Many of us would agree with William Shakespeare that “Of all flowers/Methinks a rose is best.” Roses have been cherished as a symbol of love and beauty since the earliest civilizations. Poets, writers and photographers have been inspired by the beauty and fragrance of roses, and gardeners of all types are mesmerized by their beautiful flowers.
Types of Roses
These include Hybrid Teas, Floribunda, Grandiflora, Old Fashioned, Miniatures and Climbers.
The Hybrid Tea roses are the classic long-stemmed roses that we see advertised for Valentine’s Day. The flowers are double or single and are often fragrant. The blooms are long lasting and are excellent for cutting. This group of rose does require a good bit of maintenance, so a bed devoted to this one variety is recommended. Many gardeners and even non-gardeners believe this to be the most beautiful of all roses.
Floribunda roses have blooms that are somewhat smaller than the hybrid teas. These usually bloom in clusters, and the flowers may be single or double. These strong bushes average from two to four feet tall.
Grandiflora roses have a long bloom period and bloom prolifically from spring to frost. These blooms are usually in clusters but many have single blooms. Many of this type of rose have blossoms that are similar in shape to the hybrid teas. The plants may grow from eight to 10 feet tall.
Old Fashioned roses are usually particularly hardy and very fragrant. Most of these varieties only bloom once a season in early summer. The plants grow from three to 10 feet tall and have a wide range of growing habits that include runners, ramblers, vines and neat, compact shrubs.
Miniature roses are small bushes that range in size from four to 13 inches. These roses have been hybridized to stay small and most do not have much fragrance. Some varieties have single flowers and others have large clusters. Many in this group of roses bloom all summer. Miniatures are wonderful to grow in containers.
The climbing roses range from 10 to 50 feet! There are all types of blossoms: single, double and clusters. These are excellent roses to grow on a trellis, arbor or fence to hide an unpleasing view. They do not climb naturally and have to be trained and supported.
Buying the Best Plants
It is extremely important to buy strong, healthy plants from a reputable source. Rose bushes are rated on a scale from one to 10 by the members of the American Rose Society. Look for the tag on the plant. A rating of “*1” indicates that the plant is strong, healthy and is the variety that it is labeled. The best plants have at least three strong canes and should be 15 inches long. If possible, it is best to buy plants that are at least two to three years old. Get to know the growers and buy only the best plants you can find. Roses can be bought as container grown or bare root. Either transplant well if the plant is healthy and strong. If ordered through a catalog company, request that the bushes be delivered in mid to late February. Roses that are grown in containers are usually delivered earlier and will show up in garden centers earlier in February.
The Best Site
There are three essential ingredients for growing beautiful, healthy roses: sunlight, fertile soil and good air circulation. Pick a sunny location with good drainage. A raised bed is always a good idea to assure good drainage, and the site should be prepared well in advance of planting. A minimum of six hours of good light is required for most roses, but they are happiest when they receive eight to 10 hours. Morning and afternoon sun are perfect but if only one is available, morning sun is better.
It is a good idea to have the soil tested by the local extension service. Roses prefer well-drained, fertile, slightly acidic soil. The optimum soil should have a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Air circulation is vital for a successful rose garden. The roses should be placed in an area with good air movement to lessen or prevent leaf disease and mildew. The plants should be watered in the morning so that the leaves dry before the harsh sun of midday hits them. Roses should not be planted too close to other large shrubs or trees so that they do not have to compete for nutrients and moisture.
Preparing The Site
Once the site has been determined, there is much work to be done! It is a good idea to prepare the bed in the fall and let it sit until planting time in late winter or very early spring. The bed should be dug down at least two feet. If just one plant is being planted, the hole should be at least two feet deep and two feet wide. The soil that has been dug should be mixed with peat moss, sharp sand and any organic material or compost. In each individual hole, add one cup of pelletized limestone and one cup of bone meal. Mix all of this together with the soil and add back to the hole. If planting a bare root bush, use this soil to form a cone in the hole and place the roots on top of the cone. Cover with the remaining soil and pat down to make sure there are no air pockets. If planting a container grown rose, be sure the plant is planted at the same depth that it is growing in the container.
Feed Your Roses
Roses are heavy feeders. They need a lot of food to produce all of their gorgeous blooms. It is recommended not to use any commercial fertilizer when the bushes are first planted. When the plants start to leaf out, feed very sparingly with a commercial, slow release rose fertilizer. It is a good idea to water the bushes before and after the fertilizer is applied. Make sure any pellets that land on the leaves are washed off. During the growing season, fertilize each bush, once a month with 1/3 cup slow release rose fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer around the drip line of the plant and water well.
How To Mulch
Keeping roses mulched is a good way to keep the weeds under control and retain moisture around the roots. Some rosarians leave the old mulch and just add new mulch on top. If your roses have had leaf spot or any other disease, it might be a good idea to remove the old mulch before adding the new layer. Hardwood mulch, pine straw or soil-conditioner are all excellent choices and will enhance the beauty and appearance of the rose garden.
