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Martha's Vineyard Times is a weekly publication.
July 14 - July 20, 2005 Edition
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is no new Garden Notes column this week.
We have had some
needed rain to help welcome summer. Nevertheless, dig an inch and
a half down and you will likely find the soil is still dry. However,
the conditions have come together to make 2005 a magnificent flowering
year for roses. The Island is covered with an abundance of them, wild
and cultivated, and their scent perfumes the air. Visitors to Edgartown
for the parade and fireworks appreciated the many roses trained on
that towns fences.
pink 'New Dawn' climbing rose graces many Island trellises
and fences. Photo by Susan Safford
The nearly iconic New Dawn climbing rose is among them.
Its blooms now grace Island trellises and fences, the lovely pale
pink flowers and apple-y scent as characteristic of the Island in
early summer as any single thing. A frequently asked question concerning
New Dawn is: how to get repeat bloom from it. It is often
hyped as one of those blooms all summer long roses, a
claim that one instinctively reacts to skeptically. And yet, some
New Dawns do bloom practically all summer. Others may
actually be one of the hybrid parents instead: a one-time bloomer
named Dr. W. van Fleet.
Good rose culture in any case is quite consistent. Do your best with
bed preparation: a soil test, plenty of well-rotted manure and compost,
and bone meal. Roses need at least six hours of sunlight to flower
and grow healthily, although a few shade-tolerant cultivars do exist.
Give them good air circulation by siting them a foot and a half apart
for hybrid teas and further apart for larger growing shrub roses.
In areas prone to winter freezing and thawing, plant the bud union
of a grafted rose about four inches below ground level, otherwise
at ground level in milder locations. (Own-root roses are becoming
increasingly available, interestingly.) Deep watering on a weekly
basis during the growing season is a good practice to keep flowers
coming. I find a monthly side dressing with two cups of a good organic
fertilizer is about right, but many gardeners apply proprietary rose
food/systemic chemical mixtures every two weeks. My opinion is that
over-fertilizing can be the source of the diseases (not only of roses
but of plants in general) that so plague some gardens.
Pruning of roses is the second part of rose culture. I hear too often
from readers that they are afraid of pruning and that it represents
something overwhelmingly mysterious. The best way to overcome fear
of pruning is to buy a good pair of pruners and start. Roses are pruned
in early spring just as growth starts, looking to take out dead or
diseased canes and to remove old, overly woody growth. Then cut the
entire rosebush back by about a third to as much as two thirds, shortening
each cane back to an outward facing bud. In the case of climbers such
as New Dawn, shorten last seasons flowering wood
back to three/four buds (about 46 inches) from the horizontal
cane. Train to a fan on trellis or fence with major canes as horizontal
That leaves deadheading, something we do a lot of as gardeners. As
the rose blossom ages, cutting it off before it shatters saves some
labor in the sanitation department, especially if the rose is blooming
heavily. Cut the stem back to at least the first full five-leaflet,
but containment pruning, limiting the size of the plant and forcing
more bloom by taking off eight to twelve inches, is even better.
I have often wondered why the proponents of native plant use have
not voiced greater enthusiasm for the ubiquitous but lovely native
roses, Rosa virginiana and R. carolina. (Instead, lists of native
plants urge us to plant the non-native R. rugosa, without any
alternate choices given.) R. virginiana and R. carolina are the familiar,
fragrant, single, pink thicket roses that grow in pastures, on bluffs
above the shore, and alongside the road. In my opinion, reinforced
by Bill Cullina in his comprehensive Native Trees, Shrubs & Vines
(Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, 2002, 354 ppg), these plants have virtues
that make them candidates for wider garden and landscape use. According
to Cullina, under cultivation they perform to higher standards: the
thin patchy wild colonies are thicker and more mounded in the garden.
Foliage problems such as black spot and powdery mildew lessen. The
flowers are completely fertile and form cherry red hips wildlife
forage that set off the glowing fall color of the foliage as
the season progresses. I urge attempts to utilize these native islanders
to useful effect as groundcover, as non-lawn, as bank holder and,
yes, as rosebush.
One rose presently contributing much of the scent perfuming the air
is the exotic invasive, R. multiflora. This is its one good moment.
Otherwise it is a pesky weed that gobbles woodland and open ground
equally. Though its orange-to-red berries are attractive and also
provide wildlife forage, I urge you to grub it out if it is trying
to establish a foothold on your property. As we shall see, there are
other roses to plant.
Many gardeners simultaneously covet roses and suffer from an opposing
anxiety about how to manage them successfully so that the plants will
not prove to be a disgrace to garden and gardener alike. Rose breeders
are constantly hybridizing to reduce potential for disease and to
increase chances of success with roses. The results of their work
are often referred to as Modern Roses. So the good news is that if
you have thought roses to be beyond your rosarian skills, think again.
There are several lines or ranges of Modern Roses that will appeal
if you have been having a hard time growing roses. The cold-hardy
Explorer series comes out of Canada and features plants named for
intrepid explorers of the polar regions such as William Baffin,
Champlain and Jens Munk. There is the Carefree
line, roses that feature the word Carefree in their names, such as
Carefree Beauty, Carefree Delight, and Carefree
Marvel, and do not need fungicides. (I have a plant of Carefree
Beauty, which is a four-foot tall by three-foot wide shrub with
tea rose-like pink flowers. It is healthy and blooms reliably.) There
is the Meidiland line of Landscape roses, practically ever-blooming
roses that resemble the well known rose the Fairy. It
should be noted of many of the Modern Roses that their breeding includes
R. polyantha, rendering many of them scentless: an all too modern
Perhaps the premier breeder of roses that everyone can grow is the
Englishman David Austin. His English Roses are justly famous for both
their ease of culture, great beauty, and wonderful fragrance. If you
are looking for success with a rose, spend the extra money and buy
one of them.
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