Give yourself a bouquet
February is time to plant, prune roses

January 26, 2006
JEAN WOFFORD - Victoria County Master Gardener
Three years ago, I decided to turn my vegetable garden into a rose garden. I knew nothing about having a rose garden, but being an avid gardener, I knew I could learn.
I visited with local nurseries and took a trip to the Rose Emporium in Brenham. These sources advised me that some roses would grow better in our area than others. So, armed with this information, I started to work.
Roses should be planted in February or in very early spring before the weather gets too hot.

Roses must have at least eight hours of sunshine each day. Less sun and you will have fewer blooms and your plants won't be as healthy. They must have a good organic, rich soil, which can be achieved with composted manure in your soil.

Your rose garden must have good drainage. You can achieve this by building raised beds and adding some sand to your soil. My rose garden is on a slight incline that works well for draining.

Think about watering. It is best if you use either a soaker hose or drip system. Both methods get the water where you need it - at the ground level of your plant. If you water using a sprinkler, you are more prone to having diseased roses.

Roses respond very well if you use a good layer of mulch. You will need to do this about three or four times a year. This insures that your rose bush will maintain a good level of moisture.

Roses are very heavy feeders and need regular applications of a good nitrogen fertilizer to keep them blooming. I like to use a granular fertilizer that feeds up to three months. In the spring and fall, I also like to put about two tablespoons of Epsom salts around each rose plant.

I like using the other rose foods, too, spreading the product around the rose, and working it into the soil. Don't ever put granular food directly on the rose, as it could burn.

Roses can get diseases such as black spot, powdery mildew and rust. They also are prone to insects such as aphids, Japanese beetles and whiteflies. All of these can harm your rose and affect its performance. They also spread rapidly from one plant to another. If you garden, then you know other pests could get on your roses. Last year, I actually had a tomato hornworm on one of my roses.

I like using a plant food that has a systemic insecticide or fungicide premixed with it. You can get one that has protection against insects as well as diseases.

Some work better than others. You will just have to read and try to see what works for you. Like most gardeners, I am always open to trying new and different things.

If you have your rose garden up and growing, it is time to think about deadheading, or removing the dead blooms. I do this using a good, sharp clipper. I cut down to the first bud. This enables your rose to continue to bloom. I don't know whether or not it really makes a difference, but it does look neater.

January and February are the optimum times to prune your roses. At this time you need to cut your roses back to about 12 to 19 inches tall. Remove all the branches that overlap the middle. You need to leave the middle of the plant open. If you have any leaves on, remove them.

Be sure that you discard the leaves; do not leave them on the ground. If they have any type of fungus, it will facilitate disease spreading to your rose as it gets new leaves.

If you have old-fashioned roses or climbing roses, you only need to prune them to maintain the shape you want. For some reason, they bloom on old wood and the other roses set blooms on new wood. This is one of the marvels of nature.

Personal favorites

The most unusual rose I have is a green rose. It is very carefree. The roses and leaves are the same shade of green. It is a medium-sized bush with rather dense growth. The roses also have a spicy odor and bloom almost all year. I only prune it to keep the shape I want.

I have a true prima donna! It is my hot cocoa rose. It requires more care than any other but is well worth it to me. The bloom is a beautiful red/brown rose and is very fragrant. The leaves are tinged with red and are dark green.

My butterfly rose bushes are very unusual. The bush itself is very large with dense growth. The flowers are very simple, single petal blooms in shades from lightest peach to dark pink. This plant is very easy to care for. Every year or so, I cut it back just to control its growth.

No rose garden would be complete without Belinda's Dream. I love this beautiful, pink, fragrant rose. It blooms almost all the time for me, and has very few problems. As a Texas Superstar it is a good performer in our area and throughout the state.

I also have two old-fashioned roses that are called cabbage roses. The rose has a wonderful fragrance and the petals grow very tightly in the center surrounded by loose petals. It blooms a very soft pink. I get blooms almost all year from these roses. I remember my mother having this same kind of rose in the yard. These are pruned only to shape.

The most special rose I have is a lovely, clear, jewel-toned red. The fragrance is unlike any other rose I have. My son gave this to me for Mother's Day when he was about 12 years old. I have not been able to find out the name of the rose, but that doesn't matter. I have given many cuttings to special friends over the years.

I have enjoyed my rose garden and think the extra work that goes into it is well worth the effort. There is nothing quite like a bouquet of fragrant roses cut from your own garden.