Photo Courtesy of Carol Sharpe


January in the Garretts' Garden


January is the time when many of us start dreaming about spring.  However, before we get to spring, we have to get through winter.  While there are not a lot of chores to be done in the rose garden, there are a couple of things that should be addressed. 

If you have not already done so, now is the time to cut all of your standard bushes back to about 4 feet high.  This will prevent the canes from whipping in the winter wind.  However, do not cut back your climbers and any of the once blooming roses that you might have in your garden.  Cutting them back will adversely impact your spring bloom for these roses.  If possible, you should pick a nice day with no rain when the temperature is above freezing and apply a lime sulfur dormant spray.  This product is getting rather hard to come by, but check with your favorite lawn and garden store.  We will also be offering this product through our annual rose society products sale again this year.  Order forms will be available to our rose society members at our January 23 meeting.  It is also a good idea to apply liquid lime sulfur immediately after you spring prune your roses in March.  Apply the spray liberally to your plants and the surrounding area.  The lime sulfur spray will help to kill any disease spores and insect eggs that might otherwise survive the winter and attack your roses next spring.  Application of this spray is especially important if you had blackspot in your garden during this past fall.

Some rosarians also like to provide additional protection by carefully placing a thick layer of mulch around and over the bud union.  We generally just do this to all the new roses in our garden that were planted this past season, especially if they are on fortuniana rootstock.  We recommend materials such as mushroom compost, pine bark, pine needles, oak leaves, or loose top soil that is brought in from another part of the garden.  This extra mulch is intended to help keep the soil at a more constant temperature.  To help hold the mulch in place, we use plastic hardware cloth and make a ring around the bush.  We then fill the ring in with our mulch material.  Our preference is pine needles.  In recent years we have also applied our winter protection to our plants which tend to be more susceptible to winter damage.  If you have a small garden, perhaps you will want to consider mulching all of your roses.  Better safe than sorry!

Finally, make sure your rose beds are as clean as possible.  This includes removing any of those pesky winter weeds which seem to always come at this time of year.  You should also take time to clean up any dead leaves from your roses that have fallen on the ground.  Many rosarians remove all of the leaves from their plants, however we do not do this.  We feel the existing leaves will provide some protection and will come off when we prune in March.  Speaking of pruning, we are already getting questions from folks about pruning their roses now.  Pruning now will encourage new growth which will surely be killed by any cold weather yet to come.  We encourage folks to wait until March to prune. 

Another approach to providing winter protection is to spray a coating of an antitranspirant, such as Wilt-Pruf, Wilt Stop, and Anti-Stress 2000.  These products provide a thin coating which reduces moisture loss and helps prevent winter kill.  These products are particularly helpful when we experience extreme cold temperatures in the low teens combined with wind.  However, to be effective, they must be applied a few days before you expect the severe cold weather and they generally only last for about a month.

About this time of year rosarians start to browse the various rose catalogs and websites of the different suppliers.  It seems to never fail that the pictures always  look better than the actual roses.  When selecting new roses to add to your garden, we recommend that you check with some of our local consulting rosarians to make sure the variety will do well in our area.  You can find a list of local consulting rosarians elsewhere on this web site.  You might also consider checking out the Recommended Roses page available on this web site.  There is also an article in our society newsletter on some of the newer rose varieties on the market.  When possible, we strongly recommend that you purchase your new roses locally which will allow you to see the plant before you buy it. 

In closing, we want to extend a special invitation for you to attend our January 23rd meeting.  We have a great group of folks who enjoy meeting and sharing their knowledge of growing this wonderful flower, the rose.  Visitors are always welcome!  Perhaps you are considering joining our club.  Some of the benefits of membership in our club include the annual products sale and access to our quarterly newsletter.  Hope to see you at one of our meeting soon!