Malibu Garden Column
By Peggy Harris
For the inveterate gardener, January triggers the urge to add new bare root roses to the garden. Planting new roses begins with choosing the right plants, preparing the soil and signing on as caretaker for the new acquisition. Through aphids attacking new growth, mildew caused by coastal fog, rust in summer and blackspot in fall, the dedicated rose grower takes on the pledge to combat the elements and with each cut, prune and encourage the next blooms from the rose. In return, a well cared for rose will perform heartily throughout the summer months and often, as my readers have attested, will bloom well into December. Indeed, Rosarians in mild climates report continuous flower production throughout the year. Usually, the rose is considered a hearty, deciduous shrub and its habit of slow growth in winter makes January the ideal month for planting bare root roses.
Every rose will need at least four to six hours of sun in summer, good drainage, rich soil and space for roots to expand and air to circulate. Choosing the right roses to plant depends on personal preference and consideration of landscape design and function. They are not great borders for children’s soccer practice lawns. Breaking down the categories to choose from, the hybrid tea roses are the most formal looking, they will grow to six feet or more, and they require room to grow – at least 36 inches apart is recommended, more space is better. My favorite lavender hybrid teas are Moonshadow and Purple Passion. The reds range from an almost black Taboo to the reliable Mr. Lincoln and the Ronald Reagan rose, which has a silver underside on the petals. A pink hybrid tea rose with yellow centers, French Perfume, has lived up to its name in my container garden. An asset to any garden, Double Delight has yellow centers and red edges. For an orange, yellow, and red rose, try Rio Samba. If you want a white hybrid tea, I recommend the John F. Kennedy. All of the roses in this article, I have grown in Malibu with the exception of the Reagan. New rose varieties with enticing nomenclatures are available every year. Hybridizers are constantly striving for beauty, heartiness and disease resistance. Would you try a rose named “Voluptuous?”
The floribundas produce multiple blooms on each stalk so that if your timing is right, you can practically cut a bouquet with one snip. Love Potion, Purple Tiger and Lavender Lace all performed well in Malibu gardens and in containers. Both the hybrid teas and the floribundas are part of the classification known as the grandiflora roses.
For those who prefer a looser, casual look, the English roses, particularly the David Austin’s, will appeal. I’ve only grown a few of these – Guy de Maupassant and French Perfume. They are lovely and provide a floppy style arrangement for the home. The English roses boast an overabundance of petals. Growers enjoy the free form style of English roses and some find them more resistant to some of our coastal rose problems. English roses can be grown following the same guidelines as grandifloras, but may require more support or staking.
The climbing roses, which I rank as favorites, include the pink, large flowered Queen Elizabeth, the bold red Don Juan and the amazing changing colors of Jacob’s Coat. The yellows, which turn red in an arbor trained Jacob’s Coat rose, are sensational. While the climbers are bred for trellis training and will be labeled as such when purchased bare root, the grower needs to provide support for the eventual height and weight of the mature rose. Rose arbors and trellises are readily available at nurseries and rose Web sites. In pruning the climbers and espallied roses, remember that new flowers grow from horizontal canes so train the stems to cross the trellis as they reach for height.
Once the new bare root additions arrive by mail or from a nursery, prepare a large enough hole to make an inverted conical mound in the middle. A new location is best due to soil born diseases, or, if replanting in a spot from a failed rose, add new, hearty loam soil. Use some homemade compost in the hole. Gently spread roots around the central mound and fill in with loose soil. Keep the tender roots moist until the plant is secure in the soil. Rose foods contain many disease resistant properties, but be careful not to add chemicals to your garden. Old-fashioned compost, blood and bone meal, will be adequate to encourage growth. Aphids on new buds can be controlled by vigilant spraying with mild soap like “Dr. Bronner’s” and water. Also, release ladybugs into the garden when the aphids are in full feeding frenzy. Birds will also eat the aphids if their diet of bird food is cut back when the aphids are attacking the roses. Each rose disease can be addressed without adding chemicals to the soil. Black spot and rust are persistent, but cutting them out and not letting the leaves collect at the base of the plant are key elements in their elimination.
With each cut throughout the life of the rose, the next blooms are being encouraged. Cut above a bud and always cut at an angle so water does not sit on the stem. Keep the crossing branches to a minimum. Prune to open the center of the rose for improved circulation. Suckers are the canes growing from below the graft of every hybridized rose. These should be removed because they are from the rootstock, not the selected hybrid. Roses are regularly inspected (get out and look at them carefully) and frequently cut, or purposefully allowed to retain their bloom but still regularly checked for pests or disease, will grow successfully in Malibu coastal areas and even better in the hotter mountains of Malibu.
January is also the month to add bare root fruit trees and berries to the garden. The same planting methods apply but spacing, soil and sun conditions are specific to each plant. Read everything on the label to insure the success of bare root plants. Most gardeners will agree that the rewards of growing roses far outweigh the time and effort they require. Home cut roses will give fragrance and beauty in the house, which cannot be bought at any price.
Peggy Harris of P.M. Harris Landscape Design can be reached for garden consultations at firstname.lastname@example.org or 805.986.6965. Thanks to readers for responding to the informal survey showing that Malibu gardeners have roses blooming in December.