5 Easy Steps to Roses

11/23/2012 | Ken Lain, mountain gardener Flowers, Plant Care, Uncategorized

This week brought a winter storm that surprised most of us. We had 7” of snow at our house that quickly melted off the drive the following day; it’s the kind of snow I like. The stuff that sticks around with a thin icy layer underneath is no fun, especially when you have to shovel a two-acre garden center the next morning!

This storm is more typical of the area: snow one day, melt the next. However, it still means that we must protect our plants from snow damage. I posted some very good pictures of what to watch for and how to deal with plants heavy with snow. They’re on my business Facebook page, www.facebook.com/WattersGardenCenter. You can help me out while you’re there. I am in a race with a buddy of mine in Portland, Oregon who has 1822 Facebook fans who ‘Like’ his business. Would you ‘Like’ me so my buddy will stop harassing me about having more fans than I do?

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The last week of February tends to bring on March-like spring weather. This is our cue to start pruning roses. All roses appreciate a good cutting, and now through the end of March is the ideal time to prune mountain roses. Don’t be afraid to “cut them hard”.

Every year, when I first look at my bushes I get the feeling I don’t know where to start cutting! However, with many rose-pruning seasons under my belt, I’ve found five easy steps that ease my uncertainty and guide me to making roses the best they can be. With these steps you can knock out a dozen properly pruned rosebushes in an easy afternoon.

Step #1 – cut out all dead canes. Make sure you wear a good pair of gloves for this step. The dead thorns can really hurt, draw much blood, and even leave scars. This gardener has a few battle wounds, trust me. I highly recommend a good pair of rose gloves, the kind you can find at any garden center.

Step #2 – cut off wild-looking canes and any crossing branches. Usually you’ll find the wild-looking canes growing from the bottom of the graft, close to the ground. These canes are from the original rose rootstock; you don’t want them on your bushes so cut them back to the graft. You’ll easily identify these because the thorns on these canes look different, heavier, and sharper. Crossing branches are any that are growing across others, contradicting the overall shape of the bush.

Step #3 – cut out old canes. These are canes that have bark starting to form on them and are very thick, an inch or more thick. For this job I break out my favorite pair of long-handled pruners; they’re perfect for this job. These are specialty pruners you will only find at garden centers, but they’ll help you reach deep into the bush without incurring brutal cuts, punctures, or scratches. Cutting out these old canes will open up the bush and define the structure for the plant.

Step #4 – prune out any canes that have suffered winter damage. These canes appear green on the bottom with a red to purple color on the tops that have been injured by winter’s cold. The goal is to end up with a bush that is knee to waist high and with 3 to 6 spatially balanced canes coming from the main graft near the ground.

Step #5 – seal any cut cane that is larger around than your pinkie finger. This will keep bugs from burrowing into the exposed soft wood. I like the black pruning paint that comes in a can with a small brush attached to the cap; it makes this job very easy.

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With your rosebush pruning finished for another year, you should wind up your session with a little spring cleaning. Remove any dead leaves and flowers from around the graft so that air can circulate freely around the base of each plant. If you have had problems with powdery mildew on certain bushes, make sure you pull all remaining leaves off the canes and really clean up thoroughly. This will reduce the possibility of mildew returning.

Make sure to clean up remaining canes. Spray the newly pruned rose bush with my ‘Lime Sulfur’. This liquid spray is a natural formula that will clean the bush of any powdery mildew, aphids, and thrips.

Now, feed your roses. I am a strong believer in rose foods with systemic bug control. The plant actually absorbs the bug killer into the foliage to keeps bugs at bay during the growing and blooming season. There’s nothing more satisfying than having the most fragrant roses that are beautiful AND bug free.

With these easily performed tasks our roses are ready for the summer season. That’s when we reap the results of our labor: we get to enjoy these beautiful, fragrant stars of our gardens!

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If you want to learn more from this local gardener I invite you to my classes at the garden center each Saturday from 9:30 to 10:30. This week’s topic is “Keeping the Mammals O-U-T”. You may bring photos of your landscape and we can discuss specifics after the class. Make sure to arrive early because class sizes are limited. This spring’s entire class schedule is posted on my Facebook page under the ‘Events’ link. Remember, I am in a race with friends to get the most fans to ‘Like’ our page. Please help!

If you are not a Facebook user you can always check out the classes the “old-fashioned way” . . . through my web site at www.wattersonline.com .

Until next week, I’ll see you at the garden center.