Don’t Choke Your Roses

Even if your roses have good drainage, they will still suffocate if you have too much clay in your soil. Too much clay can kill your roses. When the clay dries, it hardens tightly around the roots, suffocating them.

The roots of all plants need room to to breathe, and this is especially true of roses. We already discussed, in the post above, how your roses’ roots don’t like to get too wet. See, rose roots need good circulation. Not too much air around them, but a porous soil with some air pockets. This allows the roots to stay drier and move around, when there is not a lot of soil weighing heavy on them. That’s why light fluffy soil is far better than the dense, clay-like soil found in most yards. Soil like this is called compacted soil.

Solid soil

Compacted soil happens when the soil is too close together to allow any air in.  Soil compaction occurs when their is too much dense material (like clay) in your soil, but it also happens when your garden is tromped on. Every time you step on the soil, you cause it to press together, packing it down tightly. Some traffic is natural, but over time, too many visitors marching on your front yard leads to soil compaction.

Imagine a sponge and it’s cells. When you press on a sponge, those cells squish together, and all of the water squeezes out. That’s how compacted soil is—stepped on often enough, the “pores” in the soils compact, making it difficult for the roots to move and breathe; they suffocate.


The solution to compacted soil is to get lots of of healthy air pockets in your soil. Now, you don’t want too many air pockets–then your soil will shift down low when you water (causing compaction, and defeating your purpose). And you don’t want the air pockets to be too big around the roots, because you need to keep at least some soil right around the roots so they are not exposed. The perfect soil will have micro bubbles of air interspersed in the soil. This is called “aeration”. When you have the right size of air pockets spaced the right distance from each other, than you know that you your soil is properly aerated.

So, how do we achieve this perfect, non compacted soil? In other words, what is the formula ? Read on my friends.

Published in: on September 15, 2007 at 4:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Secret Formula for Roses that Rock

Here is the best combination for most roses

In this order, layer these ingredients. (Measurements are for one bush in one raised bed)

First layer: Some nice organic material (it’s called compost)– you can get this at a variety of gardening centers or hardware stores. Just plop a nice layer on the bottom of the bed, oh, about an inch high, maybe even two (there’s no precise measurement, just use your noodle).

Second layer: A heaping scoop of bone marrow. Just use a measuring cup from the cupboard, and sprinkle over the compost evenly.

Third Layer: Some peat moss (also called humus).

I’ll go into the specifics of these in a moment…for now, just get the basics down, as you read through.

You don’t need to mix this up at all—you really don’t. It’s layered just right and doesn’t need stirring of any kind—just plop it in in the correct order, pouring around your bush as you go. You will have to eyeball your bush a little bit and adjust it as you work, so that the root ball and the bud union are underground. Just work with it gently till it’s positioned properly. Mound the soil up an extra amount around the bottom branches until the plant is established.

Finally, remember that, growing roses is not rocket science (though you might think so, the way that some people talk about it, in mysterious tones). Follow the right rules for each plant, and you can grow absolutely anything God gave us

Published in: on September 12, 2007 at 9:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Rose that Shouldn’t Have Grown (But you’d never have known)

Alright, enough already! I’ve read through all of my rose advice and I’m done pretending–lest you think me a rose snob, I must tell the truth…

All gardners (who are sane), commit the following horticultural atrocities

We have cut corners.

We have neglected to water (yes, every gardner has done this, I don’t care what they tell you.)

We have failed to fertilize, winterize, and “down size” (prune) are roses on time. Or at all.

Any serious, large scale rosarian has probably soaked her roses overnight, and left them there, forgotten…slogging away in a bucket she finds days later.

We have let our tools get rust on them

We have pruned our roses with steak knives, when the pruners got lost.

We have let the weeds, the heat, or the kids damage the blooms

We have killed plants.

There. The ugly truth is out. Perhaps David Austin and P. Allan Smith will never admit to these horrors.

But I, for one, am done pretending.

Now. Please. Go grow something thorny and make some mistakes.

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 7:49 am  Leave a Comment  

The Brightest Blooms Possible

Do you want your roses to shine? Are your blooms non-existent, lack luster, or few and far between? Could be that your roses aren’t getting enough light.

While lack of light certainly isn’t the only reason for meager blooms, it is probably the most common. Many rose owners plant their roses in areas receiving far too little light for their plant to bloom.

Most all roses need 4 – 6 hours of sun to bloom their best. Six is ideal. Many rose owners reason that if this flower, or that flower grew great in this spot, so should my roses. Chances are, you clicked on this post because you have a rose that isn’t blooming. There’s also a good chance that it’s planted in a less than ideal place. Before I suggest moving your roses, let’s see if there is an alternative.

