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The mightly-mite roses.

Exquisite Lilliputians of the rose world, miniature roses are natural (genetic) dwarf roses ranging from 5 to 30 inches tall at maturity. Although these little plants with jewel-like flowers and small leaves look fragible, they are as cold-hardy, easy to grow, and versatile as full-size roses. Unlike large roses, miniatures bloom repeatedly all summer and into fall--but fewer than half have fragrance.

Hobbyists have grown miniatures--often as house plants in sunny windows--without fanfare for more than 60 years. But now more gardeners are finding ways to use them in low borders, edging flower beds, as standards in containers, even in hanging baskets. The most compact varieties are perfect tuck-ins for tight spaces.

As one measure of their acceptance, miniature roses now are entered in competitive rose shows, are grown and rated officially by the American Rose Society, and recently were admitted into the All-America Rose Selections trails.

This year, miniature shrub, tree, and climbing roses are much more widely available than ever before. You will find plants in bloom at many nurseries this month and through summer. If you want a bigger selection, try a rose nursery (look in the yellow pages under Nurseries). Serious growers usually buy from miniature rose specialists. The American Rose Society will provide a list; send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Nursery List, American Rose Society, Box 30000, Shreveport, La. 71130. Where miniatures come from

The first true miniatures were descendants of a small-flowered rose from China. To create new varieties today, rose breeders modify their usual course: after making a cross, the select small seedlings (instead of large ones) that retain the usual rose attributes of vigor, compactness, and good flower form.

Because numerous roses, large and small, are now used in breeding, miniatures come in many sizes, bloom forms (singles, semidoubles, and doubles), and colors. You can choose from hundreds of varieties, some of which reach 2-1/2 feet tall.

Small-growing floribundas are occasionally sold as miniatures, but they're not true miniatures. Most experts define a true miniature as a plant less than 18 inches tall at maturity (except trees and climbers), with flowers no more than about 1-3/4 inches across. Those growing 6 inches or less with flowers 1 inch or smaller are often called "micro-minis."

The small size of the flowers isn't the only big draw. These plants thrive in containers and in the ground. Some varieties have long, draping stems that suit them for hanging baskets. Climbers grow like diminutive vines, some of 8 feet tall, and make fine backdrops for the miniature shrubs. You may want to use a planter or shelf to raise plants closer to eye level so flowers can be seen up close. Check the plant label or ask your nurseryman to recommend varieties for specific uses.

Nurseries stock miniatures in spring and summer (there's no winter bare-root season for them). Plants in 3- or 4-inch pots cost about $3.50 to $4.50; you might find a few types in gallon cans for about $6. Keeping plants in blooming condition

Although a few miniature rose enthusiasts have reported trouble with insects or diseases, the overwhelming majority of people we interviewed laud miniatures for being less trouble than full-size roses.

Leaves may yellow and drop if plants are subjected to environmental extremes--too little water, then too much; bright light, then several days in a dim room; a sudden move from a warm, humid greenhouse to a hot, dry spot outside. If leaves drop, resist the temptation to overwater; resume good care, and leaves will regrow.

Plating. Choose a spot in full sun, but provide some afternoon shade in hot-summer climates. Miniature rose roots grow best in light, loose soil or planter mix. Amend soil with plenty of organic material before planting. In containers, use a coarse planter mix with leaf mold, orchid bark, or peat plus perlite. Space plants at least a foot apart.

Water. Keep soil or planter mix moist but not overly wet; in extreme summer heat, this may require watering every day. Drip irrigation works very well.

Fertilizer. In the ground, se nitrogen fertilizer, supplementing once a year with a complete fertilizer (any 3-1-2 ratio). In containers, use just the complete fertilizer, applying as often as label directs; to keep miniatures from outgrowing pots, cut the dosage in half. (If your water or soil is very alkaline, use an acid fertilizer.) Some growers find miniatures sensitive to overfertilizing--as a precaution, you can cut the recommended dose in half or use a long-term, controlled-release fertilizer.

Pests. In most climates, miniatures have fewer pests than full-size roses. If you find aphids, mites, powdery mildew, or other infestations, control as you would on full-size plants. (For details, see pages 106 to 113 of the March 1983 Sunset.)

Pruning. Remove crossed or overly long canes anytime. In January, prune plant by about half (except climbers). Report every two years in January.
COPYRIGHT 1984 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1984 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Sunset
Date:May 1, 1984
Words:815
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