Thursday, October 20, 2011
Preparing Your Roses For Winter
Happy autumn to all my fellow Ontario gardeners.
With the rainy season now upon us and the mercury steadily dropping most of us have shifted our gardening energies to fall clean-up and the winterizing of our gardens. For all you rose lovers and growers out there here are some tips to help you prepare and protect your rose plants so that they will return to you in the spring.
First of all grow roses that are hardy to your zone. For us here in Southern Ontario that is zone 5. If you have a special micro-environment you may get away with a zone 6 rose but it will require some extra care to protect it over winter. While it is true that some of the hardier, old fashioned, rugosa roses can stand up to old man winter without any assistance most of the modern roses (such as hybrid tea, floribunda and grandiflora) require some form of protection to make it through the harsh realities of our winters. Often times it's not the low temperatures that damage rose bushes, rather it is the rapid temperature changes and repeated freezing and thawing that does the most damage.
Secondly cultural practices during the growing season will have an effect on your rose's ability to make it through the winter. Healthy roses have a much better chance of making it through the winter so treat insect and disease problems as they occur during the growing season, water deeply before freeze up, and pick up fallen debris around the base of the plant that is diseased. Also, gardeners should not fertilize rose bushes after July 31. New late season growth will be too tender to handle winter conditions and could lead to winter injury. Stop deadheading roses in late summer. The development of rose hips promotes hardening of plants in preparation for winter.
To prepare your roses for winter survival add a 9-12 inch protective mound of soil around the base of each rose plant. While my preference is compost (if I can still find it this time of year) any type of garden soil will do as long as you bring the soil from another location. Do not remove soil from the rose's root zone to make a mound. For this purpose bagged soil works great. Next remove any diseased leaves remaining on the plant and either tie the canes together with twine or shorten excessively long canes to approximately 3 feet in length. This will prevent the canes from whipping during strong winds. The best time to mound your rose plants is a couple of weeks before the ground freezes which is about mid-November for our region. For added protection you can also add a layer of mulch over the mound of soil. Bark, wood chips, or straw can be used. You can also cut the bows of your live Christmas tree and place them over the mound for added protection.
Come spring remove the soil and mulch (usually early April in Southern Ontario).
Climbing roses are more of a challenge in terms of winter protection. The entire plant should be covered with soil. Begin by removing the rose from its trellis or climbing structure. Then carefully bend the canes to the ground. Gently pin the rose down and cover the canes with several inches of soil and a layer of mulch. Climbing roses can be uncovered with all other roses in the spring.