This past week’s weather has been blisteringly cold for most of our nation, and dipped below zero a few times even here in Southwest Ohio. I really can’t imagine living any farther north. The USA Today weather page had an interesting fact a few days ago—at -37 degrees F., the rubber on tires freezes, meaning that the flat spot from being parked remains when driving at or below -37 degrees. Thump-thump, thump-thump …
It’s no wonder, then, that roses can hardly survive the cold, especially the beautiful ones, the hybrid teas. As I look outside now, our backyard gardens wear a thin veil of snow to protect them from the cold. Not enough, I’m afraid, to withstand the cold from the last week. We’ll find out if any survived in April …
Every year in November, I go about our fifty or so rosebushes and dress them for the winter. I am not a finicky gardener—in fact I’m probably more of a minimalist. With a normal garden shovel, I heave a mound of nearby soil over the base of most rosebushes, depending on what they are, to help them endure the cold.
For the shrub roses, like the very popular (and rightfully so) Knock Out, I don’t do a thing. In my experience, the Knock Out roses, along with all Rugosa roses and other shrub roses, can withstand a chainsaw pruning and bloom beautifully even still.
Knock Out shrub rose
For English roses (cultivated by the legendary David Austin), I use substantially more care. Not only do I hill dirt and mulch around the base of the plant, but I also gather bundles of spent Becky daisy stems and work them into the branches to the base.
English roses, Evelyn, Jubilee Celebration, Jude the Obscure, and Redoute
For floribundas and grandifloras, like Simply Marvelous, I do the same as for the English roses.
And finally, for the most demanding of all roses, the Hybrid Teas, I accommodate them with a bit more attention and ensure the dirt, mulch, stems, and grass straw all cover the base and first foot of each plant. I have to admit, I love Hybrid Tea blooms.
That leaves my handful of old roses to cover, which includes one of the old beauties, Baronne Prevost, whose visual beauty comes nowhere near her amazing fragrance. I treat the old roses for the winter basically the same as the floribundas.
Baronne Prevost, an old (1840’s) hybrid perpetual
New Dawn, an unstoppable climbing beauty
As far as other annual maintenance for the roses, I leave the pruning and sealing of canes for late April, and fertilize with a liquid fertilizer that also incorporates systemic to keep diseases and pests at bay.
In truth, I always lose at least a few rosebushes each year. This year, I’ll probably lose more than a few—but in my gardens, as in the rest of life, nothing goes just the way I think it will. I figure the ones that die leave room to try a few new ones each spring. And as a result, every year I seem to find a new favorite.
Whatever time I spend tending to roses—one hour in fall preparing roses for winter, and one hour in spring whacking the dead canes off and fertilizing—I find the pleasure and joy I gain from having roses far outweighs the work. Walking amongst the lingering fragrance and petals floating about on the breeze, and cutting rose blooms for enjoyment indoors remains one of the greater pleasures of having a garden. And when the dew dazzles like diamonds atop a rosebud on a heady summer morning, maybe, I think, the experience is one of the greater pleasures of life and living.
Next week, I’ll plan to share a few photographs of the roses I enjoy the most.
And, on the 23rd (this Friday), I’m hosting my friend and fellow writer, Keri Wyatt Kent to talk about her latest book, entitled Rest. For a preview, visit her website at http://www.keriwyattkent.com/.
Finally, a huge thank you to the editors at the renowned author website, The Red Room, for giving me the honor of the “Red Room Rising Star.” Visit their home page to see more: http://www.redroom.com/. Thank you!