Attack Roses While They Sleep

8bd4This theme may be getting a bit redundant about now. There is just so much that needs to be done in the garden through winter for what will bloom in spring and summer. We plant new fruit trees, and prune mature ones. When we finish planting spring bulbs, we can start planting summer bulbs. Berries, rhubarb and grapes all get planted. With all this going on, it is also time to prune roses.

Like so many fruit trees through the past few centuries, modern roses were bred to maximize production. Instead of big and abundant fruit, they produce big and colorful flowers. Such enhanced production is more than overgrown rose plants can sustain. Pruning eliminates superfluous stems to concentrate resources into fewer but more vigorous stems, and flowers of superior quality.

Pruning also eliminates diseased, damaged, dead and dying stems; which are known as the ‘four Ds’. Foliage falls from the stems naturally through winter, but should be raked and disposed of because it can spread disease to new foliage in the spring. (Dormant fungal spores and bacteria overwinter in fallen foliage.) Foliage that clings to stems after pruning should be plucked away.

Pruning should ideally be done by the time buds begin to swell in late winter. Of course this is not as easy as it sounds in the mild local climate. Buds swell early, and may even start to grow before rose flowers from the previous season finish blooming! Modern ‘carpet’ roses and a few other shrubby types barely go dormant, but fortunately, they do not need such meticulous pruning anyway.

Hybrid tea roses need the most severe pruning, which leaves only three to seven canes approximately two feet high. These canes should ideally be unbranched below where they get pruned, and be spaced somewhat evenly around the center. Stout canes that grew last summer from the base of each plant are best. However, canes below graft unions are suckers that need to be removed.

Floribunda roses are pruned similarly, but can retain a few more canes. Some grandiflora roses are allowed to get significantly taller, with new canes on top of canes from the previous year, which may already be on top of canes from another previous year. It may take a while before they develop replacement canes from the base. Climbing roses likewise retain old canes for a few years.

Tree roses should be pruned as if the upper graft union is at ground level, so that canes should be about two feet high above the graft union. (Although, tree rose canes are usually pruned shorter.) Carpet roses and a few bramble types only need to be pruned low, but cane quality is not so important. They are not grafted, so can not develop suckers.

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Metallic Roses

P90203‘Sterling Silver’ and ‘Stainless Steel’ are two hybrid tea roses that were quite popular decades ago. ‘Copper’ and ‘Aluminum’ are not. However, I did happen to write a bit about the aluminum roses in the picture above on the Facebook page of Felton League on January 28, and included a link to an older article that featured a picture of copper roses. They are not at all relevant to horticulture, but are interesting nonetheless.

Felton League is an informational forum for the distinguished small group of displaced or socially outcast people and their friends in Felton, California. That is how it is described on Facebook. Those who are more directly familiar with us know us as a community group that not only advocates for the local homeless, but also provides compelling insight into homeless culture, and confronts the trend of animosity and hostility for anyone perceived to be homeless.

This is the post on Felton League from January 28:

Some of us participate in the River Cleanups here and elsewhere in Santa Cruz County. Some regularly collect trash for disposal throughout the year. One takes trash collection a step further by creating these metallic roses from some of the collected debris. They were featured in this article about garden art that was published in local newspapers between San Francisco and Beverly Hills in the summer of 2017; https://tonytomeo.com/2018/07/12/be-tactful-with-garden-art/ . (Not all of the articles used this illustration. The link is for the article as it was posted last July, about a year after it was published.) The copper roses of the original article were made from copper pipe. The newer silvery roses are made from flashing found in the San Lorenzo River. The thorny stems are made from scraps of fencing material that resembles a fine gauge of hog wire, that was found closer to Zayante Creek. The leaves are wired on with random bits of copper wire. These roses are often sold to tourists and local merchants to finance the banquets hosted by ‘Let’s Have Soup’ in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

Prune Now For Roses Later

70524thumb+The main problems with roses locally are not related to climate, soil, insects or disease. Warm and semi-arid climates of California happen to be some of the best places in the World for roses. Sure, many roses have problems with insects such as aphid, and diseases such as powdery mildew, but primarily because such pathogens proliferate among roses that are not pruned properly.

