A friend of mine shared a beautiful rose with me the other day, and memories of our grandmothers’ houses shot back into our minds. We didn’t grow up together, but we had the same flashback from just one whiff of that pale pink beauty and said, “That smells like my grandma’s house!” at the same time.
This was one of the last blooms on the bush, hanging on as long as it could until Jack Frost gets them. So, if you have blooms still out there, clip them off and bring them inside. Then get those pruners clean and ready to go.
Rose scientists agree that covering the base of your roses with about 6 inches of composted manure, then another 6 to 8 inches of soil is better for them than covering them in cones.
Kick the cone habit
Ohio State University and Michigan State University rose scientists agree that you should kick the cone habit. Covering the base of your roses with about 6 inches of composted manure, then another 6 to 8 inches of soil is better for them. Canes can be protected with a wrapping of burlap if they are really long. Shorter canes can be covered with leaf mulch.
If you like to keep the mulch a little more contained, surround your roses with a wire mesh cage and then fill it with the layers of mulch. This gives the roses the stable coverage like a cone but better air circulation.
They will receive more damage from a sunny winter day under a cone because the sun actually causes heat to build up under the cone and will thaw them out. Research shows they will be better off in the spring with protection around their roots and canes tied together at the top. Clean up around the base of each plant to cut down on bacteria making a home there over the next few months.
Your roses need to stay frozen. That is the key in the winter. But they are a tough bunch of plants to cover with one rule. There are a few general tasks that they all will need: mulch, fertilizer, and water. No matter if they climb on a trellis, form a hedge, or are stand-alone shrubs in the perennial border, they need to have the dead and broken stems removed.
Cleaning the pruners will stop the possible spread of disease, so wipe the blades with those handy portable alcohol pads. Cut the stems at an angle close to another set of leaves when making a pruning cut. Don’t just make a pruning cut in the middle of a stem. You will have an ugly little stump hanging out there next spring.
Hold off on all fertilizer and dead heading. In late winter or early spring prune the canes to 12 to 14 inches above the ground. The rose will bloom on the new growth.
Teas and floras
If you have hybrid teas, grandifloras, and floribundas, most of your work will be done after the ground is frozen, and that will be closer to early December.
If you look closely at the base of your rose, you will see a big bump on the stem. That is the graft where the grower attached a pretty top plant on a sturdy root system. It is really important to keep that graft protected.
Cut the stems down to 24 inches and no shorter. Gently tie the canes together with a pair of old nylons or cloth to reduce damage to the stem during the winter. Usually tying the top helps them from being bent in the wind.
Shrubs and knockouts
Shrub roses like knockouts don’t need any special treatment. They are built to withstand our harsh winters, so just follow the usual mulching technique around the graft at the base of the plant after the ground is frozen.
Get rid of any overlapping or damaged canes on the trellis covered with roses first. If possible, try to remove it from its trellis and tie the canes loosely together. If you can’t get it off the trellis, take the whole trellis down and lay it on the ground.
Cover the canes with about 4 inches of soil and cover the base with 6 inches of composted manure and another 4 inches of soil.
If taking it down is out of the question, you can drape burlap around it to protect the leaves from drying out over the winter.
And always take time to stop and take a whiff, especially with a special friend. Those moments are priceless.
Contact Kelly Heidbreder at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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