… and a few tips on how to grow them
I used to arrange artificial roses into beautiful bouquets until then it dawned on me, I could grow real roses for the same purpose!
Since then I have found rose gardening to be good therapy for me. It allows me to relax and let my worries slip away. Communing with nature in the form of rose gardening gives me a "natural high." I get so awestruck by a rosebud's mysterious beauty that, when I look deeply into its center, a tingling sensation moves up my spine. There is very little that can surpass the loveliness of a rose bloom's velvety texture, eloquent form, enchanting fragrance, and vivid color as its petals unfold.
If you are interested, I wish to share with you what I've learned from growing roses so that you, too, can experience these joys.
As I enter into the eighth year of cultivating roses, I continue to be excited about watching my rose bushes grow into maturity. Through experimentation, reading books, viewing videos, and consultations with rosarians from The Central Ohio Rose Society, I have learned how to successfully grow roses.
Though there are many types of roses, I prefer the hybrid tea variety - especially those that have dark red blooms and those that have white blooms with a pink blush. When deciding which rose bushes to buy, I look at pictures of them and read about their characteristics in catalogs and books. I also admire them at The Park of Roses and Inniswood Garden Metropark in Westerville.
I have found that Oakland Nursery has the highest quality, the best variety, and the most abundance of roses for sale in Central Ohio. Their employees are expert in helping their patrons choose the “right bush.” I recommend choosing disease resistant varieties because you’ll have fewer problems with them. Oakland Nursery’s prices are on the high side, but it’s worth buying quality bushes in the long run. To save money, however, I buy my garden supplies at places such as Wal-Mart, Meijer, Lowes, and Home Depot. I have used generic versions of the products are mentioned below; however, I have had better results with name brand products.
WORK, BUT NOT REALLY WORK
Yes, there is a lot of work in growing roses, but the pay off is tremendous. The work one does for oneself in the form of a hobby is different than work done for an employer. Rose gardening isn’t really “work;” it’s a kind of therapy and, as with any hobby; the therapeutic value is in doing. The results are gravy.
For roses to thrive, they need tender, loving care in the form of being feed, protected, and cleaned. They also need lots of sun light, air circulation, good drainage, and moderate amounts of spraying on a regular basis.
DEEP-WATERING AND FEEDING
Though it’s increases the water bill, I water my rose bushes deeply once a week during dry times and less often during raining times. I really soak the soil around the rose bushes so that the water goes past the thick mulch and down past the roots so that the worms move around, thereby creating tunnels for the roots to grow deeper into the soil. Doing this helps to ensure a greater degree of survivability during cold winter months and drought. I haven’t seen any hard scientific data to confirm this supposition, but I believe it to be true.
Watering my roses is one of the best things I like about caring for them. It relaxes me and puts me in a serene state of mind.
When watering, I keep the watering wand on “soaker” setting and the wand’s end touching the ground so the water doesn’t spray up onto the leaves. Doing this lessens the chance of fungus from spreading from the ground to the leaves.
I feed my rose bushes every ten to fourteen days with MiracleGro for Roses. During the summer, I also add a bloom booster to the fertilizer. I’m careful not to over-fertilize my rose bushes because too much of the stuff can burn the plant’s roots. Every month or so I sprinkle approximately a half a cup of Epson Salt, which is pure magnesium sulfate, around the base of the plants. Doing this promotes stem growth.
PROTECTING THEM FROM PESTS AND THE ELEMENTS
I'm on constant guard against insects, disease, and pests. Black spots and aphids are the biggest problems I've encountered thus far. Note: That was in 2003. Now (2008) my biggest problem is Japanese Beetles. I hate these insects. They do a lot of damage to blooms and leaves. To deal with them, I tap them into a dish of rubbing alcohol and watch them drown! I also spray my rose bushes with concentrated, liquid Sevin, which eliminates almost all pests. The little bottle above is the premixed type (for a smaller rose gardens).
I have yet to find anything that gets rid of Japanese Beetles entirely but, tapping them into rubbing alcohol and spraying with liquid Sevin are the only way I know how to control them, at least to some extent.
I’ve tried “environmentally friendly” remedies to no avail. That is why I’ve resorted to using these potent chemicals which are much more effective. However, by utilizing them, I could be harming our environment and me, too!
There are many pests who do damage to rose bushes, but the most bothersome, for me, are aphids. Every four to six weeks I scatter Bayer Advanced Garden systemic pesticide granules around the base of each plant. Though this pesticide isn’t environmentally friendly, I have found it to be much more effective in warding off destructive pests than using an insecticidal soap. Even so, I sometimes have to spray aphid invested rosebuds with a mixture of one part liquid dish soap and ten parts water to temporarily kill the little, bright green, sap-sucking pests.
I must warn you: this very effective pesticide is also very poisonous; safety precautions must be taken. I wear a mask, eye protection (goggles), a baseball cap, and a long sleeve shirt when spreading it. I spread the granules just before I finish gardening and then take a shower immediately afterward. These measures may sound extreme, but I don’t take any chances with this pesticide.
Early in the spring rabbits like to eat the new leaves around the base of the plant. Sprinkling ground, black pepper around the rose bed perimeter is pretty effective in keeping them away. An additional application is necessary after it has rained. Discontinue the black pepper applications after about six weeks; the plant has grown enough by then so that rabbits are no longer interested in eating the leaves.