Yes, the main problems with roses are a direct result of improper pruning. Without adequate pruning, roses become overgrown thickets that shelter the pathogens that afflict them, but also lack the vigor to be resistant to damage. Like so many other domesticated plants, they were bred for maximum production of unnaturally big flowers, at the expense of natural resistance to pathogens.

Pruning eliminates superfluous growth and improves air circulation, which interferes with the proliferation of most types of pathogens. Most pathogens overwinter in fallen foliage that should get removed in the process. Pruning also concentrates growth of the next season into fewer new stems, which stimulates vigorous growth that hopefully grows faster than the pathogens that infest it.

Roses should be pruned while dormant in winter, after defoliation, and before buds start to swell at the end of winter. Hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses should be pruned back to only about three to six canes that grew from the base during the previous year. Older canes should be removed. Remaining canes should be only about two feet tall, and cut just above a healthy bud. Any growth below the graft union (where the basal canes originate) are genetically different suckers (from the understock or rootstock) that must be removed.

As growth resumes in spring, well pruned plants will produce fewer stems and blooms that are significantly more vigorous than those of inadequately pruned plants. Overgrown and inadequately pruned plants must spread their resources thin amongst more but significantly weaker stem growth that is much more likely to be damaged by pathogens. Aggressive pruning now pays off later.

The Rose And Fall . . .

p90113Winter is for pruning. Any good native of the Santa Clara Valley knows that. It starts as soon as the first deciduous fruit trees defoliate and continues to the last minute rush to finish before the buds start to swell at the end of winter. It may seem like there would be no last minute rush now that all the orchards are gone, but there is so much in landscapes to prune that prioritizing and scheduling pruning takes a bit of effort. Just like we know that apples and pears can be pruned slightly later than apricots and prunes, in the landscape, we know that sycamores might be delayed until the birches are done. Naturally, I feel compelled to prune the flowering cherries and fosythias, but am almost content to wait until after they finish blooming in early spring. Of course, I cringe as I write this.
Roses are getting pruned now. I first finished a few scrawny hybrid tea roses, including a few ‘tree roses’. They really should be relocated to a sunnier spot, but not this year. Afterward, I did a row of climbing roses that are not exactly climbing the fence that they were planted against. They really should be moved too, but like the others, not this year. I still need to prune a bank covered with modern carpet roses. I am none too keen on them. Actually, I rather dislike them. However, of all the roses, they are the only ones that happen to be in the right situation, and are doing a nice job.
Just before I started with the first batch of hybrid tea roses, I pruned a single potted hybrid tea rose that is all alone on a deck across the street. I wanted to get it done when I thought about it so that I would not forget about it in the process of pruning everything else. It had bothered me for some time because it was so tall. I mean, I could not reach the top of it. The blooms up there were closer to upstairs windows than to anyone wanting to seem them from ground level. The supporting lower canes were bare of foliage, but well armed with nasty thorns. Honestly, I thought that the deck would have been more inviting without it.
Pruning it was rather simple; just three major cuts. Since the rose is where people mingle, I chopped the thorns just so that they are not so sharp. The remaining three canes were older than one year, but did not seem too terribly old. In fact, there was still a bud to cut back to on one of the canes. For the other two, I had to cut back to old petiole scars, expecting that dormant buds are still in there. That was about it.
The problem that I was not aware of is that the rose was left that tall intentionally because a former gardener liked it that way! Now I feel badly. I really thought that it had just been neglected. Like I mentioned, the canes did not seem to be several years old. They must have replaced older canes in just the last few years. Regardless, I can not put it back. In the partial shade there, it will probably grow back as tall within the year. I hope that the former gardener does not find out about it before then. I know that if someone did that to a roses that I had pruned in a specific manner, I would be really angry about it.p90113+

