You might not consider February “Rose Month,” but think again.
Photography by Beth Hall
Not only is this the month for giving a dozen cut roses, but it is also the time to order new roses for your garden and prepare existing roses for the growing season ahead.
Because I have roses on my mind, this month’s Q&As include answers to a few questions about these stately flowers.
QUESTION: I love to garden. I really like your show, and I’ve got an odd question for you. I recently ordered some bare-root roses, which arrived long before the right planting time in my area. How do I keep them alive until it is warm enough to plant in the spring?
ANSWER: Thank you for the kind comments — I’m glad to hear that you enjoy my show. I order many of the roses in my collection through the mail, and they usually arrive in early March. Unfortunately, this time of year is not always the best to get out in the garden, so I often have to wait to plant my new roses.
Where I store my roses depends on whether they are container-grown or bare-root. If the roses arrive in containers, I place them in a bright, sheltered location, remembering to keep them watered until I am ready to plant. If the plants are bare root, I have a decision to make. If I think that I will be able to plant them within a few days, I simply leave them in their packages and store them in a cool, dry location — warm temperatures will cause them to sprout prematurely. If I have a busy schedule, or Old Man Winter has a particularly firm hold on the garden, I plant them in containers.
When it’s time to plant or pot my bare-root roses, I remove them from the package, and inspect each rose bush to make sure that there are no broken roots or canes. If there are, I remove them with my pruners. Then, I fill buckets and soak the roots in water for no more than 24 hours to re-hydrate the plants.
When I am ready to plant the roses in the ground, I pay particular attention to where I place them in the garden. Roses are happiest in a location that gets 4 to 6 hours of direct sunlight per day and plenty of air circulation. Good air circulation cuts down on fungal problems later in the season. When it comes to soil, keep in mind that roses thrive in a rich loam — a mixture of soil, sand and silt — that’s well-drained.
My soil and much of the soil in Arkansas has lots of clay, so it’s a good idea to amend the planting area with a mix of 2 parts existing soil to 1 part homemade compost to 1 part well-rotted manure. Dig the planting hole large enough to spread out all of the roots.
The depth to plant your roses depends on where you live. The bud union is the most vulnerable part of the plant, so if you live in areas with frigid winters, bury it about 1-to-2 inches below the soil line for protection. In areas of the country that are mild, like Arkansas, you can plant it with the bud union about 1-to-1½ inches above ground level. In my Zone 7-garden, I plant my roses about 14-to-18 inches deep.
QUESTION: I have a Rugosa rose that is about 3 years old, and I have never had any rose hips. I usually deadhead the blooms. Is this wrong? Do I have to leave them on to get the rose hips? I planted it for birds to enjoy, but what am I doing wrong? I would appreciate your help.
ANSWER: I, too, like to have a few roses in my garden that produce hips. The birds certainly enjoy them, and I use them in flower arrangements.
They can also be good for us. Hips are the fruit produced by a rose, which is a member of the apple family. Rose hips are high in vitamin C and are often used to prepare teas and jellies.
Deadheading your roses will prevent the plants from producing hips. Depending on the variety of roses you have, your plant is either a repeat bloomer or blooms only once. If you have a once-blooming rose, there is no need to remove spent blooms as this is done primarily to promote new flowers on varieties that flower again. If you have a repeat-blooming rose, stop deadheading around August, and you should get enough hips for both you and your birds.