Pruning — An Ongoing Job
Valentine’s Day is a good day to remember to prune Hybrid Teas, Grandifloras, Floribundas and Old Fashioned varieties. Pruning is necessary to remove the old wood in the bush before the new growth flushes out and is really an all year job that begins in February. Cut back all the dead wood, any crosses canes or suckers from the bushes. Remove 1/2 to 1/3 of the last year’s growth so that the canes are strong enough to support the abundance of blooms. The center of the bush should be kept open so that air circulation is not hindered by too much woody growth. Each cut should be just above a growth bud which points away from the middle of the bush. The timing for pruning Climbing Roses is different from the other varieties as they should be pruned after they have bloomed. Only dead wood should be pruned in February or you may decrease the number of blooms.
Pests, Disease And Fungus
Many rose varieties are susceptible to all sorts of pests, disease and fungus. The best way to combat these problems is to make sure the roses are planted in the best place and receive the right amount of fertilizer and water. The rest is a battle against mother nature! There are too many pests, diseases and fungi to go over in this article. The best advice is to befriend a successful rose grower or call a local nursery where you can receive expert advice.
Enjoying Roses — Cutting To Bring Inside
Cutting roses is really a very enjoyable way of pruning the bushes. When you are out gathering flowers for an arrangement, pick off any diseased leaves or spent flowers. Correct pruning encourages more blooms. It is best to cut roses in the early morning or very late afternoon when the sun is not shining directly on the plants. Always cut the stems at a 45 degree angle toward the center of the plant. Cut right above a group of at least five leaves. Put the cut roses in warm water and then store in a cool dark place before arranging. They should last up to a week.
Five Rules For Successful Rose Growing
1. Roses must have good drainage.
2. Roses require at least six hours of sunlight with eight to 10 hours being much better. Full sun that shines on the entire bush is best.
3. Roses must be watered and fertilized and watered again.
4. Most roses require a systematic disease and pest control regimen.
5. Roses require pruning and mulch.
• Double Delight — white with a deep red edge
• Peace — soft yellow with a pink edge
• Mr. Lincoln — deep red, many consider it the best red rose
Floribundas and Grandifloras:
• White licorice — creamy yellow with a sweet fragrance, easy care
• Iceburg — white bloom with blush pink center, considered by many to be the finest white rose
• Julia Child — buttery yellow, full double, smells like anise
• Pink Parfait — small delicate single pink
• The Fairy — soft pink on a compact bush
• Queen Elizabeth — prolific light pink blooms
• Queen Elizabeth — clear pink blooms on long sturdy stems with glossy leaves, great for cutting
• Yolande D’Aragon — medium pink, multi-petaled, slightly fragrant, repeat bloomer
• Sally Holmes — prolific bloomer, creamy white 3-inch blooms, can be a climber or shrub, and according to some, a rose that no garden should be without
• New Dawn — prolific light pink, fragrant flowers, hardy
• Golden Showers — daffodil yellow, blooms have 20 to 30 petals
• The Mermaid — creamy, yellow very vigorous climber
No Garden Should Be Without a Rose
This article just skims the surface of the subject of roses! My main objective is to convince all gardeners that roses are perfect in every garden and that they are well worth the effort. Roses can be grown in their own exclusive garden or added to any sunny flower border. The only exceptions to this are the hybrid teas that do much better if they are planted in their own raised bed garden. No other flowering plant will give the gardener as much pleasure as a rose.
Consider adding roses to your landscape this spring. We have a wonderful source for exceptional roses right up I-26 in Laurens. Roses Unlimited has been in business for 26 years and grows healthy roses on their own roots. They have classes that range from caring for roses to in-depth study of one individual type of rose. There is usually an open house around Mother’s Day to see all of the roses in their full blooming glory. It is definitely worth the drive! Happy rose gardening. You’ll be glad you did it.
Gardening Chores For April:
• Prune azaleas after blooming. If plants are out of shape a drastic pruning may be necessary.
• Forsythia and Quince may also be pruned.
• Sheer candy tuft after blooming.
• Remove completely dead daffodil foliage.
• Fertilize azalea, camellia and sasanqua with specialized fertilizer.
• Divide daylilies before too much growth appears.
• Deadhead pansies and violas to prolong their bloom.
• Gradually bring out houseplants when the threat of cold nights has passed.
• Re-edge beds. This can be done by installing metal edging or digging a trench edge.
• Rake out old mulch and add a new layer.
• Check irrigation system and timer.
• Replace any burned out bulbs in outdoor lighting fixtures. Re-set timer after time change.
• Begin planning container combinations.
• Weed, weed and weed some more.
• Browse through nurseries to see the latest varieties of plants.
And remember, to shop from our locally owned nurseries.