To get them ready for winter, I stop feeding the rose bushes around Labor Day. Then, after the first autumn frost, I cut the canes back to about eight inches from the ground and cover them with soil and nine inches of mulch.
KEEPING THEM CLEAN
At the beginning of spring, I remove debris from my rose bed and move away the mounds of dirt and old mulch. I scatter 16 oz. of Epson salt and Bayer Advanced Garden granules around each plant. And finally, I mulch to a about a 3” depth.
I deadhead weekly. Deadheading means snipping off the spent blooms from the bush so that more blooms will grow. Make your cut just above an “eye” [the place where branches grow out of the cane] that faces outward and remove canes that grow inward. This promotes good air circulation in and around the bush.
I go through two to three pruners a season. I buy the $2.99 kind at Big Lots. I have found that it does the job as well as the $24.99 pruners sold at nurseries. When pruning and dead heading my rose bushes, I frequently clean the pruner blades with rubbing alcohol and paper towels so as to not cross contaminate the other plants if one of them is diseased.
The cycle starts when water splashes from the ground to the lower leaves, carrying the black spot fungus with it. Left untreated, those leaves usually develop black spots. After a few days those affected leaves turn yellow and fall off the plant. The fungal disease progressively moves upward until nearly every leaf has fallen off. I’ve seen rose bushes so badly ravaged by this terrible disease that all that is left are blooms and a few unaffected leaves near the top of the plant.
To counter that cycle of fungal disease, I pick off the affected leaves, pick up the leaves that have fallen to the ground, put them in a plastic bag, and throw that ban in the dumpster. This helps to prevent more fungus from forming on the lower leaves when water splashes on to them from the ground. I then spray with the whole bush with Ortho’s Rose Pride fungicide, as needed, or every other week. It’s important to follow the manufacture’s directions – too much fungicide will burn the leaves.
PLANTING ROSE BUSHES
Items that I use for planting gardening roses are: leather gloves that extend past my wrists, work clothes, work shoes, a long handled shovel, a garden hose with a spraying wand, peat moss, top soil, root stimulator, bone meal, blood meal, and mulch.
I use the following procedure when planting a bare root rose bush: (planting a potted rose bush is a similar and easier procedure.)
1) I take the bare root bush out of its package, gently shake off the wood shavings it was packed in, and soak the dormant bush’s roots, over night, in a root stimulator solution.
2) In a location that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day, I construct a raised flower bed with red, scalloped, concrete boarders. I then fill the raised flower bed with about six inches of top soil.
3) Spacing them approximately thirty inches on center, I a dig holes about eighteen inches deep and eighteen inches wide while putting the soil onto a tarp so as to not damage the lawn.
4) I then fill the hole with water and, if it doesn't drain within half an hour, I move to a more suitable site because roses need good draining. I've heard it said: "Roses don't like to get their feet wet."
5) Filling the hole halfway with a fifty-fifty mix of peat moss and top soil, I add two cups of bone meal, two cups of blood meal, and two gallons of the left over root stimulator solution (optional). Adding water, as necessary, I mix the mud well with a shovel until its consistency is neither too soupy nor too thick.
6) Wearing gardening gloves, I get down on my knees and form the mud into a funnel with the wider portion of the funnel on the bottom. While spreading the roots out and away from the bush, I carefully place the bush on top of the mud funnel.
7) I lay my shovel across the ground next to the rose bush to ensure that the root ball is at ground level. Doing this enhances the survivability of the rose bush during bitterly cold weather. In warmer climates, the root ball is located an inch or two above the ground. [A root ball is where the top half of a rose bush is joined to the bottom half (root) of a heartier plant. That is why they called hybrid tea rose bushes. Rose bushes propagated from a cane (also known as a cutting) do not need to be hybridized because their roots are stronger.]
8) I then fill in the remainder of the hole with equal amounts of potting soil, peat moss, and original soil. After lightly tamping down the soil with my feet to get any air bubbles out of the hole, I then pour the remaining root stimulator around the plant.
9) I spread about a four inch thickness of mulch around the rose bush so that the mulch retains water and inhibits weed development. And finally, I water the plant for about 30 seconds.
Potted rose bushes are simpler to plant - omit steps 1 and 6.
Blooms can be expected within four to six weeks of planting.
Sprays of Baby’s Breath in a vase with cut roses look wonderful! I’ve grown Baby’s Breath from seed and planted them near my rose bushes. It grows to be about three feet high and four feet wide, encircling one or two rose bushes and creating a beautiful effect! However, planting roses and other plants close together can cause an increased risk of fungal disease.
Roses are a gift for all to enjoy. In our culture, the rose is a symbol of love. True love is meant to be given freely, not possessed. Otherwise, it is not love. Neil Young expressed it well when he sang:
"Love is a rose but you'd better not pick it,
you lose your love when you say the word, 'mine.'"
I hope this essay has been helpful to those interested in growing roses. Though some may say rose gardening involves too much energy and other resources, I say it is a satisfying hobby. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I step back, look at my garden, and know I've helped to beautify my neighborhood with gorgeous flowers. Yet, one of the ironies of growing them is that, with all of the time, money, and work I've put into growing roses, I sometimes see a neglected rose bush doing well with little or no care!
Unless already noted, all roses shown in these photographs were from Kevin’s rose garden. They were taken between the years 2001-2004.
These two photos are taken of my current rose garden.