In the Desert Rose Garden…
November and December 2015
This morning on my walk through the rose garden, what a pleasure to experience falls welcome nod to winter. However, I have only a fleeting recollection of fall. Somehow, I took my rest one fall eve and awoke the next morning to winters first embraces and summer’s wicked rage just a faint memory.
Whereas on a day like today, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet from the Portuguese 43, reinvented and applied to roses, is vivid in my memory.
How do I love thee dear and gentle rose?
I love the breathtaking depth and intensity of color long forgotten and deeply desired all summer.
I love the plentiful array of multi-colored green, bronze and orange leaves replacing the sad, torn and brown of the season past.
I love the evolution of tiny blossoms often hidden among the leaves from summer’s sizzle now emerging stately, large and strong once more.
For me, these things make a simple walk through the rose garden, an “ideal grace” and the work of growing roses a true labor of love.
Early Winter Gardening Tips:
While this month is more about enjoying than laboring in the rose garden, here are some tips to help your garden thrive:
- Adjust your watering times and duration. Four to five minutes once a day or every other day depending on rainfall (keep the faith), temperature, and humidity work well in my garden. In truth, the best method is to turn the system off. Then water the amount needed, when needed, without allowing your plants to dry out. This year seems to be more humid than others of late, so this approach may work best in your garden as well.
However, mind your potted plants. Even if I am growing moss in the beds, still the pots can be dry. In addition, if you have not added potting soil, both on the top and bottom, to compensate from summer’s shrinkage or better referred to as disappearance, do so now.
I find using moisture- retaining potting soil in them works best along with heavy mulch on top. I also like to find a friendly worm or two to relocate into my potted and planter plants to keep the organic matter coming without a trip to the nursery. This works well for me, as for the worms, maybe not so much.
- If you regularly deadhead your roses, the blossoms will keep coming. However, do not go too deep, re-growth will be slow due to the cold temperatures (yes, I am kidding if you are from New York).
- I fertilize for the last time in November predicated on pruning in January. Fertilizing much later will only waste the plant’s energy, your energy and fertilizer dollars.
Conversely, you may wish to use half strength or a product with low to zero nitrogen (the first number in the formula listed on each package, for example, 10-20-10) which produces growth or use a formula with a higher second number, which is phosphorous, to promote flowering. The best fertilizers for roses always have a higher second number in their composition.
If organics fit your fancy, you might consider a serving of bone meal alone, which is all phosphorous, to promote continued blooming. Keep in mind using organics (bone meal), which need from three to four weeks to show results, this late in the season may be useless depending on the date you use them and when you plan to prune.
I plan my fertilizer agenda around a January pruning date, if you are going to be pruning later, which is not the best plan if you want to maximize the number of spring bloom cycles, go ahead and keep fertilizing into December.
- Remove weeds and fallen leaves; these are great places for insects to thrive and disease to develop.
- Inspect your bushes often. With our increased humidity, spider mites and mildew take up residence between blinks. Note: they display a curious lust for minis and can move at once from annoying leaf damage to plant death.
- Sharpen your pruners and loppers in preparation for pruning in January. I started something a couple of years ago that may make some old Rosarians eyes bleed. My garden boasts a little over 200 roses, and I was, due to their size and degree of difficulty, leaving my climbers until the end to prune. This is a poor plan because they take the longest to grow back, which is another article So, still with me? I prune my climbers after everything else in October or early November. This gives me plenty of time to do a good job and enjoy the work. Then in January, I give them a mere trimming as I did in the rest of the rose garden in the fall.
- Fall/winter is also a perfect time to plant roses, so they enjoy enough time to develop a strong root system prior to summer. I would start earlier than previous years to find your new roses. Last year, the amount offered was pathetic. Mail order is a good alternative; even so, sadly their inventories are already “out of stock” on many roses. Just because a rose is in the catalogue or offered online does not mean it is “in stock.”
- Consider some companion plants for your roses now. Therefore, when pruning time comes you have color in the garden, and some cover for your “naked ladies.” Selecting the correct companion plants and proper planting practices will offer not only beauty in a barren period but often chase away pests, improve the organics of your soil, suppress weeds, and keep your roots cool by creating a living mulch. Nevertheless, be ever mindful your “companions” roots do not encroach on their host’s or steal their water.
Until Next Time – Have a rosy holiday season!
Sharon Radice Moore