Horridculture – Miss Congeniality

p90109Now, before I commence with my rant and long list of problems with this picture, I should mention that this seemingly abused rose tree does seem to be appreciated. All the roses in this landscape seem to be very healthy, and they bloom constantly between spring and autumn. Their performance suggests that they are regularly fertilized and deadheaded.
The unusually brutal pruning may be an attempt to keep this particular rose tree as compact as possible, within very limited space. It is not how I would do it, but perhaps it helps. The size of the burl suggest that this rose tree has been pruned effectively like this for a few years, although the lack of weathering of the labels indicate that it is not more than several years old. Older canes really do seem to be getting pruned off annually as they should. Even though the remaining canes are stubbed much too short, the end cuts are done properly. I can not help but wonder of pollarding back to the main knuckle would be just as effective, and neater.
The labels seem to be retained intentionally. In fact, the smaller white label to the left is attached to a new cane. Either the label was removed from an older cane that was pruned away, and attached to a new cane intentionally, or the rose tree was planted only last year rather than a few years ago, as mentioned earlier. I do not know why this uninformative label would have been retained; but the other larger label might be there for anyone who wants to know the name of the rose when they see it blooming in season. It happens to be in a very trafficked spot, where people walk by it constantly.
Rather than snivel about the (seemingly) very bad pruning, and the retention of the (trashy looking) labels, I should just say that this apparently appreciated rose tree should have been planted somewhere else in the garden, or not at all. That wheel in the background really is in a parking spot that is bordered by the red curb. A tiny bit of another red curb on the opposite side of this very narrow space is visible in the very lower right corner of the picture. (I can not explain why the curbs are red.) This really is a very narrow spot between a parking space and a walkway! Those mutilated stems to the right are another shrubbier rose. Thorny rose canes could really be a bother for those getting out of or into a parked car, or walking by on the walkway. The seemingly useless stake might be there so that the rose tree does not get yanked over when it grabs onto someone. To make matters worse, this rose is a grandiflora, which wants to grow bigger and wider than most other types of roses. Defoliation during winter dormancy is no asset either. The pathetic marigold on the ground really does not help much.
The point of all this is that more thought should have gone into planting this rose tree here.
Even Miss Congeniality, who so proficiently adapts to the most unfamiliar of situations, has certain limitations; and this situation demonstrates the worst of them.

Bare Root Season Is Now

80124thumbAutumn really is the season for planting. That is the general rule. One generalization about general rules is that they generally do not apply to all of the specifics. In other words, there are likely certain exceptions. In this case, there are some types of plants that should not be planted in autumn. The next best season for planting is probably winter, which happens to be ‘bare root season’.

Just before the last of the Christmas trees were being sold, and relinquishing their space in nurseries, bare root stock started moving in. Some bare root stock is prepackaged with its otherwise bare roots in bags of moist sawdust. Nurseries that provide large volumes are likely to heel in unpackaged bare root stock into bins of moist sand, from which it gets pulled and wrapped as sold.

As the term ‘bare root’ implies, bare root stock was dug as early as the onset of dormancy in late autumn, and deprived of the soil that it grew in. Because it is dormant, and the weather is cool and damp, it does not mind much, if it even knows at all. As it emerges from dormancy next spring, it resumes growth, and disperses roots into the new soil that it got planted into while dormant.

Bare root stock is significantly less expensive than canned (potted) stock because it lightweight and does not take up much space in the nursery. It is also more efficient, since it only stops briefly in retail nurseries, on its way from growers to its final home destinations. New plants start dispersing roots right away, instead taking time and effort to recover from earlier confinement of roots.

Deciduous fruit trees and roses are the most familiar of bare root stock. The bare root fruit trees include the stone fruits of the genus Prunus, such as apricot, cherry, plum, prune, peach, nectarine and almond, as well as pomme fruits, such as apple, pear and quince. Figs, pomegranates, persimmons, walnuts, mulberries, grapevines, currants, gooseberries, blueberries, cane berries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and a miscellany of deciduous blooming but fruitless plants are also available.

