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ROSE CARE FOR MARCH
I WAS HOPING TO HOLD MYSELF BACK!
by Cheryl Frechette, Master Rosarian
Well, for me, March is the month of anticipation - thoughts of great rose blooms, bouquets in the house, and possibly some wins at the May rose show. I get spring fever in March, seeing the daffodils blooming, and the flowering trees starting their show. By February, we will have pruned our roses and now the new shoots are pushing out. Probably for those of you in Marin, your shoots are full blown leaves already, but here in Healdsburg, where we have lots more freezing nights, new shoots and a few tiny leaves are about it. Still, I’m happy considering that in Boulder, where I lived until 2 ˝ years ago, we might be blanketed in snow, like they are now as I write this, and only dreaming about pruning in early May. Regarding my pruning, although I don’t usually take the time to seal off the newly pruned canes to ward off cane borers, this year I noticed several canes with holes drilled down the middle only on certain rose bushes. So, I figure that those are the bushes that the cane borers prefer and for those, I did the sealing on the canes. My garden here is also smaller than my last one, so I could afford the extra time. I still find myself at the tail end of pruning, meaning that I will go out and eyeball a bush, tilt my head, and decide to cut some cane a bit differently or somewhat lower. I am also finger pruning the inward facing shoots in an early attempt to keep the center of the bushes clear.
This month, I will apply alfalfa meal around the drip line of my rose bushes, work it into the soil a bit, and cover it with more new mulch. I personally use alfalfa meal instead of pellets because my dogs think the pellets look very much like dog food, and hey, to them, it smells like some sort of edible food, so of course, they eat it!
I know that some of you just toss the pellets right on top of the ground and just wait for the rain to break them down and wash them into the soil, but here those pellets in clear view would be gobbled up. And, that means green dog throw up in the house. Yuck! With the alfalfa meal worked into the dirt and covered with mulch, the dogs will still smell it once it is watered in, and try to eat the dirt, but I can usually shoo them away from it before they consume very much. One note – if you ever decide to try the alfalfa meal, make sure to buy it without molasses in it. Many of the feed stores sell it this way, as it is sold as feed for horses, and the molasses makes it more palatable for them.
This year, I have also decided to work some kelp meal into the soil with the alfalfa meal. We used to do this regularly in Boulder as it was a generally recommended practice by the Colorado rose societies. Kelp meal contains minerals, trace elements, and vitamins, has antitoxins to fend off bacteria and viruses, and it can retain up to ten times its weight in water. It is more expensive than alfalfa meal, but you only use about 1/2 of the amount that you use of the alfalfa. This year, I decided to go for it while we were at our favorite place to buy these things – Harmony Farm Supply in Sebastopol. They sell the good alfalfa meal with a big rose on the front of the bag and also the same brand of kelp meal.
Although I was hoping to hold myself back this year from buying bareroot roses, convincing myself that in my small yard I don’t want to cram more roses into my new little French style garden, in late February, with the spring fever and all that, my will power started to fail. I told myself that it was too late, but then just last week, I ordered 3 bareroots – ‘Louise Odier’ (Bourbon, deep pink), ‘Ferdinand Pichard’ (Hybrid Perpetual’,
classed red blend, but it is striped and splashed with crimson and purple!) and ‘Lillian Austin’ (David Austin Shrub, pink blend). Oh, and one more (band, not bareroot), just ordered yesterday - ‘Alain Blanchard’ (Hybrid Gallica, classed mauve, but really more of a crimson/burgundy, which has delightful spots on the bloom!) because I’m always jealous of Joan Goff’s bush whenever I see it blooming or in one of her pictures. I convinced myself that I needed to buy the three Old Garden Roses, because this year I am starting an OGR garden along the edge of our small vineyard. I bought five OGRs last year from Heirloom Roses – ‘Fantin
Latour’ (Centifolia, light pink with a small yellow eye), ‘Great Maidens Blush’ (Alba, white, with a tinge of pink), ‘Honorine de Brabant’ (Bourbon, classed pink blend, also striped mauve and crimson!), ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (Bourbon, light pink), and ‘Rosa gallica versicolor’ aka Rosa Mundi (species, classed pink blend, also striped pink, white, and red!) I guess I had a desire for some striped roses, judging from my choices. Since they were small bands last year, I planted them in pots for a year. This year, we had them hauled down to the vineyard, planted along the fence, and had a new drip line installed separate from the vineyard drip line. Why separate? The vineyard drip runs twice a week for 5 hours each time and doesn’t usually get turned on until end of June! Not really the best scenario for roses. Hopefully these OGRs will take off and some of the larger ones will cover the fence. The three new ones will go down there too at some point.
Oh, and why the Lillian Austin? Just because it was one of my favorite Austins in my previous yard, I didn’t remember to buy it when we bought the forty or so bushes for the French garden, and basically, I just wanted it! It is a beautiful rounded bush with great color – salmon pink, tinged with orange and apricot, with ruffled semi-double to double bloom form. So, hopefully the blooms will not fry here in the hot sun of Healdsburg like many of the other many-petaled Austins. I’ll also plant it where it gets sun only until 2 PM and not in the main rose garden which gets full day sun.
Well, that’s what’s going with me and my garden this March. Fun, anticipation, and dreams…….. And, I’ll be trying to remember to turn on the drip irrigation when we haven’t had rain for days on end.
Photo of Ferdinand Pichard courtesy of http://www.schmid-gartenpflanzen.de/, photo of Louise Odier courtesy of http://www.roguevalleyroses.com/, and photo of Lillian Austin courtesy of http://www.davidaustinroses.com/.
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Last Modified: 08/06/13