For rose lovers like me, this is the month. All of the roses in my garden are blooming - the climbers, the ramblers, and the shrubs – and they are glorious.
You probably have roses, too, especially if your house, like mine, was built before 1950, as so many in Larchmont were. “Blaze,” the familiar red climber, was a common choice, and many gardens have “Peace,” the yellowish-pink hybrid tea that was introduced in 1945.
Despite their apparent fragility, some types of roses are sturdy and reliable plants for Larchmont’s climate and soil conditions. This article will get you started – or help you expand your rose repertoire.
Selecting a Site
Like other plants, roses need to be planted in the right place. (You’ve already heard this advice from us, right?) They need at least six hours of sun, preferably in the morning to allow the dew to dry. Some roses-like the climber “Sally Holmes” or the David Austen shrub “WildEve” -can take a little shade, but most prefer those sunny spots that have protection from strong winds.
Roses also need good drainage and, of course, good quality soil with plenty of organic matter. Since they like soil with a pH (alkalinity or acidity) between 6.5 and 6.8, you may want to do a pH test, which we discussed in our article, \\\ If it shows that the acidity is too high (below 6.5), you may want to add some lime; if the alkalinity is too high, think about adding some sulfur.
With roses, there’s another important consideration. They really need good air circulation to prevent the spread of fungal diseases. So it’s wise to plant them with adequate spacing if you’re planning a formal rose garden or intending to use them in a mixed border.
Choosing Your Roses
Choosing the roses you want to grow may seem overwhelming when you visit one of our local garden centers. There are rows and rows of selections. Of course, you’ll want to consider the flower color – pink, yellow, red, white or even purple, and, if you want to delve even deeper, you may want to look at the color of the foliage – light, medium or dark green – and its type – glossy or leathery. You’ll also have choices among one-time bloomers, repeat-bloomers (that flower in early summer and later towards the fall), and ever-bloomers, that bloom all season.
There are five types of modern roses, those that began with the first hybrid rose in 1867.
- One is hybrid teas like “Touch of Class”–a lovely medium pink–that are useful for cut flowers because they have long pointed buds on long stems. You see these often in formal rose gardens.
- Another category is floribundas-carmine “Betty Prior” and white “Iceberg,” for example, which are relatively compact ever-blooming bushes that work well in mixed flower borders.
- Grandifloras are the big boys of the group. They produce long straight stems and large flowers. The blooms on my “Queen Elizabeth” must be six inches across.
- Shrubs are “landscape” roses. They have well rounded shapes that can be used as free-standing bushes, as part of mixed borders, or as an informal hedge. The popular “Knock Out” series, which is available in pink, carmine, and now yellow, is one example. “Carefree Wonder,” another example of a shrub rose, keeps blooms all summer long in my garden.
- Climbers and ramblers are similar: they are large bushes with canes that can be trained on fences, walls or trellises. “New Dawn,” the fabulous pale pink climber, can grow as high as 15 to 20 feet. I have her on a trellis, but she would be just as good winding through a small tree.
Hybrid teas tend to be one-time bloomers as are many grandifloras. Climbers and ramblers bloom twice, and the floribundas and shrubs are often repeat- or ever-bloomers.
If you don’t have enough sun or space for roses in the garden, you can use containers. Miniature roses are perfect for that purpose. They are true roses that are bred to stay small. You can find mini-hyrbid teas, shrubs, and climbers in the whole range of colors.
Planting Your Roses
Now that it’s June, you’re likely to be buying container-grown plants. You can put them in the ground anytime between now and the fall. Look for healthy plants that have a good structure-an open center with three to five strong canes facing outward and nice green leaves. Also check under the leaves and along the stems for any critters you don’t want to bring home with you.
(You can also order plants from mail order catalogues. They ship “bare-root” plants, which require a different planting process. It’s too late in the season for most mail order companies to ship: wait until next winter or spring to place your orders. )
Planting is easy. Just dig a hole 18 inches wide and deep. Add your compost or well-rotted manure to the soil in the hole and the soil you’ve dug out of it. Gently remove the rose from the container and place it in the hole so that the bud union (the knot of wood where the canes join the rootstock) is just about at the level of the hole. Hold the rose as you backfill the soil, pack the soil firmly, and water well. Good job!
Caring For Your Roses
Maintaining roses is like maintaining any other plants, with some exceptions. The key is to follow good gardening practices. Water new roses well: they need more water when they are beginning to flower and less after you have begun to cut the blooms. Mulch helps reduce the need for moisture and inhibits weeds.
Container-grown roses don’t need fertilizer when they are first planted, but you will want to add some at monthly intervals until August to encourage repeat-blooming.
Dead-heading also stimulates blooms in repeat-blooming and ever-blooming. Simply cut back the faded flower and its stem to an outward-facing bud and a leaf with five leaflets.
Pruning and Pests. Pruning is essential for roses, because it strengthens the plants. Removing dead canes and thinning out old ones shapes the plants and improves air circulation. Do not prune now: it’s too late. You should only prune in the spring when the new leaves are just about an inch long.
Volumes have been written on rose pests and diseases. Out, out aphids and Japanese beetles! Away powdery mildew and black spot! You can manage pests in many ways without using chemicals: gently wash aphids off the plant using your garden hose and encourage beneficial insects such as lady beetles and lacewings in your garden.
See: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/gardening/factsheets/ecogardening/gardcal.html) Further details on rose growing is at: http://www.hort.cornell.edu/gardening/factsheets/ecogardening/ipmrose.html.
Now that you’ve learned the basics, there’s no excuse. You, too, can be a rosarian!
Please come by the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Westchester’s Master Gardener Booth at the Larchmont Farmers’ Market. We’ll be there to provide advice and answer your questions on Saturday, July 12, 2009 from 8:30 until 12:00.
Some Things to Do in June:
- Continue to mulch beds.
- Deadhead lilacs, rhododendrons, and laurel after flowering.
- Harvest lettuce, radishes, and scallions.