Fiction Writing and Other Oddities

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thinking About the Fall

Most of you are probably wondering why I suddenly diverged from writing about writing, books, history and those types of things to gardening. The fact is, I love gardening almost as much as writing, so I thought I'd share some of the information I've gathered over the years. There is also the odd circumstance that my rose gardening and researching roses led me to set some of my mysteries (A Rose Before Dying, Smuggled Rose,  and The Necklace, to name a few) in the period when rose gardening really started coming into its own (early years of the 19th century).

Although we are firmly in the middle of summer, it will only be a few weeks before the weather starts cooling off. That means, now is a good time to line up and even order plants or seeds you want to plant in the fall.

Which brings me to the real subject of this blog: Fall Rose Planting. :) You knew I'd get there, one way or the other, right?

Fall is a Great Time to Order Roses

Fall is a wonderful time to order and plant roses.  As the weather cools, you can start thinking about what new roses you’d like to see blooming in the spring.  By ordering--and planting--in the fall, you give your roses a chance to “dig in” and get settled over the winter in their new location.  When spring arrives, they will be ready to put on a wonderful show for you.

In North Carolina, fall planting has an additional benefit in that we often start getting a great deal more rainfall.  This rain and the cooler weather will help your roses put down good roots to support extra blooms when the weather warms up in March and April.

If you’re considering taking this advice, there is a new category of “Earth Kind Roses” that Texas A&M University has been using to designate roses which stand up to insects, widely varying soil conditions, and minimal care.  The program has been used to find roses which can be used in areas, such as between roadways, where they will have to survive with very little cosseting.

A few of the roses identified as EarthKind follow.  They span a range of rose classifications and there are sure to be some which would do very well in your garden.

Belinda’s Dream:  Shrub rose with medium pink, very double flowers.  ARS rating of 8.4
Caldwell Pink:  Polyantha rose with lilac pink flowers, height up to 4’.
Else Poulsen:  Floribunda, medium pink, semi-double with 10 petals.  ARS rating of 8.1.
Katy Road Pink:  Also called Carefree Beauty, Shrub rose with medium pink blooms of 15-20 petals.  ARS rating of 8.7.
Knock Out:  Shrub with blooms that are a red blend, single flowers.  ARS rating of 8.6.
Marie Daly:  Polyantha rose in medium pink with an ARS rating of 7.6.
Mutabilis:  Hybrid China rose with single flowers (5 petals) that start out pale yellow and age through pink to deep rose.  ARS rating of 8.9.
Perle d’Or:  Polyantha rose with double flowers that are a yellow blend.  ARS rating of 8.4.
Sea Foam:  Shrub rose with white flowers which are double  ARS rating of 8.1.
The Fairy:  Polyantha rose with light pink, double blooms.  It has some (slight) fragrance.  ARS rating of 8.7.

The list of EarthKind roses has been expanding recently to include the following roses, as well:

Cecile Brunner:  Polyantha with double, light pink flowers.  ARS rating of 8.4.
Comtesse du Cayla:  Hybrid China rose with semi-double blooms that are an orange and pink blend. [Picture on the left.] ARS rating of 7.0.
Duchesse de Brabant:  Tea rose with light pink flowers consisting of approximately 45 petals.  ARS rating of 8.6.
Marchesa Boccella:  Hybrid Perpetual rose with light pink blooms that are very fragrant.  ARS rating of 9.1.
Marie Pavie:  Polyantha rose with white flowers which are double.  ARS rating of 8.9.
Mrs. Dudley Cross:  Tea rose with double flowers in a yellow and pink blend.  ARS rating of 8.3.  In North Carolina, this rose can grow into a very large and well-formed bush, about 6’ by 6’.
Reve d’Or:  Noisette rose (that in my personal experience can very well take over a small building in one season).  The blooms are pale yellow and double. [Picture on the right.]  It has an ARS rating of 9.4.
Souvenir de St. Anne’s:  Bourbon rose with light pink, fragrant blooms.
Spice:  China rose classified as an Old Garden Rose.  Spice is blush pink and is very fragrant.  It grows from 3 to 5’ in height.

 Roses Unlimited is a great source for "Earth Kind" roses, so I hope you'll check them out.

Planting Roses

Planting roses in the fall is really not much different from planting in the spring, except you do want to ensure you use a good, thick coat of mulch.

Select a site which has both good air circulation and at least six hours of sunshine.  There are a few roses, such as Rambling Rector which will grow into trees and can withstand some shade, but they are the exception and even they will do better with more sunshine!

Make sure you prepare your beds while you wait for your roses to be delivered.  It is never too soon to prepare a bed since having good soil is a key element to healthy roses.  If you can, get the Agriculture Extension Office to test some soil samples to make sure you use the proper amendments.  Good drainage is critical.  No roses like to stand in water.  If you have clay or slow-draining soil, you can add organic matter and gypsum to help condition the soil.

When you get your roses, be sure to water them well.  Dig a hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the container in which they are growing.  Plant your roses at the same depth in the ground as they were in their container.

After you dig the hole, mix the soil you removed fifty/fifty with organic matter and soil conditioners, such as alfalfa meal or cottonseed meal and gypsum.  You can also use the fine, bark-like soil conditioners to break up clay soil.

Trim back any broken or damaged stems, but leave healthy leaves if you plant before November.

Top dress with three to four inches of mulch to allow for good drainage, moisture retention, and weed control.

Once your roses are planted, don’t forget to water them (unless the winter rains have already begun, in which case you can sit back and relax).  Water deeply at least once a week; two to three inches of water is recommended.  Try not to get the leaves wet when you water, particularly in the fall as the cooler nights can promote diseases such as black spot.

You will not need to fertilize your roses in the fall, that task can wait until spring.

 Duchesse de Brabant, a Tea rose and one of the EarthKind roses that do well in the North Carolina area.  “No spraying required!” [Picture on the left.]

Interestingly enough, Duchesse de Brabant was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite roses, and he frequently wore a bloom from this wonderful rose in his lapel.

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