Saturday, February 23, 2013 6 comments

Off with their heads! (When and how to prune roses.)

Some Austin roses prefer light pruning
Although the calendar says February, it isn’t too early to start thinking about tidying up the garden for the growing season ahead. 

As I write this, it's sunny and 56 degrees F. (13 C) here in the mountains of North Carolina, so I ventured out to get an idea of the damage Old Man Winter has done.

I wasn’t surprised to find dead leaves everywhere. It doesn’t matter how often we suck them up and turn them into mulch, tons of additional leaves find their way to our front garden. 

I was surprised, though, to see that almost all of my rose cuttings have died. That has never happened before, and it’s perplexing since this winter has been fairly mild.

I can trim perennials now, but not my roses

Another unpleasant discovery was that people installing new gutters last month had trampled an area of the garden. At the moment, it doesn’t appear that the little patch of roses and other perennials will survive.

So after assessing the state of the garden, I rolled up my sleeves, got out my Bionic rose gloves, secateurs, mini rake, Cobra Head Weeder and iPad and got to work. (I find an iPad or iPod to be essential gardening equipment since all chores go more quickly when listening to my favorite tunes.)

I bagged the leaves, extracted weeds, and cut back most of my perennials including catmints, hydrangeas and lavenders, but I didn’t prune the roses.

Rule of thumb for when to prune

When we get the occasional nice day in winter, people ask if it’s OK to go ahead and prune the roses. I advise waiting, because if another cold spell comes along, canes can be damaged and you’ll just have to do it all over again. 

In most areas of the country, a good rule of thumb is to prune when the forsythia blooms. Start by pulling off any diseased leaves that have wintered over on your rose bushes. Dispose of them right away -- don’t throw them on the ground or you’ll be inviting even more disease problems. 

Unless you exhibit, don''t prune too severely
Then get out your newly sharpened pruning shears (cleaned with alcohol) and remove dead wood right down to the bud union. 

To help improve air circulation, remove any canes that crisscross, canes that grow into the center of the bush, and any weak, spindly growth. 

Diseased or winter-damaged wood should be pruned to the point where you find light green or white pith. Make your cuts at a 45-degree angle about 1/4 inch above a leaf bud that faces toward the outside of the plant. 

Many rose varieties have specific pruning requirements

How severely you prune depends on the type of rose. Unless you plan to exhibit, most experts recommend moderate pruning of hybrid teas, floribundas, and grandifloras leaving the bushes about 18 to 24 inches high.

Thin and shape old garden roses

Hybrid perpetual roses, shrub roses, and old garden roses just require thinning and shaping, so limit yourself to removing only old canes, dead wood, and spindly growth.

Cl. Fourth of July

David Austin English roses don’t appreciate drastic haircuts. 

Pruning climbing roses can be a bit trickier. Climbers that have only one flowering period should be pruned after they bloom. Take out old, weak, or entangled branches. 

Repeat-blooming climbers need to be pruned while dormant in the spring. Again, remove any old or unproductive canes, then cut back side shoots to pencil thickness.

Minis don't mind a chainsaw haircut
Miniatures and minifloras are your easiest task. A recent study showed meticulous pruning didn’t really affect the plant’s success at all. 

So whether you use secateurs or a chain saw, cut back to about half of last summer’s height.

After pruning, paint any cuts wider than a straw with a sealing compound (Elmer’s glue will do fine) to discourage insects and disease. 

Roses are greedy feeders so after you've finished, give them a dose of rose fertilizer -- I use plain old 10-10-10. I also sprinkle a handful of alfalfa pellets around each bush.

Your beauties should then be ready for the 2013 blooming season.
Sunday, February 10, 2013 22 comments

Replacing favorite plants after a move

A Lyda Rose spray can sport 35+ blooms
Moving is often cited as one of the top ten most stressful events in life. I don’t doubt it, but in my case, I was so busy coordinating our 2011 move I didn’t have time to realize I was stressed.

We put our Maryland house on the market in late January that year, it sold a couple of weeks later and we closed on March 31st. And, oh by the way, a day after the settlement we left for son Sam's wedding in Australia.

I left Zephirine and the arbor behind
When we finally arrived at our house in North Carolina in May, we wasted no time starting a new garden. Because of the timing of the sale and trip Down Under, I wasn’t able to bring any of my beloved plants with me (even though the new owners had kindly offered to let me take a few special faves.)

My Maryland cottage garden has been hard to duplicate
 At first it seemed fun starting fresh with a completely different garden design. Now almost two years later I am beginning to miss some my old favorites from all the years I gardened on the Eastern Shore.

And I’m discovering how difficult it’s going to be to replace them.

Out-of-the-ordinary roses are hard to find.

We’ve been reading a lot lately about financial problems in the nursery industry and the bankruptcy of big names like Jackson & Perkins. 

If you’re looking for a Knock Out or a Blaze climbing rose, chances are the collapse of some of these businesses is not going to affect you.

But what if you’re like me and want to locate a unique variety called Lyda Rose?  The bloom of this shrub looks more like an apple blossom than a rose, but it puts out amazing sprays covered with dozens of simple, exquisite flowers.

Unfortunately, you’ll never find one at your local big box store.

Mesh fences save young plants from bunnies and big feet
A website called HelpMeFind indicated four companies in the country carry Lyda Rose. As it turns out only one had her in stock and I luckily snagged it from a nursery in Florida.

Unfortunately just as she was really getting going, my husband accidently stepped on the bush and broke it off at the soil level. 

I've found another  Lyda at one of my favorite  nurseries, Roses Unlimited in Laurens, SC, so I'll try again. (Rose Petals Nursery is another great source for old and antique roses.)

This time I'll protect her with small circular fence made of wire till she gets established.

Louisville Lady was another rose I tried to locate. I’d left six behind in Maryland and was having a hard time finding even one. Fortunately a Mississippi company, K&M Roses, came to the rescue.
Blooms of Louisville Lady hold their form for over a week

They not only had Louisville Lady, but another miniflora I was looking for named Whiraway. The plants they sent were beautifully packaged and extremely healthy.

Tracking down perennial partners

Pollinators love Centranthus
Some of the companions I planted with roses in my cottage garden were over 15 years old.

I’ve found some lavenders and catmints but was striking out when it came to a variety of Centranthus (also known as Jupiter’s Beard.)
Pierre de Ronsard (aka Eden)

I’d grown both the red and white varieties which produced beautiful clusters of flowers on long arching stems from May till frost if the spent blooms were pinched back.

The red variety is readily available, but I’d just about given up finding Centranthus alba when I discovered New Garden Plants. They had exactly what I wanted and I was very impressed with the quality of all their perennials.

So it seems smaller nurseries have helped me replace some old garden plants in a big way.

?? clematis and Cottage Rose
But I'm still missing many of my old faves including variegated camellias, plant names I neglected to write down, Cl. Pierre de Ronsard, the Hybrid Perpetual  Baron Girod de l'Ain, and the mini Marriotta.
Baron features white-tipped petals

So the search continues, but I've been forced to give up the hope of finding plants that are no longer in commerce.

Baby Blanket with red and white Centranthus at her feet

 Like the incredible weeping Baby Blanket tree rose.