Finishing a rose garden with 36 properly prepared, 2-foot deep holes, filled with porous soil, an advantageous ground irrigation system and topped with 6 inches of mulch. (Jeanette Painter)

Finishing a rose garden with 36 properly prepared, 2-foot deep holes, filled with porous soil, an advantageous ground irrigation system and topped with 6 inches of mulch. (Jeanette Painter)

A GROWING CONCERN: Everything is coming up roses

HAVING JUST FINISHED a magnificent, 36 cut-flower rose garden for clients, I realize that a rose by any other name …. would still require as much work.

A well known verse holds the key — “Roses are red, violets are blue, bugs and diseases love your roses, too.”

Roses are romanticized in my mind since age 4. My first professional duties in the greenhouse were weeding and tending the grafts of 3,500 blooming cut-flower roses.

My height, along with 5 cents an hour wage, made me the perfect candidate for the labor intensive chores roses demand.

Roses in the northern hemisphere appear with the first works of literature in Greece. They are dried in the tombs of Egypt, found in ancient Chinese paintings and share almost the exact name in every European language.

Why? Roses are a perfect plant for anyone’s garden.

They really are easy to grow, especially here on the Peninsula, provided the conditions they are placed in are ideal and you are wiling to tend them.

Jobs and placements

So with that I submit to you the jobs and placement of the rose.

Roses require sun — lots of sun.

For best results it would be a spot that is sunny all day, at least 6 to 8 hours’ worth.

They need a spot with good air circulation. Planted too close to a building, behind a fence or a sheltered patio where air movement is hindered, your roses become a petri dish for mold and mildew.

Do not take this point lightly. Air circulation is a vital component of growing roses and must be considered.

Their soil requirements are exact. Rose medium should be porous, well draining, rich humus soil with a pH of 6.5 to 6.9.

Make sure to add compost and till deeply. Roses with 24-inch holes are vastly superior to roses in more shallow holes.

Remember, inadequate drainage in your soil severely stunts roses, too.

But now it is summer so let’s concentrate on the care and blooming of your roses.

Roses want plenty of water when the season is warm and dry.

They like deep, weekly waterings that penetrate to the bottom of that 2-foot hole.

Water your roses at the soil surface and avoid getting water on the leaves.

Mold and mildew needs moisture to breed. Like tomatoes, use water moving across the foliage as their main conduct of migration.

So watering in the morning with a water breaker and a long-handle watering wand at the bush’s base will give you noticeable improvements.

Next, roses love nutrients.

They are little fertilizer gluttons. A weekly foliar feed done early on a sunny day will greatly increase vigor and flower count.

For granular applications use fish meal, dried bloodmeal, compost and cottonseed meal for your slow release nitrogen.

Phosphate rock, wood ash and green sand provide organic phosphates and phosphorus. These products can be added monthly.

For store-bought mixes, get a rose-specific food and apply throughout the season as recommended.

Next are mulch coverings for your roses.

Mulches keep soil cool and consistent.

Around your roses, a six-inch mulch cover is ideal. Use slightly decomposed mulch.

Top dress mulch

You may top dress that decomposed black mulch with a half inch of beauty bark for aesthetics, if desired.

Around each rose plant, craft a depression for water collection, this is a handy trick for deep watering.

Now lets move to pruners, fingers and actual mechanical care.

First and foremost pull off all dead or damaged leaves as they appear.

Every few days look at the roses and cut or pull all damaged branches, stems or leaves.

The number one way diseases enter your roses is through damaged or dead organic material.

With this link in mind, do not leave any rose material on the ground. Remove all leaves and petals around the plant.

In reality this is where your problems lie, in the debris around the plant.

Next, cut and prune away all dead branches. Dead wood along with the removal of small gnarled, weak branches is done all summer long.

When harvesting your blooms or deadheading remember to cut your roses back enough.

All too often people cut their blooms with too short of a stem, probably because their vases are short. Thus their plants get taller with fewer flowers.

Roses bloom on new wood. Hard, low cuts guarantee new wood.

As a general rule when harvesting blooms or deadheading, cut back one-third to two-thirds of that stem’s length.

The direction of the node left below your prune is the direction that stem is growing. So when pruning off flowers, cut at a node that points outward from the plant. At this time of year, it is the best tip I can give you and is backed up by 37½ years of experience.

Cut those roses back hard and down the cane a ways and your blooms will multiply.

Time your cuts

On this note, cut flowers after 4:30 p.m. The latest tests show late afternoon harvest can produce flowers lasting many times longer than an early morning harvest.

The belief here is the sugars are at their peak in the afternoon and moving up the flower head.

Cut the flower when one petal is unwrapping and you can see the exact center wrap of petals has begun to open . Re-cut your rose stems and put back in fresh water daily.

Roses callus off their wound, microbes breed in old water and plug up the water transport tubes. A fresh cut and new water daily doubles the staying power of your roses.

There is so much more about roses. In late fall we will get you to chop them down to 6 to 8 inches high.

But for now water deeply, remove old and dying leaves from the bush or ground and cut them back as the flowers move forward.

And if you don’t own a rose, the shops are open and now is the time to plant roses.


Andrew May is a freelance writer and ornamental horticulturist who dreams of having Clallam and Jefferson counties nationally recognized as “Flower Peninsula USA.” Send him questions c/o Peninsula Daily News, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362, or email (subject line: Andrew May).

Planting the roses in their 2-foot deep holes with a ring drip-irrigation system. (Jeanette Painter)

Planting the roses in their 2-foot deep holes with a ring drip-irrigation system. (Jeanette Painter)

Planted, mulched, irrigated and ready to grow. (Jeanette Painter)

Planted, mulched, irrigated and ready to grow. (Jeanette Painter)

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