Jane McLeod: Ongoing care for hardy roses

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Given that you’ve paid attention to your hardy rose purchase (zone, not grafted but on its own roots) and planting (rich well-drained soil, lots of sunlight, room to grow) there is of course some ongoing care required for the plant to have a rosy future. The best part about caring for hardy roses is that less is better.

Hardy rose plants awaken slowly from dormancy in our climate, and given the fickle nature of our weather, this is a good thing. Certainly right now and for many more weeks they don’t even look lifelike, but they basically are waiting until spring truly takes hold and quits doing drive-bys.

Under all circumstances, resist the impulse to prune in early spring, and hopefully you didn’t prune them in the fall as that is a never-ever. Roses are pruned only in the spring in cold climates.

Hardy bush roses should be left to grow unpruned for their first three years. They need time to grow and fill out. Obviously, you can prune out the three D offenders (dead, diseased or damaged), but you probably will have little of that. Here, what little pruning that is needed to maintain their natural form takes place when the new bud growth of leaves is real evident. Even then, wait as what might look like winter kill at the tip of a branch this week will turn green and start to bud by next week.

What little dead wood the bush might have can be removed along with any crossing branches that are growing into the middle of your bush and out the other side. To form an open and healthy bush, make cuts just above a leaf bud that points out from the center so that the next cane will grow outward. Remember also that pruning stimulates growth and flowering and, consequently, doing it too early (or too late) can result in new growth being damaged by freezing weather.

Come late August, it also is time to just leave the rose bush alone and let it form hips and harden off on its own volition. So basically, there is not much spring fuss or bother, and come summer, just stand back and enjoy the avalanche of color with an ongoing flush of new flowers all summer long if you’ve picked a repeat bloomer.

Roses require watering at least once or twice each week. It’s nothing you have to measure. Just use common sense given their location and the summer’s heat or lack thereof. They do not like a shallow sprinkle but prefer a slow deep drink of about an inch of water at a time, but they are very forgiving if you come up short.

Hardy rose bushes have a strong shrubby stature with good structural growth and excellent form. They have some of the brightest and thickest green foliage in the spring that, depending on the variety, can turn attractive colors in the fall as well as produce eye-catching hips for their finale. Flowers come in all shades and colors. They are pest- and disease-resistant plants that thrive in our cold climate and can become the backbone or focus of any garden.

Jane McLeod is a volunteer master gardener with the CSU Extension Routt Couny. Call 970-879-0825 or email csumgprogram@co.routt.co.us with questions.

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