Carpet Rose

51028They compare to more traditional roses like instant coffee compares to real coffee. They are too easy and cheesy. However, even instant coffee can be rather good as long it is not expected to taste like the real thing. Likewise, carpet roses do not produce big and fancy flowers on long stems for cutting, but they have other attributes that are advantageous in the landscape.

The small but ridiculously abundant roses that started blooming late last spring are only now finishing. Bloom can be white, pink, red, coral, scarlet, gold (orangish yellow), yellow or white. The rich green foliage is remarkably resistant to disease, and lasts until frost. The arching stems can spread a few feet without getting much more than three feet tall. Most cultivars stay shorter. Some get quite wide.

Like other roses, carpet roses will need to be pruned back severely while dormant in late winter. Yet, they do not need to be pruned nearly as carefully. Because they grow as thickets of canes, they do not need to be thinned to only a few canes when pruned. Even if old canes do not get pruned out, they will get overwhelmed and replaced by newer canes naturally.

Six on Saturday: Rose Parade

 

There is way too much blooming for me to keep up with. Because I know there will be less blooming through summer, I get pictures while I can, even if I can not use them right away. Consequently, these pictures are not exactly from this last week. Some were from the second phase of bloom, and the first picture is from the first and only phase of bloom of a rose that blooms only once annually. I suppose I could have gotten pictures of the other five this last week, but I wanted to get them earlier than later, just in case they were between phases when I wanted to get the pictures.

Roses do very well here, and are even happier in the warmer and more arid weather of the Santa Clara Valley, just a few miles away. The Santa Clara Valley is one of the best places in the world for roses, which is why the Heritage Rose Garden is located there. Sadly, that collection is presently not in very good condition.

1. ‘Doctor Huey’ is the only cultivar of these six that I can positively identify. It has been the common understock for grafted roses longer than I can remember. Because it is only used as understock, it is not often seen blooming out in the garden. These are only blooming because the original scion died, and was replaced with sucker growth from below the graft. ‘Doctor Huey’ blooms profusely but only once in spring. It grows as a bramble, and can form small thickets if neglected long enough.P80602
2. Although not white, this pretty hybrid tea rose is probably my favorite of the six just because it is so perfect. I do not know the cultivar. It is not in the landscape, but is in the nursery, waiting to be installed into the landscape. Hybrid teas are the roses that I grew up with, so are my favorites.P80602+
3. I am not sure if this bicolored rose is a hybrid tea or a floribunda. I am guessing that it is a floribunda because there are groups of flowers blooming where I earlier deadhead the first phase of single blooms. It is out in the landscape, in the same garden with 4, 5 and 6 below. It is grown as a shrub. The others are grown as standard or tree roses.P80602++
4. This is my least favorite of the six because it looks like one of those trendy David Austin roses. The color is nice, but the form is weird. I will never understand fads. I know that hybrid tea roses were a trend or maybe even a fad at one time, but it was the trend that I grew up with, which is why they are what I compare all other roses to. This rose does not compare to them too well. It is grown as a standard or tree rose.P80602+++
5. This is also grown as a standard or tree rose, but in conjunction with 6 below. I mean that they are grafted together on the same trees. Individually, they are nicely formed roses with excellent color, but they look silly stuck together with the white roses. I could probably identify this rose if I wanted to, but I do not want to misidentify it. Except for the color, the rest of it grows just like ‘Iceberg’.P80602++++
6. This one looks just like ‘Iceberg’, and except for the color, grows just like 5 above, which it is grafted onto the same trees with (as I mentioned above). The white is perfect. If it were a hybrid tea, it would be my favorite of these six. I just prefer 2 above because it is such a perfectly formed rose on good stems.P80602+++++
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Timmy in the Garden

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Tim Buck II, pronounced like ‘Timbuktu’ in Mali, but known simply as ‘Timmy’, came to live with us while he was just a baby fawn. Mr. Tim Buck Senior left Mrs. Buck to raise little Timmy alone as a single mother. Mrs. Buck then vanished, leaving little Timmy enfeebled on the side of Highway 9 south of town. No one knows what happened to Mrs. Buck. She might have been hit and killed by a car. She might have been eaten by a Mountain Lion. Somehow, she was not there to raise little Timmy.

