By: Ted Mills, ARS Master Rosarian and Judge
Ah! The crocus and daffodil bulbs sprouting from the cool earth is the first sign of spring. The warble of the oriole, the chattering of the finch, mallards winging their way northward — all of these are signals that spring is with us at last. Although romantic individuals will argue that this is the time man’s fancy turns to love, to the dedicated rosarian, their love is enhanced when rose bushes produce their first bloom cycle. It seems to refresh the entire landscape. Viewing them is the perfect way to forget the snows of the winter just past.
With the advent of spring, it is well that all rosarians analyze what is in store for those seeking to grow award-winning roses. For those who look upon this hobby as a laborious chore only, it is time for an attitude adjustment. The true rosarian considers it a privilege to be a part of this great hobby. The floral beauty that evolves clearly negates the toil involved.
Just what does this involvement include? A quick trip to the garden to inspect the spoils of winter is advisable. How severe is the damage wrought by the chilled winter? If dead or terminally ill bushes are present, the shovel is to be used for removal. It makes no sense to endure the struggle with weak plants. Time and money are wasted with this practice. The shovel is the best antidote for this condition.
Once the garden is rid of the inferior plants, it is time to attend to the plants that are strong and lively. Pruning shears stand ready for immediate use. Performing this very important duty calls for various methods. If there is doubt in procedure, a quick call to a Consulting Rosarian is the proper source of help. If the object is to produce a garden display only, pruning a bit higher is the call. However, if the rosarian is bent on exhibition, the major pruning is lower. Higher pruning will produce more blooms but lower pruning results in fewer, but larger blooms.
A word of caution is offered to those who allow a short period of balmy weather to prompt them to commence pruning. Off comes the winter protection and a sudden freeze arrives. Damage to plants can be the result. Pruning can be accomplished without complete removal of winter protection. Just be sure and keep the bud union covered until all danger of frost and freeze is past.
And now to new plant selection. Before purchasing varieties, be sure to review the ratings of the specimen. Select only those that have a proven record of good performance. Another call to a Consulting Rosarian is recommended. Choose plants that have at least three lively canes. Avoid those that are paraffin-coated. If bare root roses are being used, give them immediate hydration upon arrival. A good soaking in tepid water overnight is the proper procedure. A good root stimulant added to the water is quite helpful in this operation.
Preparation of the planting site is vital and really should be done in the fall, preceding spring planting. This allows the soil mixture to undergo its organic reaction. It also eliminates the possibility of dealing with adverse weather conditions during the spring planting period. Remember that the home of the bush regulates the health of the bush. A good soil mix of 1/3 soil, 1/3/ creek sand, and 1/3 organics provids a vital and nutritious dwelling place for the bush.
As soon as foliage appears, a weekly spray program should be started. This important phase of rose culture requires consistency. Procrastination creates more problems for the rosarian than is realized. Many rosarians desert the hobby because of insects and disease. If only they would adopt a consistent spray program their departure from rose growing would not occur.
It is always feeding time for the rose family. These floral beauties are ravenous eaters. Rosarians are the providers and a steady diet of nutritious food is the order. It is much better to feed small quantities on a frequent basis than to gorge the plants infrequently. It just makes good sense to feed the plants regularly at least some amount of nutritious food. These “hungry mouths” must wait for the rosarian to bring it to their “table.” It must be mentioned that water is a vital commodity in the food chain as well.
Now that spring has arrived, let every rosarian pledge to produce the best crop of roses ever. Following the simple rules just mentioned is a good start toward that goal. Realizing that most people who grow roses do not belong to rose societies, it is imperative that every rose society member recruit new converts to our cherished hobby.