Category Archives: roses

Roses for the Santa Cruz Mountains

The weather this year has agreed with my roses. It may seem like we’re living in England lately, but the roses have appreciated the cool, moist spring- all the better to set lots of buds without a sudden heat wave to ruin the show. Every rose lover I’ve talked to is raving about the quality, quantity and extended bloom time for their roses.

Roses are available in so many shapes, sizes, colors and fragrances that almost every garden has a place for at least one. They provide structure and proportion to the landscape and are among the most showy and hardworking of all garden plants. The rose was selected as our National flower in 1986. England may have a few years on us in this department as it’s been their national emblem since the Wars of the Roses in 1455.

Who grew the first rose? Fossilized plants over 30 million years old can be linked to modern rose species. The Chinese were probably the first to cultivate roses, however. Five hundred years BC, Confucius wrote of roses in the Imperial Gardens. Roses have been under cultivation in China before they were introduced to the European market in the late 18th century. The ancient Greeks cultivated roses extensively. The Romans imported roses from Egypt. They also established a thriving rose-growing industry south of Rome forcing them into bloom during the winter in greenhouses and irrigating with warm water.

In the genus Rosa there are over 150 species or styles of roses that have specific characteristics. These species roses are plants that grow in the wild and from which all other roses are descended. Hybridization happens in nature by bees and other insects but man has taken the process to an intricate art and hybrid roses now account for over 1000 different kinds. From old garden roses like Damask and Bourbon to modern roses like hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora to tree roses, climbing roses, miniatures, the choices are endless.

Which types grow well here? From my own experience and that of other designers and rose aficionados, my
all-time favorite is the popular Sally Holmes. It’s disease resistant, everblooming, handles our summer heat and winter cold with ease and has few thorns. Large, long lasting clusters of single peachy-white blooms cover this 10 ft spreading shrub that acts more like a climber. Because the flower is simple in form and doesn’t contain many petals it can handle foggy, cool conditions and resist fungal diseases.

English roses, like Golden Celebration, need warmth to perform well. With 5" blooms of 50+ petals, they are reliable if you get lots of heat. Same goes for the rich, golden-yellow Graham Thomas rose. Both are fragrant.

Roses that I have found to bloom in shady conditions are Ballerina, a wonderfully fragrant, small, pink hybrid musk rose. Dense, hardy and vigorous it’s easy to grow. I also grow the magenta climber, Zepherine Drouhin, in the shade. It grows to 8-12 ft tall and has a strong raspberry scent. Iceberg performs well in part shade, too, with large, double, pure white blooms that scent the air with a rich, honey perfume. I like that it’s thornless, too. I’ve been told that the miniature, Gourmet Popcorn, also tolerates shade.

Deer love to eat roses. Even roses with terrible thorns have susceptible new growth before the thorns have had time to harden.  The new growth also has an increased amount of nutrients. I’ve heard that Rugosa roses are fairly deer resistant and well as The Fairy. Hope springs eternal.

This column is not long enough to go into the best way to plant and grow roses. But if you have a choice, it’s best to plant them where they receive at least morning sun as this allows the foliage to dry before fungus spores take hold.

Every garden or patio has a place for at least one wonderfully fragrant rose.
 

Time to Prune Roses, Fruit trees and Flowering Shrubs

I’ll be the first to admit it’s hard to bundle yourself up to go out and work in the garden on a cold winter day. Bright sunshine sure helps but still it’s not t-shirt weather yet. It helps to think how good that fresh air will feel, not to mention that working in the garden relieves stress. And think about all that great exercise you get without getting on the boring treadmill.

Depending on your weight and how vigorous you work, one hour of gardening can burn up about 272 calories. Transplant a shrub, and the number of calories burned could jump to an incredible 340 calories per hour. Just think of that extra helping of potatoes-au-gratin you had over the holidays.

There’s plenty to do this time of year. Neaten things up by removing rotting perennials and sweep the leaves and debris off the driveway and your roof. 

