Temecula Valley Rose Society

Rose Care Corner, July 2006

By Frank Brines, Consulting Rosarian

This year has been somewhat unpredictable for me. My roses are either late or early in producing blossoms and out of synch with each other. I should be cutting blossoms to take to the San Diego County Fair, but instead I am deadheading some bushes and anticipating future blooms from others.

Deadheading is simply removing spent blossoms. It encourages your roses to rebloom. It is also an opportunity to gently shape the plant, strengthening the lower cane and the root system. A good rule of thumb for deadheading is to follow the stem down from the spent blossom to the first five-part leaf whose bud faces outward. Pruning here will cause the new branch to grow away from the center of the plant. If you feel this point is too high to give a good shape, don't be afraid to drop down to a lower, outward-facing leaf. When the bush is deadheaded, water and feed it.

As the new flower buds appear, you must make one of those inevitable decisions: Do you want quantity or quality? That is, do you want larger blossoms that may be fewer in number, or many smaller blossoms? If you go for quantity, remember that while abundant blossoms make an impressive display and require little effort from you, in the hottest weather they put can stress on the plant; blossoms consume a lot of energy and water. Keep them plentifully watered and provide shade if possible.

If you go for quality, you must "debud" your roses before they actually bloom. This is a simple process of removing side flower buds and leaving the center bud so it gets more energy and grows bigger. Debudding gives you the best results (and is easiest) if you do it earlier rather than later. It's simple and you can do it with your fingers (some people even call it &quuot;finger pruning"). If the bud is small, push it sideways with your thumb or index finger until it snaps off. If it is too tough for that, grasp it between you thumb and index finger and pull it sideways. If done early enough, it leaves a clean break.

In this heat your roses need water, water, water. A four inch layer of organic mulch covering the soil of the entire garden is an excellent practice in our climate. Four inches is enough to decrease evaporation by 70%! It prevents crusting and cracking of the soil surface, evens the distribution of moisture in the soil, encourages earthworms and discourages weed seed germination, and moderates the soil temperature for optimal root growth. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunks for good air circulation. Watering deeply is best and it allows you to water less often. Soaker hoses under the mulch are a convenient approach and can cut down on surface evaporation.




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