First of all, do you really know how much light your roses are receiving? Most people can guess-timate this my visually tracking the sunlight sweeping their garden throughout the day. If you are confident in your ability here, and are certain that your roses are light deprived, read on. If you think your roses are getting enough light, but want to be sure, you can purchase an instrument called a “Lumen-meter”. Eliminates all guesswork, and buys peace of mind.

Now, let’s say you know for sure that your roses are not being “lit” properly. And let’s say that you know for darn sure that not only are they light deprived, but they are, say, planted in the shadiest part of your garden. Well then, my friend, you are going to have to dig.

If, however, your roses are receiving almost enough light, then you have some options. First, do you have any blooms at all? If any bud has ever appeared on your roses, then you know it’s receiving at least enough light to produce some growth. Leave it alone. For now.

Also,if you have only recently planted your rose bush, give it time to prove itself. Perhaps you know for sure that it’s location gets only three hours of serious sunlight per day. Did you know, though that some roses can squeak by with less light than others? Rose Zephrin, The Fairy, and some wild roses can thrive in less light than others.  And while most all varieties do better with more light, it’s certainly best not to move your roses if they are producing even marginal blooms. Just give them a chance.

Alright now. Let’s deal with more challenging situations. Let’s say that you have just planted a rose bush in a fairly shady location, and you know FOR SURE that this variety of rose must have more light, if it is too bloom. If it was planted yesterday, if the location is truly too shady, and, if the variety of rose you planted requires maximum light, then go ahead…relocate it too a sunny spot.
On the other hand, if you have an established plant receiving at least enough light to produce leaf growth, then ask yourself– “Is there anyway to increase the sun’s rays that reach my plant? Could I trim back some foilage from an overhanging tree or even lop off a tree branch that blocks some sunlight? Could I live without the ‘screen’ of bushes that shields my roses from one extra hour of sun each day? Could I move the swing set, lawn furnishings, etc. to let more light in?” There are probably a variety of changes you could make, each one buying you a bit more sunlight. Try it out, measure the lumens falling on your roses, and see if it’s enough. I’ve had many climbers that seemed to be duds, soar with blooms once they reached a certain altitude. So remember, if you have a climber, let it climb to a sunny height. And remember, some bushes can be trained to be climbers.

One final word–Aerodynamically, the bumblebee is a miracle. Engineers who studied the bumble have concluded that it is scientifically impossible for the bumble to fly–its wings are far too small to support it’s body. But the bumble bee doesn’t know this, so it flies anyway.

There are no absolutes with nature; some plants defy the odds.

Pruning in Autumn (the fall-pruning of roses)

Pruning Climbers

If your trellis is covered with blooms, leave them alone; the view is gorgeous, and it may be the last flush of color you’ll see this season. Otherwise, go cane by cane, trimming them back to the part of the cane that is as thick as a pencil. If your climber is well-established, it may have very thick canes, hence, only the very newest growth will need to be trimmed. If your climber is a new plant, it is possible that none of your canes are as thick as a pencil yet, except perhaps down at the base. Leave these new climbers alone until they are at least a foot high and a foot wide.

Also, if you have a climber that is not producing very many blooms, but has excellent-sized canes, it may need a little extra pruning to produce next year. For big climbers with few blooms, cut the entire plant back two-thirds, leaving it one-third of its original size, even if the canes are thick. Of course, if you have a very long climber with very thin canes, and this is not specific to it’s species, then something is wrong. Lack of sun and food may be the problem, but it most likely just needs a good pruning.

Scraggly Climbers

Before you label your climber as scraggly, be sure it’s not supposed to have thin canes. Just google in the name of your climber, and do a little research. Most healthy, established climbers have canes as thick as a pencil somewhere on the plant.

If you have a very leggy climber with almost no blooms, go to the base of the plant, and see how many canes it has. If it has more than three, chances are that the plant’s energy is being diverted into too many places. Trim back the least productive ones, or the thinnest ones, even if they are rambling all over your roof. Just clip them at the base, leaving the three thickest and leafiest ones. Of course, if your scraggly climber is blooming, leave the three canes with the most blooms.

Leggy, yet productive

If your scraggly looking climber is covered with blooms, two things could be at work here…it is possible that you have a variety of rose that is meant to have thin canes—it is just unique to its species. If your climber is producing good blooms, that are attractive and reasonably sized, and if these blooms don’t have too much space between them, then I would just leave them alone. If you suspect that the blooms should be bigger, and you feel like it, then go ahead and prune off a cane or two; it won’t hurt. Whether your blooms are at their normal size or not, you should get bigger blooms by doing this. If you are satisfied with the size of your blooms, but there is too much green space between them (much more vine than roses), then go ahead and trim your climber to a bush shape, or at least trim it back to one third of it’s size. If you have an awful lot of green space between your flowers, than I would definitely “start fresh” and trim the whole thing back to the size of a bush. Let it grow back slowly, trimming it whenever it began to look even a little bit leggy. Once it begins to bush out, you can trim back all but three of the canes (the thickest one), and feed often.

