Saturday, April 2, 2011

My Bare Root Rose Addiction

I am sucker for a body bag rose. Everything about them gets me- the price, the timing when they hit the stores, just when nothing in the yard has leafed out yet the body bag roses arrive on the shelves, taunting me with their bright green leaves. I didn't end up with over a hundred roses by full price for them- that's for sure. But it wasn't always as easy as it is now- years of trial and error, and a few dead plants, have led me to be pretty darn good at bare root roses. Here are a few of my tips and tricks. First: Get em' while they are fresh. The day you see them on the shelves, buy them. The longer they sit on the shelves or in barrels in the stores, the more dried out they get- the more they suffer, and become weaker. Chose stores that keep the roses outside or in a cool greenhouse. If you simly have to have the body bag roses that are inside the stores, make sure they've arrived within 1-2 days of the purchase time. Second: Pick a winner. Look for a heavy bag, which is a sign of moisture still in the packaging. Count the healthy green canes. Look for roses with 3-4+ thick healthy green canes that have not started growing too much- don't but one reaching 2 feet up and all leafed out, it's been in the bag for a long time, and may already be too stressed to survive transition into a cold spring garden. Third: Do not bring them inside your house. Even if it is 25 F degrees outside. Set them on a porch, or better yet... Fourth: Soak em' right away. I have this huge galvanized tub I fill with water and a dose of Super Thrive. A few great rose growers suggested this magic elixir, and I've had so much more success with bare root roses since I started using it. I took this picture last spring just after I got home with these new beauties. I paid for them, drove home, poked holes in the bags for drainage with a small knife, removed the paper labels under the plastic and wrote the names of them on the bags with sharpie, and submerged them just after I shot this picture. I planned on planting them the next morning, so I didn't even take the labels or bags off- You can soak them for up 3 days. You should soak them at least 12 hours before planting. Fifth: Prepare a good hole. I like to dig a nice wide hole, breaking up the soil in the immediate area at least 1-2 feet around and deep, even for a small body bag rose. I toss in a handful of bone meal, and a serving of fertilizer. Use the package directions for an individual plant, which will vary depending on the type of fertilizer you use. I never stick with one kind of plant food. Ideally, I like to find a Miracle Grow for Roses at a good price, but I've used generic "Plant Food" for $2 a box, or Rose Tone I found on clearance- it really doesn't seem to matter in the end. Sixth: Plant em'. If you live in zone 5 or lower you plant roses deep. Where I grew up in California we learned to plant roses so the bud union (or the swollen place where all the branches begin) was above the ground- in zone 5 or lower you plant the bud union at least 4 inches below the soil surface. Trust me, this one bit of information is the difference between a dead or thriving rose the following spring. I have not lost a rose to winter in years! Seventh: Remove any dead wood that may have been left on the rose. Finally: Water. I use the water from the galvanized tub for the first watering because it has the Super Thrive in it. Water at least once a week unless it's been rainy, and fertilize often according to package directions. I like to do every 4 weeks in spring starting about April 1st. * If a deep freeze comes along, where night time temps drop below approximately 19-16 F degrees and your roses are in any way leafed out, you can cover them. I've done this once or twice- I just run out before sunset and put a old used nursery pot upside down over the plant, and remove it about an hour after the sun comes up. A towel or sheet would be okay, too. Here are some of the beauties I've saved from eminent body bag death: Happy gardening!

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