Thursday, October 11, 2012

Don't work up a sweat over fall rose care


In a time when pumpkins and mums dominate the garden landscape, it’s a treat to see some of my favorite roses making their final appearances of the season. 

Cooler temps give Sally Holmes a pretty fall blush
These last roses of summer can often be the sweetest – the nip in the air deepens the colors and the blooms themselves are sometimes a bit larger than usual. Best of all, I don’t have to worry about pruning or fertilizing until 2013. I can just sit back and enjoy the fall show.

Of course, there are a few chores to be done in the rose garden before winter sets in. But the list is pretty short for most areas of the country and includes more  “don’ts” than “do’s.”

Munstead Wood
For starters, don’t cut your roses back in the autumn. If you prune now you’ll just suffer dieback and will have to cut back more severely in the spring.  Wait until the forsythia blooms in your area before breaking out the secateurs. 

An exception would be Ramblers that bloom on old wood  -- if you wait till next year to tidy them up, you may well cut off potential new flowers. Trim about one-third of the growth now and cut out any dead canes.

I also suggest trimming back bushes that have developed extra long canes. In my garden, English Roses such as James Galway and the hybrid tea Elina have thrown out eight-foot canes. I trim those back to waist height so they don’t whip around in winter winds injuring themselves, their neighbors or me.

Trim back taller roses like James Galway
Don’t trim off rose hips, the colorful fruits that form in the late summer and early fall. They often turn lovely shades of orange-red, and are a signal to the bush that it’s time to get ready for a long winter’s nap.

Hips are a treat for the eyes and the birds

Do tear off and destroy any leaves that display signs of disease or insect infestation. Also dig up and discard any bushes that have died. Never put diseased leaves or dead roses in your compost pile.

Do identify any bushes that might need extra winter protection. Most of the newer shrubs and miniatures don’t need special care. 

If you aren’t sure whether a variety is tender or not, play it safe and add an 8” mound of soil, compost, leaf mold or other organic material around the base of the bush. Check with an American Rose Society Consulting Rosarian in your area for additional advice and winter protection tips.

Darcy Bussell can bloom into early November
Finally, scour the catalogs when they arrive and start thinking about new plants you’d like to add to the garden next year.

It’s a flight of fancy that will transport you away from the woes of winter.


Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

Thanks for a good reminder tutorial on rose care. I have a nice one ('Janet') and so far so good. I think it is a rambler, but will wait to prune it in late winter. The deer do the rest of my pruning on the roses... though minimal.

Lynn Hunt said...

Janet, I'll bet your 'Janet' is a beauty! But yikes about the deer pruning your roses. Knock on wood, I've only had a deer visit once. One of my tree roses was just the right height for her.

Phillip Oliver said...

Great tips! I fertilized mine about 3 weeks ago in hopes that I would have more blooms for a rare garden tour this coming Saturday. Unfortunately, only one rose is blooming. I did notice new red leaves. I probably have waited too late.

Lynn Hunt said...

Phillip, I'm not sure when exhibitors in your area fertilize for a fall display, but in VA/MD/NC it is usually towards the end of August. You will probably have lots of blooms for Thanksgiving. Know the garden tour will be wonderful with or without the roses!

Jason said...

Thanks for the advice! I'm new to roses, though not to gardening, and they kind of intimidate me. It's good to get pointers from an experienced hand.

Lynn Hunt said...

Jason, glad you are getting started with roses. E-mail me anytime with questions but most of all, enjoy!

The Redneck Rosarian said...

Some great advice here. We fertilize in Mid September here in central Alabama, we will not see any really cold weather until January. Our shrubs of 'Benjamin Britten' are over 10' tall now. I will be cutting those back soon. Thanks for all you do for roses!

Lynn Hunt said...

Thanks Chris for all you do ! Would love to see a photo of that 10'BB!

Sue Catmint said...

dear Lynn, no wonder I get dieback, I trim them back whenever I get round to it quite randomly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I love Banksia roses. they only seem to bloom for a few minutes (bit of an exaggeration) but they are so reliable and trouble free and have no thorns. My climbing rose doesn't form hips - is that because of something I do or don't do, or is it only some species that form hips?

Lynn Hunt said...

Hi Catmint! Some roses form hips and others don't. You have given me something to investigate. I thonk it depends on whether there is cross pollination by hand or insects.

Some ground cover shrubs on the "mound from hell" we are trying to keep from washing away are loaded with small hips and I am going to plant the seeds. More on growing roses from seeds soon!

Lynn Hunt said...

I meant I think, not thonk. Not so good typing on the iPhone :)

Sunil Patel said...

Hi Lynn, thanks for this post on rose care. Now that I have a few roses in the garden, I'll be sure to look back over this post - at the moment they're too small for pruning. The tip on pruning in early spring and not autumn is one that hadn't occurred to me before!

Lynn Hunt said...

You are welcome Sunil. I learned about fall pruning the hard way when one of my favorite roses suffered such severe dieback it never really recovered. I'm so glad you have a few roses now. Can't wait to read about their progress next spring!

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