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Cultivating Roses, Nature’s Gift to the Senses

Romeo: "What's in a name?"
Juliet: "That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

– William Shakespeare

Delicate petals in alabaster hues ... magnificent clusters of burgundy blooms ... pastel peaches, pinks and yellows ... more than 4,000 varieties in a staggering array of colors can confound even veteran gardeners. The challenge isn’t deciding whether or not to plant roses, it’s having to choose which ones.

Note: Different areas of the country may require slightly different planting and growing techniques from the general guidelines here. Please check with nurseries, agricultural extensions or an experienced rose gardener for local requirements.

Making a Bed for Roses to Lie In

Miniature, dwarf, standard, climber or hybrid tea – no matter which you choose, they will add sweet scents for the senses.

Roses require abundant sunshine, rich, well-drained soil, dry leaves and ample water. They also like to be tucked into a custom-made bed that begins with a hole dug in two stages and soil layered with nutrients, such as manure.

Digging

Making a proper bed for the garden royals may seem a bit fussy, but so are the roses.

Begin by removing the dirt from a hole about two feet wide and 18 inches deep. Spread three inches of manure over the bottom of the hole (or choose a fertilizer recommended by your nursery or garden center). Dig another 18 inches, but do not remove the dirt. Instead, work the nutrient into the softened soil.

Return just 12 inches of dirt to the hole and mix the layers softened soil. (A rototiller does an excellent job here.) Then back to the shovel detail. Remove enough soil to make a hole two feet deep in a cone shape, which will help direct the plant’s roots as they grow. (The additional softened soil under that keeps drainage high and the chance of wet roots low.)

Planting

As painful as it may be, the height of the rose bush may have to be pruned short enough for the immature roots to support the plant but without cutting below the graft site. Trim damaged roots, set the plant in the hole, return the dirt, press to firm it, and shape the surface dirt into a cone around the stalk.

Tending

Like people, roses need food, water and regular grooming. The menu is simple – handful of fertilizer made just for roses once a month and enough water to keep the soil moist but not wet (no puddles please!).

Clip dead and dying blooms. “Deadheading” preserves energy and encourages new buds.

Watch for garden pests like beetles and aphids. In nature’s balanced cycle, ants dine on aphids, so protect them. In return, you can nurture the earth by trying natural remedies before resorting to chemicals. Garlic planted in the rose bed discourages many bugs from setting up housekeeping, as does a bit of dishwashing detergent in the water applied to the bushes.

If you must eventually consider chemical pesticides, use only ones specific to roses and follow the directions. More is not better.

Fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that run off, leach during rains and become airborne in the wind are the greatest sources of damage to waterways and contamination of drinking water. You can make a difference.

My Botanica is your source of products carefully chosen for their environmentally sensitive character. Our team is always available to help you make a difference while helping you grow and nurture prize roses. Please call toll free 1-888-722-4308.

Recomended Links:

The American Rose Society provides an excellent FAQ on, among other matters, pruning and deadheading rose bushes.

The American Rose Society has also an evolving classification system for rose bushes, but David Austin's schema Roses for Specific Purposes/Positions is more useful for the beginner.

For a detailed article on planting bare root rose bushes, see Mark Whitelaw's Planting Bare Root Rose Bushes.