Rewards of the temperamental rose.
WASHINGTONAuIn 1986, the rose became the national flower of the United States. ItAAEsalso the official blossom of Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Dakota and Washington, D.C.Aumaking it most popular choice for a state flower. But this popularity is somewhat curious, as gardeners know roses are fraught with disease and insect problems.
With proper cultural conditions, roses offer beautiful flowers. We have had those conditions so far this spring: Low humidity, cool
temperatures and ample rainfall followed by drying winds to discourage fungus. And roses had great snow cover for winter protection this year. You can build on this optimal setup by following these cultivation practices so that roses remain healthyAuand flowering.
Au Give them the best soil. Roses thrive in a light-textured, friable planting medium. Dig the planting hole to a minimum of two feet deep and wide. Then mix two-thirds native soil to one-third compost or manure in the hole. Remove the rose bush from the pot and set it into the soil mix, being careful not to disturb the small, wiry absorption roots. Place the rose so the roots are in the ground and the base of the trunk is at ground level. Be sure that grafted roses are planted with the graft scar above ground. Protect the plants with mulch in winter.
Au Protect them from animals, which like to eat roses.
Au Water carefully. Roses prefer moist, deep, well-drained soil. Keep water from splashing onto the leaves of the plant to control leaf fungi.
Au Prune roses before growth begins in spring. Cut out old canes with thick stems and all deadwood. Clean pruners with bleach after using them to cut dead or diseased wood, before you use them on healthy canes. Lubricate pruners with light oil to discourage corrosion.
Au Add a fresh layer of ornamental mulch only after you have removed the old mulch. One to two inches of decorative mulch is all you need. Too much can impede air and water penetration.
Au Spread an organic rose fertilizer around the base of the plants once a year, in spring. Espoma Rose-tone is one commercial product with a good balance of nutrients. Many rosarians have their own organic recipes; fish, banana peels, dried alfalfa and liquid kelp are a few.
Thousands of rose varieties have been bred over thousands of years. Even the latest hybrids were introduced from about 12 original species. Rose breeders can produce almost any characteristic they desire. The line between categories blurs with each introduction. The greatest difference among them is flower, color, length of bloom and plant size.
Shrub roses are the hardiest and most disease-free, growing 4 to 12 feet high and wide. They grow together to form hedges or ground covers. Lower-growing shrub roses, two to three feet tall, have been developed.
Hybrid tea roses were bred for fragrance and color. They grow 3 to 6 feet high. New flower buds will form on stems when flowers are pruned. Cut stems to the first strong leaf (one with five leaflets). They usually need regular attention to discourage leaf spot, aphids and Japanese beetles. The best fungus protection is good air circulation that will dry the foliage quickly.
Floribunda roses are a derivation of hybrid teas, but the plants are shorter and more compact, and their flowers are in clusters instead of individual blooms.
Grandiflora roses are usually tall, slender plants that can grow 5 to 6 feet tall, blooming on long stems. They have the grandest, largest flowers of all the roses, blooming in summer. If you prune flowering stems to the first healthy leaf before the petals drop, they will provide a second flush of flowers.
Climbing roses grow with long, arching canes. They do not really climb, but grow stems that look best trained on fences, trellises or arbors. The canes must be attached to the structure with string or wire. The roses will bloom two or three times by August, after which they can be pruned back to the main canes forming their framework.
Old-fashioned, or heritage, roses are direct descendants of the original species rosesAusuch as alba, damask, moss and rugosaAuand are recognized by the American Rose Society as those grown before 1867, the year the first hybrid tea was launched. They were introduced from Asia before 1600.
Miniature roses are diminutive forms that have been bred to mimic their full-size counterparts. They require the same care, but take less room.
Photo for The Washington Post
by Sandra Leavitt Lerner.
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