In the Rose Garden
The Coachella Valley is a special place to live, if you do not consider our “hot” little secret; summer is deadly. While we can pack up our clothes and cowardice and go away to cooler climates, our roses must remain behind; captive either in ground or worse yet, in pots. Of course, we water, mulch and otherwise protect the most tender as best we can. Nevertheless, some will be claimed and leave our gardens forever.
With tragedy my unwelcome companion, I rarely venture into the summer garden (I grow roses, herbs and vegetables) preferring to hold their past images in the grace of remembrance. I think of memories as silken threads connecting me to yesterday and dreams as memories yet unborn.
For me, time spent in the garden is a combination of gardening, remembering and dreaming (planning for the less poetic). Often I joke with friends saying I keep my sanity in the garden. The truth being, both my sanity and spirit lie there in eternal embrace; making summer with its wicked sizzle, an authentic demon in my otherwise private paradise.
However, the certainty of late summer into early fall when the sun becomes shy and the morning gentle is soon upon us. Let us rejoice! Fall in the Coachella Valley is the longest and most prolific season for rose gardeners; even out performing spring in its abundance. Due to the cooler weather, the buds develop slowly and produce larger flowers and stunningly beautiful leaves.
You may find this hard to imagine should you dare sojourn into your rose garden prior to mid-September into early October. Nonetheless, stay your faith, and engage your remembrance, your roses will rise from their brown and battered state into fall magnificence, with a little help from you.
Start by keeping a vigilant eye out for sustained temperatures below 100 degrees in the daytime and 80 degrees at night. When this occurs, start your fall clean-up and trimming in the coolest part of your garden. It is easy to be seduced by early cool crisp September mornings that suddenly spiral into the infamous last blasts of summer so common in the Coachella Valley in the fall. These blasts can incinerate new growth, scald canes and kill roses.
Fall Gardening Tips:
- Unlike spring when we do our “hard” pruning, fall is a trimming and clean-up, so remove only what is needed to stimulate and tidy the plant. Treat each rose individually. Start your trimming by making cuts at a 45-degree angle ¼ to ½ inch above the nearest outward facing bud eye, slopping down and away. Remove dead canes, crossed stems, blind shoots and stems smaller than a lead pencil, burnt lifeless leaves, and any “twiggy” growth.
- In addition, you may want to consider trimming the roses slowest to re-bloom first, or those appearing to need the most help. The re-bloom cycles from slowest to shortest after trimming/pruning are climbers, hybrid teas, grandifloras, floribundas, shrubs, minifloras, miniatures and container-grown roses, in that order. Several of my minis only needed some serious deadheading and dead leaf removal this year. Above all, treat each rose individually.
The one exception I make to this protocol is I give my climbers their spring hard pruning in October. This works very well for both of us. Too many springs found me short on time to give my full attention to my climbers thus the genesis of this plan was born. In the spring, I give them their October light trimming, and we are both blooming happy!
Furthermore, unlike spring, unless you are using organics in the spring, start your fall fertilizing and feeding program immediately after trimming. Blooms will appear again in about six (6) to eight (8) weeks or less depending on the type of rose and how much trimming it required.
Often I like to include some fish emulsion alternately when I do not use other fertilizes. Fish emulsion is especially important to begin the season, for its high nitrogen (5-1-1) component, which stimulates growth. Whereas, most rose fertilizers concentrate on phosphorus (like Magnum Rose Food @ 8-10-8) to stimulate for blossoms. Dilute the fish emulsion per the manufacturer’s instructions. Then apply the solution to each plant at a rate of at least one gallon for each hybrid tea, climber, shrub or floribunda, and one-half gallon for mini roses depending on their size.
- Add soil amendments:
- Epsom salts for larger flowers at about ½ to ¾ cup per plant scratched in around the base of the plant at the drip line.
- Add Mycorrhiza to nourish the root system on established roses and in the planting hole for new additions. Follow manufactures instructions for amounts and timing (heat can destroy or reduce potency).
- Manures to improve the biomass and provide additional organic fodder to feed the plant. Scratch this in lightly if at all, as it can burn the plant. Even so, our desert soil, no matter how much mulch I apply is starved for organic matter from its summer scorching, come the fall.
- In addition, provide a layer of compost topped with additional mulch restoring it in combination to about three to four inches above the ground. The amount of mulch the soil consumes every summer is startling.
- Do not forget your potted roses!
Every year they need fresh soil added on both the top and the bottom, plus a top layer of mulch. A great tip from a real “desert rat” neighbor of mine is to scratch in a little course sand with the mulch. The sand helps the mulch not to “harden” holding water from penetrating to the roots. Speaking of roots, another tip is to put used tea bags over the hole in the bottom of the pot. The tea bags keep the water from racing through and holds moisture for a little longer.
- Adjust your watering to changes in temperature. When daytime temperatures fall below 85 degrees, watering once a day is sufficient for fewer minutes depending on the micro- climate in your garden. Just be sure you are watering long enough to reach the roots. Inspect your sprinkler system carefully; the summer heat can cause many parts to crack and split often below the ground.
Fall is for planting also! In fact, fall is one of the best seasons to plant roses in the Coachella Valley. Unlike a spring planting, this time interval allows them longer to establish themselves before they face the survival test of a desert summer. Most of all relax and enjoy yourself; the beautiful roses you remember will soon be back.
Think Rosy Thoughts,
Sharon Radice Moore
Please Note: Permission to reprint this work in part or whole, while easily attained, remains with the author. Please contact me at SharonGMoore@msn.com.