Published in: on September 11, 2007 at 6:08 am  Leave a Comment  

When Ramblers have no roses

Rambling roses and climbers have the same basic needs for blooming as rose bushes. With only a few minor differences, the rules for growing a climbing rose are the same as the 10 steps for growing bushes. Here are the steps that are different.

7. It was not pruned properly — Ramblers and climbers have special pruning needs, and can fail to climb if pruned incorrectly.

11. It was over pruned Many climbers must reach a certain height before they can produce blooms. Some climbers will stop blooming all together if they are pruned too zealously.

12. It was not given proper support –Climbers must have something to climb on or cling to, such as a post, a wall, or a trellis. Also, some climbers must be tied to the support until they are trained to climb, or they will drag to the ground.

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 7:46 am  Leave a Comment  

The Rose Bush that wouldn’t bloom

 … and why– –



1. It had poor light Almost all roses need 4-6 hours of sunlight to bloom.

2. It was not well watered

3. It was not well fed–Roses are heavy feeders, and bloom in proportion to their nutrition levels.

4. It was not fed properlyRoses will produce mostly leaves,   if fed mostly nitrogen.

5. It was not fed at all!(Most common error, see solution above).

6. It was grown in poor soil Roses need good drainage, and good soil to grow in.

7. It was not pruned –Almost all bushes need regular, consistent pruning to hold their shape and bloom their best.

8. It’s root system was poor–Roses need to be well established before they can bloom.

9. It was vulnerable to disease –Could be caused by neglecting the needs above, choosing a high maintenance plant, and not treating it /checking it for problems.

10. It was in general poor health to begin with–Next time, examine your rose closely before purchasing, only buy healthy roses, and follow the rules above. Happy planting!

Published in: on September 8, 2007 at 7:19 am  Leave a Comment  

Why roses? I grow dandelions just fine…

1.  Because your neighbors will think yo are sooo cool.

2.  You automatically position yourself as a master garden when you prove to the world “I grew this rose bush!”

3.  People will think you have supernatural powers!!!

4. The thorns on the roses wrapped around your balconey will discourage your kids (and intruders) from climbing on the railing.

5.  On memorial day, and other summer events, you will have a flower ready for the occassion.

6.  When guests visit, you will give a very proper Victorianish image as you whisk them under a veranda of roses with their lemonade.

7.  If you are single, you can chat with your crush while whiffing the sweet smelling air (careful…one of you might fall in love!)

Published in: on May 30, 2007 at 3:53 am  Leave a Comment  

No question is stupid…

For those of you who don’t know, a raised bed is simply any section of your garden that has contained soil raised higher than the surrounding soil. (Hence, the term “raised” and “bed”). I realize that many of you are not yet familiar with standard gardening terms; in gardening, the term “bed” simply refers to the location of the plants–other than the yard. A good example is your own bed, or where you sleep You could sleep on the floor, but that wouldn’t make it a bed anymore than planting flowers on the lawn would make it a bed for your flowers.

In gardening, a “bed” is just a designated place for your flowers, generally elevated somewhat from the surrounding lawn. Like a bed. Technically speaking, most flower beds are raised at least alittle bit, just as a mattress placed on the floor would be slightly above the floor. When we speak of “raised” beds, though, we are talking about something elevated a bit more than the standard flower bed.A “raised” bed for your flowers, is more like a mattress ontop of a bedframe.

So, just how high off the ground should you plant your roses? Okay–

I’ll admit it–I would love to have the equivalent of bunk beds for your

roses–the higher the bed the better! But that would be alot of construction. The next best thing, in my opinion, is a wall with a drop off. Almost all of my roses are planted on the top of my rock wall, overlooking the street.

If you don’t have this option, read the post on “Raising Roses”. There, you will find instructions for a simple, yet adequate raised rose bed.

Published in: on May 29, 2007 at 5:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

How to Build a Raised Bed

If you read the post on proper drainage, you know how important a raised bed can be for your roses root system.

To make the most basic of raised beds, simply nail four boards together in a frame, place right on the ground and fill with dirt.

It’s that easy.

More specifically, you want your raised bed at least six inches off the ground, so make sure that your board is atleast six inches wide. How long should each board be? Well, that depends–how many rows of roses are you planting? You need 2 feet for each rose bush, and 18 inches between them, so do your math, and plan accordingly. How thick should each board be? Well, it’s not critically important, but generally speaking, the thicker the board, the longer it should last.

Any wood rigid enough to not bend is thick enough for this season.
The most important thing is just to get that bed raised up as high as opportunity affords you. Work with what you have.

Published in: on May 29, 2007 at 5:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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