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Celebrating the rose.


This year, for the first time in a40-million-year existence, the rose is blossoming as a national flower, so proclaimed by President Reagan on October 7, 1986.

That the rose deserves the honor isapparent, even from a cursory review of America's past. Roses date back tens of millions of years--their 40-million-year-old fossilized remains have been found in Colorado. Christopher Columbus might never have found the New World or its roses had not his crew, on the verge of turning back, reportedly spotted rose hips floating in the water. Later, the Pilgrims marked their progress at Plymouth Colony by planting roses, and Captain John Smith discovered the Indians of the James River valley beautifying their camps with the fragrant flowers.

The real inspiration for PresidentReagan, however, was probably rooted less in the distant past than in the historic garden just outside his Oval Office--the White House Rose Garden, one of the most famous gardens in the world. Site of many a ceremonial function (Tricia Nixon was married there), the garden lies tucked between the mansion and the West Wing, close to the Oval Office, where it was started by Mrs. Woodrow Wilson in 1913. Its arrangement, based on traditional 18th-century American gardens, features flowering crab apples underplanted with a collection of roses and colorful annuals. Tulips are in bloom in April. Low-growing begonias and impatiens (both wonderful plants for shaded gardens) add color during the summer months. In the autumn, as roses wane, mums start stealing the show.

One has only to stand in this serenesetting to relate to Nancy Reagan's comment about the White House gardens: "If only trees could talk, I'm sure we'd have one more chapter in our American history books." Since trees can't talk, I had to rely on Ludwig Schneider, a White House supervisory horticulturist, to explain the famous garden and its upkeep. Mr. Schneider's duties include selecting plantings for the rose garden. When it comes to roses, he informed me, even the White House is limited to what is available.

"One section always contains theFirst Lady roses," he explained--roses that for years have been specially bred by various hybridizers and named after the current First Lady by the American Rose Society. The two most commonly available roses today are the orange-red Nancy Reagan (which the First Lady also cultivates at the Reagans' ranch) and the Rosalyn Carter, an orange blend. The Pat Nixon rose is, unfortunately, no longer commercially available.

Roses have been named after presidentsas well, Mr. Schneider told me. The Mister Lincoln, a fragrant red rose, is one of the most popular. And whenever possible, White House gardeners try to feature it with the John F. Kennedy, a rose of pure white.

The gounds foreman, appropriatelynamed Mike Lawn, is in charge of--what else?--the White House lawn. A mixture of grasses is used, he says; the predominant variety is Falcon, a tough fescue that grows in sun or shade and makes a textured setting for the well-balanced flower borders.

Because of competition with thecrab apple trees and ornamental plants for sunlight, the rose garden demands extra-special care. Consistent and artistic pruning of the trees allows sunlight to reach the roses, and good mulching not only decorates the area but conserves water and reduces weed growth as well. The flowers are fertilized with quick-acting liquid fertilizer to keep the show on the road. For special parties the display is enhanced by potted roses from the greenhouses.

Whether cared for by experts or theinexperienced, whether viewed by the famous or by the neighbors next door, a rose, of course, is a rose. And it takes but a single bush to add a special touch to any home garden. So why not join in the celebration of the rose as our national flower and plant at least one at your house this summer?

Here are a few simple tips to ensuresuccess:

* POSITION your rose where thereis sun part or all of the day (the more sun, the more bloom) will reasonably good drainage, away from tree or shrub roots.

* PREPARE the ground by looseningthe soil and adding peat moss and other decomposed organic material. Work a cupful of 5-10-5 granular fertilizer into this planting mix. (Before you start, get a pH test and correct the soil as recommended. Your local country agricultural extension service can do this for you.)

* PURCHASE grade #1 -1/2 rosesfrom reputable nurseries or mail-order firms. They should have three vigorous canes at least 18 inches high. Be sure your selections are hardy enough for your part of the country. In making your selections you must first decide on a class of rose (based on its use in your landscape), a color, and perhaps fragrance. All-America Rose Selections are best bets. They have been tested and proven easy to grow across the country. Look for the green and silver tag that identifies them.

* PLANT bare-root roses in earlyspring. Container-grown and bagged roses can be planted anytime during the growing season. Dig a hole twice the size of the root system; set your new rose at the planting depth recommended for your part of the country. (The soil level should be slightly above the bud in climates with sub-zero winters and one to two inches below in climates in which winter temperatures stay above freezing.) Fill in your soil mix and firm the plant into position. Water deeply and continue to water regularly (one inch per week during the growing season.

* PRUNE in the spring so that thebush forms an open center. When the buds swell, observe how the plant is growing and cut the four strongest canes at a 45-degree angle a quarter inch above a bud that points toward the outside. These four canes should be cut back to about two feet high, and all other canes should be completely removed. This moderate pruning will produce a stronger bush with earlier and better flower production. Overpruning removes so much foliage that not enough food is produced for good growth and flowering. Remove all "suckers" from the base of the bush.

Prune in autumn only to preventcanes from whipping around and breaking in the wind. But climbing roses should be pruned after flowering in june so as not to sacrifice flowers The best flowering laterals on climbers come from two-to three-year-old canes. Shorten flowering laterals to three or four buds and remove very old wood and dead wood. If you are growing a multiflora climber, remove all the current year's shoots immediately after bloom and allow the new shoots growing from the base to form the flowering plant for next year.

* SUMMER PRUNINNG consists ofremoving blooms as they fade. Do not allow formation of rose hips, which take so much energy they will deplete your garden roses. A pruning cut just above a leaf with five leaflets will ensure continued, vigorous blooming. Remove as little foliage as possible from new bushes--they need all the energy they can get. Long stems may be cut on mature bushes that grow too tall.

* Roses are voracious feeders. FEEDyour roses immediately after spring pruning with a ground feeding of 5-10-5 granular fertilizer or the equivalent. To keep your roses at peak bloom, feed them throughout the growing season with one of the new premixed, premeasured liquid fertilizers applied with a garden hose. This liquid fertilizer is absorbed by the foliage for an immediate boost. Stop feeding well before the cold weather sets in to prevent soft new growth from being damaged by winter.

* MULCHING with wood chips,pine needles, etc., reduces weeds, keeps the ground cool in summer, and keeps moisture in--and it's also very attractive.

* WATER early in the day so plantsreceive an inch of water per week.

* Spray with an INSECTICIDEonly if you have an insect problem. Be sure to get a diagnosis and choose a specific control. A dormant spray of lime sulfur before buds swell in spring is an excellent control for black spot. If mildew and black spot become a problem, you can use dusts in ready-to-use containers or in a Funginex spray.

* PROTECTION will be requiredin parts of the country where winter temperatures reach zero. Consult your local county agricultural extension service or a good local nursery for recommendations. Miniature roses are very hardy--they generally need no protection. A deep watering in late autumn combined with application of an antidessicate spray will greatly reduce winter damage.

If you have a small space garden,roses are excellent subjects for containers. Use a soil-less mix and follow the care outlined above. Just be sure to water frequently, especially in hot, dry climates.

Cut roses for bouquets in the lateafternoon when the food supply is highest. They will last longest if cut just as the petals start to unfold. Recut the stems under water and use a floral preservative to extend their life.

For centuries roses have inspiredlovers, artists, poets, and gardeners. They have been celebrated as the symbol of love, beauty, and youth. Plant our new national flower in your garden this season and discover what special fascination the rose might hold for you.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:national flower; includes related article on Francesco Scavullo and floral photography
Author:Henke, Ellen
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1987
Previous Article:TV's new daytime darling.
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