for success than the soil.
Keeping the plants free of disease and insect pests, for example, pays bigger dividends. To be sure, the soil must be fertile. If it doesn’t sustain any vegetation, it cannot very well be expected to produce roses unless it is improved.
On the other hand, if it grows good corn, tomatoes, zinnias, or even grass, it will grow fine roses.
When the soil is naturally poor, incorporating organic materials such as peat moss, well-rotted manure, leaf mold, compost, and the like is advantageous if it is worked into a depth of 12″ inches or so. Don’t worry about fertilizer; there is plenty of time to apply that after the plants are established and show a need for it.
How I Plant Roses
I think it pays to be especially careful in planting. The first requisite is to dig a hole large enough to accommodate the root system. A mound of soil is worked up in the bottom of the hole, and the plant is set on top.
Soil is carefully filled in around the roots, keeping them well separated and sloped downward at about a 45° degree angle. The depth of the plant is adjusted so that the union between the scion and the understock is about an inch below the soil level. The tops are pruned back to 8″ or 9″ inches above the soil.
To encourage the shoots to start, it is best to cover the bushes immediately after planting. What I like to use best is thin sod, grass side in, placed carefully around the stems.
This is easy to put on, and it can be taken away gradually as the eyes begin to develop. A soil mound can also be used with good results, but it must be promptly removed as soon as the eyes start to grow, usually two or three weeks after planting.
Fertilize Roses Sparingly
It is my practice to apply chemical fertilizers sparingly. Scientific – experiments have shown that roses are not the heavy feeders they were once thought to be. It is easy to over-fertilize them, and over-feeding is another common reason for lack of success.
For some reason, many gardeners feel they are not doing right by their plants unless they frequently apply a slow-release fertilizer. As a rule, one application of a mixed commercial fertilizer of 4-12-4 or 5-10-5 analysis is sufficient.
It should be used at the rate of three pounds per 100 square feet of ground area when the new growth is about 5″ inches long in the spring. A second application four to six weeks after the first may, however, be beneficial.
Watering is very important if the plants are to be kept blooming during the entire summer. I use the porous hose (Soil Soaker) method because it is easy and thorough. Overhead sprinkling systems are not desirable if one has a choice, as the flowers are spoiled, diseases may be spread, and the watering may not be adequate.
Cultivating deeply during the hot part of the summer can do a great deal of damage to roses. It is best to keep just a thin dust mulch. Mulches of peat moss, buckwheat hulls, and other materials are advantageous.
Ideas On Pruning Roses
Ideas about pruning ordinary garden roses have changed considerably in the past few years, largely as a result of experimental work. I definitely belong to the school of moderate or light pruners, because there is no question about the method of producing more and better flowers.
Related: What Makes A Winter Hardy Rose?
Too severe pruning is one of the common causes of poor growth. The modern practice is to remove all weak or injured wood and to cut the strong canes back to 18″ inches or 2′ feet above the ground.
Where winter injury is severe, of course, it is not always possible to leave this much wood. Strong, vigorous wood should not be removed first to satisfy some rule that prescribes pruning Hybrid Tea roses back to 4″ inches. Such a practice only robs the plant of its food reserves.
Insect and Disease Control
Some gardeners consider disease and insect control unpleasant and burdensome, but it need not be.
Approach spraying or dusting with the same attitude as mowing the lawn, weeding, or raking up leaves. I never consider that I am fighting the pests but rather that I am outsmarting them.
After all, there are only three or four diseases that are likely to be devastating, and of these, blackspot is the most serious, Fortunately, when you control black spot, you automatically take care of most of the other diseases.
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The control of black spot is strictly a matter of protecting the plants. Blackspot spores will germinate whenever the leaves are wet with dewy or rain for a period of six hours. The fungus must be killed by a fungicide before it enters the leaf tissue.
For the control of blackspot, it is essential to make sure the plants are protected by dust or spray before each rainy period, and removing diseased leaves as soon as the spots appear is a great help.
I dust according to the weather rather than on a fixed schedule. It is much easier to keep plants free of diseases and insects than to eradicate them after they have become established.
Plants kept free of disease, particularly blackspot, appear to be much less harmed by winter injury, die-back, or the brown canker disease.
Roses can be weakened by cutting too many long-stemmed flowers. Until the plants are large and vigorous, they need every leaf possible to produce food. Removing the leaves in cutting blooms robs the plant of its wherewithal to produce more growth and flowers.
For me, however, the mere growing of roses is not an end in itself, As with any other hobby, there are skills to be mastered if it is to become easy and fully enjoyable.
For some, this mastery of the technique is an all-absorbing interest. For others, the real fun from roses is provided by:
- The garden pictures they create
- The beauty they lend the home
- The pleasure they give to others
- The zest inherent in competition
- The fine friendships resulting from a common interest in the “Queen of Flowers.”