Traffic was stopped on Highway 9 as little Timmy staggered about, either anemic, or starving from the absence of Mrs. Buck. He could barely walk, and certainly could not bound up or down the steep hillsides to leave the Highway. Most of us who stopped knew that he would not survive, and just accepted it as part of nature. However, we could not just leave him there with a few concerned children also stopped in the traffic with us. I loaded him into the back seat of the pick up and took him with me so that the children would think that he would be taken care of. I expected him to be deceased by the time I got home.

Instead, like a scene straight out of ‘Tommy Boy’, Timmy survived. He got up and was looking at me in the rear view mirror. Now what? Barbecue? I took him home to ask the neighbors.

That was too much help. They gave Timmy goat milk and groomed him of ticks, and a within a few hours, Timmy was bounding about the yard and playing with Bill the terrier, and Melly and Chewy the two cats. By nightfall, the entire herd wanted to sleep in my bed!

Timmy grew very fast and consumed quite a bit of goat milk. He craved more than milk though, and started eating my roses. (This was later in spring.) When I yelled at him to stop, he just looked at me quizzically, and continued eating. The roses did not last long. Timmy then ate the leaves off the fruit trees. Then he ate some ornamental grasses. There was not much that Timmy would not eat. When I tried chasing him off to eat in the forest, he just came right back to play with his friends and eat more of the garden. When I kept the door closed, he just came in the cat door and found his way to my bed. When I took him across the creek and down the road a bit, he just followed me back.

The funny thing is that everyone liked Timmy! He was so nice and polite, even as he destroyed the garden. That was a very bad year for gardening!

By the following spring, Timmy was spending almost all of his time out in the forest. He had depleted everything in the garden, so needed to go farther out to find vegetation within reach. He had grown very fast into a tall and lanky young buck. I slowly resumed gardening in early summer, with only minimal nibbling.

I sometimes wonder how Timmy is doing. I am pleased that he is no longer in my garden. I can enjoy growing roses again. The only thing I enjoy finding in the rose garden more than a nice healthy rose is a bitten off stub where there was about to be a rose.

Roses Get Pruned In Winter

30508thumb++Winter is no excuse to be less diligent in the garden. It would seem that gardening would be less demanding because there is less going on, and so many plants are dormant. However, dormancy is precisely why there is so much to do through winter. Bare root plants and bulbs are planted because they are dormant. Fruit trees get pruned because they are dormant. Now it is time for roses.

Just like fruit trees, modern roses were intensively bred for enhanced production. Their flowers are too big and abundant for overgrown plants to sustain. Consequently, aggressive specialized pruning is necessary to concentrate resources and promote vigorous growth. Rather than producing an abundance of inferior blooms, well pruned canes produce fewer blooms of superior quality.

Also like deciduous fruit trees, roses should be pruned while dormant, preferably after defoliated, and before new buds swell. This sounds easier than it really is. Some roses might still be trying to bloom on canes from last year. Others might be trying to generate new foliage for this year. Fortunately, they are tougher than they look. Besides, early or late pruning is better than no pruning.

Hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora roses need the same sort of pruning. They all should be pruned back to only a few canes that grew last year. Older canes should be pruned out completely, unless there are not enough new canes that grew last year. Hybrid tea and floribunda roses need only three to six canes, only about two feet tall. Floribunda roses might have a few more canes. Tree roses should be pruned just like shrub roses, as if the upper graft union is at ground level. The canes can be pruned shorter.

Suckers from below the swollen graft union (from where canes emerge) should be removed completely. If possible, they should be pulled or peeled off instead of cut. This seems harsh, but leaves less of a stub from which more suckers might develop later. Because fungal spores and bacterial diseases overwinter in decomposing foliage, fallen leaves should be raked from around roses.IMG_20140331_112633