It’s time to prune fruit trees and smother overwintering eggs and insects by spraying with horticultural oil. Combine your spray with lime-sulfur ( except on apricot trees ) to kill fungal disease spores like the ones that cause peach-leaf curl.  has also been shown to supress fungal diseases.You’ll want to do this again when the buds swell but before they open ( about Valentine’s Day )

Control large vines like overgrown honeysuckle, pink jasmine,  morning glory, passion vine, potato vine and trumpet creeper by radically thinning or even cutting back low to the ground if they are a big, tangled mess. Wait until after flowering to heavily prune spring-blooming vines such as wisteria.

Pruning Roses
When buds along rose canes begin to swell, prune repeat flowering roses by removing spindly or diseased shoots and dead wood. Do this before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. Cut back the remaining stems by about a third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle just above an outward facing bud. Don’t worry whether your pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. You want to produce lots of roses not just a few of exhibition size. Aim for a vase-shaped  bush with an open center.

Prune old garden roses that bloom once in the spring after flowering.
Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to about the place where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

If any old leaves still cling to the plant, remove them. Rake up any debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It’s a good idea to spray both the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually have a problem only with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.  Thoroughly coat the trunk, branches and twigs.

Other tasks to do in the garden in January:

Cut back hydrangeas if you haven’t already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers.

Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don’t prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering or you can cut some during flowering to bring in cuttings for bouquets.
 

Pruning Roses and other to-do’s for January

I’m beginning to see the stirrings of life on some plants and although I’m enjoying some down time after the holidays there are several tasks that it’s time to do. If we lived where the snow drifts were 10 feet high, we could procrastinate a while but here in California, the game is afoot.

My first priority is to prune the roses before they start leafing out which wastes plant energy. I want them to produce lots of roses not just a few exhibition size so I prune shrubs moderately. Remember your goal is to keep the center of the plant open for good air circulation. Aim for a vase-shaped bush with an open center by cutting out crossing canes, spindly, weak, broken or diseased stems as well as dead wood. Cut back the remaining stems by about one-third, cutting canes at a 45-degree angle, just above an outward facing bud. Don’t worry whether you’re pruning job is perfect. Roses are super forgiving and you can trim them up again later. I once helped prune the rose garden at historic Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto. To revitalize the old shrubs we sawed out most of the beefy canes. I didn’t think they could recover in time for the big May bloom but they did and were spectacular. Roses are like redwoods,-you can’t kill one-they’re the energizer bunnies of the plant world.

Climbing roses require little pruning. Cut out extra stems if there are too many and also cut back long established canes to about the place where they are slightly thicker than a pencil. Then cut each side stem down to several inches. This will cause the cane to flower along its complete length for a beautiful spring display.

Remove any leaves that may still be clinging to the bush. Rake up debris beneath the plant and discard to eliminate overwintering fungus spores. It’s a good idea to spray the bare plant and the surrounding soil with a combination organic horticultural oil to smother overwintering insect eggs and a dormant spray like lime-sulfur to kill fungus spores. If you usually only have problems with black spot you can use a mixture of 1 teaspoon baking soda with a few drops of light oil in 1 quart water and spraying every 7 to 10 days.

Other tasks to do in the garden in January:

Cut back hydrangeas if you haven’t already done so. Apply soil sulfur, aluminum sulfate or other acidifier if you want to encourage blue flowers.
Prune fruit, nut and shade trees and spray with horticultural oil and lime sulfur or copper dormant spray. Don’t use lime-sulfer on apricots, though.
Cut back summer flowering deciduous shrubs and vines.  Don’t prune spring flowering varieties like lilac, flowering cherry, plum and crabapple, rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias, weigela and spirea until after flowering or you can cut some during flowering to bring in cuttings for bouquets.
– honeysuckle, potato vine, morning glory, trumpet creeper and pink jasmine by thinning now or even cutting back low to the ground if  they are a big tangled mess.