My dad was a backyard farmer, as was his father before him and my Irish great-grandfather before him (although he had an actual farm!). I remember my grampa's deep, narrow lot in San Francisco where he grew corn. My dad grew asparagus and planted fruit trees and corn in Southern California; my mom canned. My brother and I sold avocados door to door. Small wonder I fancy gardening. It's my heritage!
Now, farming is a highly practical activity … you grow something you can use at home or sell at the marketplace. It's a straight-up activity. Gardening for fun, however, is another thing. My dad had strong opinions about roses … too hard, too fussy! Well, as I've become a more experienced gardener, I've found that this isn't true. Sorry, Dad. Roses are actually quite hardy, having strong root systems that can keep them growing thru quite a bit of abuse. Treated smartly, they can be quite disease resistant. They are also incredibly beautiful and worth the effort to learn how to care for them.
My Ballerina rose, introduced in 1937
I think the thing that can throw a newcomer off is there is so much information and so much terminology! There are so many types of roses…old roses, miniature roses, carpet roses, climbers, shrub roses, ramblers…and it's enough to really confuse a new gardener. As a garden coach I believe that success breeds success. Learn something about the subject, put it into action, watch what happens. We'll start by taking a look at the most popular rose, the hybrid tea rose. These are the roses you'll see in large public rose gardens and probably the roses you'll see in your neighborhood.Pruning Tea Roses
When your roses start to wake up from their winter dormancy and put out new growth, it's time to prune the hybrid tea roses. They will need to be aggressively cut back to 3 - 5 sturdy stems, or canes. This will allow a good structure to support new growth in the spring. Here's how:
- If the rose hasn't been taken care of for a while or still has a lot of leaves on it (like in my California garden), cut everything back to about 3 feet from the ground. This will allow you to see what you're doing on the next steps.
- Cut back any dead canes (branches) to their base.
- Cut back any crossing or rubbing branches (these can create wounds that allow disease to enter) to their base.
- Cut back diseased branches to below the troubled zone. A dark center in the middle of the branch can be evidence of rose borers that have tunneled into your branch.
- Remove any stems smaller than a pencil; those skinny stems will be too floppy to support new growth.
- Choose 3 - 4 canes and eliminate the rest. Don't cut below your knees, unless you're going all the way!
- Using a slanting cut (45degree angle), prune the remaining canes to an outward facing bud, ¼ inch above the bud. These canes will be about 2' tall.
slanting pruning cut
- You don't need to paint the cuts.
- Clean up all leaves and cuttings and throw in trash, not the compost.
General Care of Roses
- Keep leaves cleaned up in general and after pruning. These can spread disease from year to year. Avoid that!
- Water at the base of the rose, not overhead. Helps keep your rose disease-free.
- Bugs: aphids are a common problem that can sometimes be ignored and they'll go away. Shooting leaves with a jet of water can help. There are synthetic and organic controls…best is the organic solution so you can preserve nature's solution, the lady bug.
- Plant roses that grow well in your area. For instance, if you're in an area with lots of humidity, you'll want a rose that is resistant to powdery mildew. If you live in a northern state, you'll need to consider winter hardiness. Ask your nursery!
- Roses need fertile soil so they can produce all those blooms. Adding compost (organic matter) yearly is important. Additionally, a slow-acting organic fertilizer can be used (best for your rose and your soil's health).
- Deadhead to get long bloom season.
- You'll read conflicting opinions and get conflicting advice. Don't worry about it. Do the best you can.
For an important glossary of terms to know and tools you need, click here.
Remember: it's o.k. to goof up, every gardener does. If you have a question, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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