Gardening Guru: A Start-Up Guide to Roses

By Michelle Le Strange
UCCE Master Gardener

I like how Sunset Western Garden Book reminds us that roses have been hybridized for centuries and that’s why we have the widest possible range of rose flower forms and colors. “There are foot high miniatures, tree-smothering climbers, flowers as tiny as a thumbnail or as large as a salad plate, and all possible variations in between.”

All roses are available as bare root plants and are abundantly displayed on store shelves right now. Commercial rose growers have made it so easy for us to select the exact rose we want. The hybrid’s name, type (e.g. hybrid tea) and grade of rose are prominently displayed on a label along side a color photo. Bare root rose grades are 1, 1½, and 2 with 1 being the highest grade.

Some people think that growing roses is tricky and takes a lot of special care, but in reality roses are quite easy to grow, especially when you get them off to a good start.

Plant roses in areas that receive full sun and have access to water without competition from other large shrubs or trees. When digging the planting hole, dig it deep and wide (16 in. x 16 in.) and mix in bunches of compost, humus, Canadian sphagnum moss, and any other organic matter (OM) you might have laying around. OM is essential in the feeder root zone which extends from the soil surface down 12 inches. Shoot for 20% OM in this area at planting time and because it will continue to break down with time, plan on topdressing with compost every winter after pruning.

At the bottom of the planting hole drop in about 1 cup super phosphate and ½ cup potash. These elements don’t move with water like nitrogen does so you want to put them where they will be accessible to roots.

If you really worked the soil as was just suggested, then when planting bare root plants be sure to plant the budded union well above the soil line (2”) as the plant will settle in the hole over time. When most of the soil has been backfilled into the hole, get the hose and fill the hole with water as you continue to fill in with the remaining soil and OM. Make a slurry with the soil and let the water drain through. Repeat the process until you are satisfied with the soil level in relation to the bud union.

Newly planted bare root plants need frequent irrigation. Don’t let them dry out or the rose won’t get a good start, which may take a couple of years to recover.

Rose types include the ever popular hybrid teas and grandifloras, which are pruned similarly to enhance large blooms. Then there are climbing roses, tree roses, miniatures, and landscape roses. Landscape roses is a large category of roses that are planted for mass effect like groundcover roses, shrub roses, floribunda and polyantha roses, hardy and musk roses, and trademark-group roses like Meilland, Mediland, David Austin English roses. Landscape roses are designed for quantity of flowering blossoms, not necessarily quality of individual blooms.

Rugosa shrub roses are some of the easiest and least fussy roses to maintain (think of the groundcover roses that you see along the freeway). They should be treated more like shrubs than fancy rose bushes. They are often overlooked because people are focused on buying the showier hybrid teas.

Some of my favorites that seem to perform well in our area are: ‘All that Jazz’ – coral salmon blooms (I have this one and I like it because the blooms have different hues), similarly ‘Kaleidoscope’ has combinations of pink, mauve, tan, and yellow blooms, while Ballerina’ has distinctly pink blooms with white centers, and ‘Bonica’ has pure pink blooms. Place them to the rear of the flower bed and prune like you would your evergreen bushes in winter. They will have a long display of small colorful blooms spring through fall. Beware because they do have more (but smaller thorns) than most hybrid teas. I hate thorns, but that’s part of the personality of roses.

Rose pruning is both an art and a science, but it is not as complicated as some will lead you to believe. If you want to become a good rose pruner attend one of the upcoming demonstrations hosted by the Master Gardeners in Hanford from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 15 at the Old Grangeville Church, Old Grangeville Church, 14060 Hackett St. in Grangeville; or on Saturday, Jan. 20 at either the Ralph Moore Rose Garden or the Tulare County Courthouse in Visalia from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

To contact the Tulare/Kings Master Gardeners, call 559-684-3325, e-mail [email protected] or write to 4437 S. Laspina St., Ste. B, Tulare, CA 93247.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

Start typing and press Enter to search