Ann Wright: A rose of any color |

Ann Wright: A rose of any color

Ann Wright
The rose is one of the oldest of garden shrubs, having been cultivated for thousands of years.
Photo by Ann Wright |

Roses are perhaps some of the most popular and treasured ornamentals growing in our yards. Growing roses in the foothills can be very rewarding, but keep in mind that deer love these woody perennials. If deer are a problem in the area, roses should be planted out of their reach.

Having been cultivated for thousands of years, the rose is the oldest of garden shrubs. It is believed that they originated in central Asia. Typically roses are hearty ­— some wild varieties may be found in the cold arctic of Alaska, some in the heat of desert locations. With thousands of cultivars available, a stroll through local gardens or a visit to a nursery will help select varieties that do well in our area.

Empire Mine hosts some of the oldest cultivars living in Grass Valley with extremes of summer heat and cold, wet winters. A timeline of rose history, the rose garden at Empire Mine boasts roses from as early as pre-1300s such the Rosa Gallica Officinalis. The rose garden includes several other groups, each unique in history, use and presentation.

Know your rose

Whether elegant long-stemmed hybrid tea roses or fragrant old-world roses are desired, all roses have similar cultural requirements, including location, soil, planting and feeding. Of course, pruning is also an important consideration for roses.

Plant roses where they can be seen and enjoyed — consider planting them in view of a window or within an outdoor living area. Requiring at least four to six hours of direct sun per day, plant roses where morning sun is plentiful as it dries dew from foliage helping prevent disease. Choose a location with good drainage as roses like moist but not soggy soil, and roses should be sheltered from cold winds.

Roses are tolerant of many types of soil but do best in deep clay loam enriched with organic matter, with pH of 6.0 to 6.5. Soil amendments are especially important when working with our heavy clay soils. Prepare the soil when it has had a chance to soak up some winter rain, but is not soggy.

If purchasing bare root roses, plant them the same day of purchase — if not possible, keep roots moist and store the roses in a cool place. Soak roots in a bucket of water for several hours prior to planting. Dig a hole 1 1/2 to 2 feet wide and 1 1/2 feet deep. This permits wide-spreading root growth and good drainage.

Form a slight hill or cone in the center of the hole and spread the roots out over the cone. Amend the soil with compost, peat moss, composted manure or other organic material. Do not add fertilizer with nitrogen to the hole, but the addition of soft rock phosphate or bone meal will help establish roots. (Roses purchased in containers can be planted any time, but best planted in spring or fall).

Roses require heavy feeding — during the growing season, regular applications of fertilizer are required for optimum growth and bloom. Opinions differ regarding timing and kind of fertilizers roses require. Using a complete fertilizer seems to be the most effective, such as N-P-K of 7-7-7 or 16-16-16 (referring to the percentage of Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium in the compound).

Regardless of the balance of N-P-K, consult the directions on the label. Organic additives are slower to release but are effective in conditioning the soil. Some types of organic fertilizer include alfalfa meal, gypsum and fish emulsion.

Applications may be done every six to eight weeks, or after planting or pruning.

Pruning spurs new growth and rejuvenates the plants. It clears out dead wood and opens up the center to let in light and improve circulation. The best time to prune is late winter or early spring, just as buds are beginning to swell.

Roses that flower just once a year, such as climbing roses and old-garden roses should be pruned just after they bloom. Many rose societies offer pruning workshops and demonstrations (check American Rose society websites).

The Nevada County Master Gardeners’ free public workshops begin again in February, with “Plan It! Gardening 12 Months a Year” on Feb. 3 and “Making More Plants: Propagating Hardwood Cuttings” on Feb. 10. (Note: Participants attending the propagation workshop on Feb. 10 are asked to bring a clean one gallon pot and pruning shears).

The workshops are from 10 a.m. to noon at the Grass Valley Elk’s Lodge, 109 S. School Street. Call the hotline at 530-273-0919 or check the website for more details about the workshops.

Ann Wright is a Nevada County Master Gardener.

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