Bare-root roses have become the retail trade’s signature sign that spring is just around the corner. This week I’ve witnessed bare-root varieties on display at grocery stores, pharmacies, box stores, home centers, and warehouses. The picture on the wrapping and the ease of carrying a bare root plant makes for a very tempting purchase.
However, when gardening in Northern Arizona we really must be careful about what we buy to plant in our gardens. This is an arid climate with spring winds that can easily suck the life out of bare-root plants. Even in my own garden I’ve tried bare-root plants with failure rates of 50% or more. So, that’s why I say stay away from bare-root trees, shrubs, berries, and roses. I’m on my soapbox about this topic because of the negative success rate with bare-root roses. They just aren’t worth the frustration and high rate of failure probable in our climate.
Bare-root roses are sold with no soil around the roots and often no roots on the plant. Frequently these bushes are displayed in very pretty plastic bags filled with sawdust, but they never have vibrant roots. I prefer container roses because they are farm-raised plants rooted out into buckets full of potting soil that will transplant successfully. They will be showing signs of new leaves just like other landscape plantings purchased in containers. Planting success doubles when the plant is acclimated to our climate, on our garden cycles, with a fully matured root structure.
Once planted and fully rooted our arid climate makes is easy to maintain established roses. In all my decades of high mountain gardening I have only witnessed one case of black spot on a rose. We do have some thrips and aphids that like certain rose varieties, but realize few threats from other insects. A little preventative care and a rose can easily be the showiest shrub in the yard. Watch this column for care specifics as the gardening season progresses.
For many years the focus of the rose breeding industry has been on new color introductions and disease resistance. So much so that fragrances have been bred right out of many varieties. A rose deserves to be a fragrant addition to a garden. Any nursery worthy of its plants will have roses separated into categories of fragrance and then differing colors. Choose the color you like, just make sure it has an element of fragrance to the flower as well. Here is a list of my local fragrant favorites.
Mr. Lincoln – We might as well start out with my all-time favorite fragrant rose. Several of my homes have had Mr. Lincolns with their velvety, jaw-dropping, luscious red blossoms set against the shiny green leaves that mirror all that eye-popping beauty. The killer-colored blooms maintain that red to the very finish of the flower. Besides the extravagant color the flowers exude a ‘stop-‘em dead in their tracks’ fragrance that is certain to lure you to linger. Your nose will pick this rose over others every time!
Fragrant Plum – If you know roses, imagine the intensely fragrant “Paradise” rose with more blue color and a mysteriously smoky, marvelous fragrance. Those are the characteristics of “Fragrant Plum”. An elegant tall rose, it produces vigorous premium length cutting stems with heavily scented double blooms of purple. It’s tall enough to accent the corner of a home, soften a fence, or screen a hot tub with its lush deep green foliage.
Hot Cocoa – The petals shade from a chocolaty dark red with a deep rusty orange and then reverse. You can’t resist rubbing the soft fuzzy buds and the stunning displays of silken-petaled blooms to release the dark bittersweet fragrance. With the heat of summer the touch-of-chocolate scent intensifies. This is an oh-so-easy to grow rose with waves of flowers throughout the season.
Dolly Parton – From large shapely buds flowers emerge into provocative dark coppery oranges and reds to cover this vigorous upright hybrid tea. Flushes of the sweetest scented blooms fill the air with the scent of Dolly from spring to the first frost of fall. She really enjoys our arid Arizona soils.
Double Delight – Not sure which is the star feature of this rose – the striking bi-color flowers from urn-shaped buds, or the enticing spicy fragrance. The creamy flowers blush with deep reds that refuse to fade even in our punishing summer heat. Long sturdy stems keep a cut bouquet looking its best for a long vase life. Compact enough for container gardens, but showy enough for a flowering hedge or accent planting, a Double Delight is must for every yard that welcomes roses.
I really like to write, especially the word play that comes with plant descriptions, but we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words and I’m only allowed one black and white photo per printed version of this column. So, I’ll post a picture of each of the described roses on my Facebook page this week at www.facebook.com/watters1815 .
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Our gorgeous spring-like weather has brought on flushes of new foliage on local rose bushes. All these young leaves have prompted the question, “Ken, my roses are growing like its spring. Should I be pruning them back?” I know that bushes in the landscape have hundreds of new leaves erupting from this unseasonably warm weather, but the best advice is to wait until March for proper pruning.
Prune too early and a cold front can kill canes back to the graft, leaving you with a stubby ugly rosebush. Yes, later you can fertilizer your way out of most mistakes, but simply waiting a couple of weeks to cut the roses back is best. I’ll dedicate a column to the best local pruning of roses when the time is right.
Until next week, see you at the garden center.
Throughout the week Ken Lain is at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road, Prescott, and can be contacted through his web site at www.wattersonline.com. Ken says, “My personal mission is to help local homeowners garden better in our mountain landscapes.”