Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Rosa Practica ....the Practical Rose Guide

The photo above shows MrMartha's hillside garden last summer, at the height of its first rose bloom cycle. (This year, the plants are a bit slower and blooming later, due to Seattle's incredibly harsh weather this past winter.) Click on the photo to enlarge view, and back button to return to post.

MrMartha has a weakness for roses, and, obviously, they are very prevalent in the garden here.

Many gardeners, however, shy away from the rose.....Common complaints: not an attractive plant, too much work, too temperamental, susceptible to too many diseases and problems. All can have valid points in their own way, but most are just excuses. The attention that roses do require must be balanced with the joy and pure visual impact that well cared for rose bushes can provide in the garden.

They are unsurpassed as cut flowers, and just one or two varieties -- carefully placed in even the smallest garden, or grown in pots on the patio -- can add amazing impact and visual punch to any outdoor space.

Yes they do require attention, regular dedicated attention, but not in an excessive way. If you choose your varieties with care, based on their needs, strengths, and flaws -- as well as your level of commitment to their care -- you can enjoy beautiful plants and bountiful blooms without subjecting yourself to huge amounts of effort.

Read More for MrMartha's tips on successful rose growing and additional photos. A must if you are thinking about adding your first rose bushes to the garden, if you have existing rose plants that you wish were performing more strongly, or if you are an experienced rosarian who knows there is always something new to learn.

The main factor with growing beautiful roses is the regular attention. The plants will not thrive without a little special treatment, and a level of dedicated maintenance and prevention. What is required, however, is far from Herculean....regular fertilization, pruning and shaping, deadheading of spent blooms, and disease control.

MrMartha has about two dozen rose bushes, and estimates that each requires an average of about 30 minutes per month in time and attention. So, doing the math, that works out to about three hours a week to maintain a fairly large collection of roses....not really all that much time spent, given what happens in return.

General Knowledge and Research.
Learn about different types of roses, discover what is most successful for the needs of your garden, your location, and the level of care and attention you are prepared to provide. There are great resources online, and it is worth spending some time doing a little research. Rose Magazine Online is an excellent place to start if you are a novice, with lots of great info for the serious rose grower as well.

Selecting Varieties.
MrMartha admits to often choosing his own roses based on the name of the variety -- and what it evokes in MrMartha's memory, or by falling in love with a particular bloom -- and not doing the further research about the particular plant to fully understand its strengths and weaknesses. It's good to be a bit dispassionate in the selection process, and look at the ratings and facts about of a particular variety before totally falling in love with a specific plant. A great way to browse and learn is at EveryRose.com, you can narrow your search by color, type, even name attributes....its an amazing database -- a wonderful way to get lost for a while, and learn in the process.

Planting, Watering, and Fertilizing.
It is worth taking a bit of time to understand how to prepare your planting area, the best way to place and situate your plantings, as well as spacing and sun requirements. Fertilizing is a very simple aspect of growing roses, and can be as easy as sprinkling an all purpose granular fertilizer every few weeks during the growing season, or as complex as a difficult cake recipe. Just depends how much time you would like to devote. Spring Valley Roses has great information about planting and general care.

Pruning and Disease Control.
It's important to prune your roses correctly in the spring, and to also understand the proper way to deadhead blooms and shape the plants during the growing season. There are simple principles involved, but it is worth taking a bit of time to understand the concept and what is best for the plants. The University of Illinois Extension has wonderful information about the art and science or pruning Roses. North Carolina State University Extension has well written and easy to navigate information about Disease Control. You can also find links to information about Natural Disease Control Here.

A few things MrMartha has learned and would like to recommend....

** Adding cut (natural -- unchemically processed) human hair to the planting hole will give added complex nutrients to the root system, slowly breaking down and feeding the new plant as it establishes. You may get a funny look at the salon when you ask to have your cut hair swept into a Ziploc bag to bring home, but your new plants will love it.

** Epsom Salt, from the drugstore, promotes enzymatic activity in the soil, and basal stem breaks resulting in more blooms. Add a quarter to half cup of granules around the base of each plant when you do your regular fertilization.

** Roses benefit from regular shallow soil cultivation in the root area. Just barely scratch the surface, the first inch or so, kept loose and free, will help water get to the roots and aerate the soil.

** Roses love water, approximately an inch a week is most desirable...BUT.....keep the water off the foliage, water only at the base of the plant. Overhead watering can encourage or spread disease. Mulching the perimeter of the plant but keeping the mulch a few inches back from the actual crown of the plant will allow a nice basin area for water, and then help keep the plant moist after watering.

** If you live in the Northwest, Coastal areas, highly humid areas, or if you just cant resist choosing plants that have known issues with disease, it is better to be proactive and keep diseases from establishing. There are several natural sprays for this process, but MrMartha admits to using a chemical Fungicide/Insecticide spray every 10 days from early spring to mid summer, and then again as needed at ANY sign of a problem. It is much easier to keep your plants healthy and disease free, than to try to clear some nasty infestation that has gotten quickly out of hand.

** Well tended plants are happy plants! Paying attention to deadheading, pruning, fertilizing, watering, and some preventive disease control, will give you strong, attractive, showstopping roses, with just a reasonable amount of attention and care. Extra fussing and serious pampering is not required, but can be fun sometimes!