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Rose Care FUNdamentals for the winter months

The new year brings resolutions.

If you make resolutions, here is one. This year, I resolve to have my best garden ever: pruning, feeding and watering.

This is a resolution I definitely need to make – okay, I’m making it, I’m making it!

If you did a great job caring for your little darlings in 2008 but you still find a few under-performing roses in your garden, now is a good time to make some evaluations and eliminations.

This is truly the most painful decision I ever have to make in my rose garden, because I hate to consign living things to the trash heap.

There is an alternative, of course: give your under-performers away to friends and family.

And don’t worry: the plants might actually do better in someone else’s micro climate. It’s the darnedest thing!

Years ago I had a few varieties that just would not take off in a bed behind my place in Escondido. I transplanted them to neighbor’s garden.

She did little more than water them regularly and occasionally toss a little fertilizer on the beds. Well, as you have probably guessed, those roses took off and became real champions for her!

And once you get rid of that lousy under-performer, you can plant a new rose!

You can plant potted roses almost any time of the year, but now is the ideal time to plant bare-root roses available in home improvement centers, nurseries and by mail order.

They’re fresh and you have time on your side: roses planted now have lots of time and mild conditions in which to establish their root systems and form relationships with soil fungi so they can become real showoffs in your garden in late spring and throughout the summer.

By the way, it is almost never necessary to discard and replace the soil where an under-performing rose grew.

Short of some kind of hazardous waste spill, most soil problems can be solved through a patient program of proper watering, feeding, mulching and pest control.

However, when you remove the plant, take a close look at the hole to see if maybe the spot suffers from poor drainage, or drainage from another part of the garden.

Even with our recent rains, holes you dig in your rose garden should not show standing or pooling water.

If they do, you’ve got a problem that isn’t going to be solved by planting a new rose.

In our area, this is also a good time to plan your pruning schedule.

You should complete your major annual pruning by the end of February for major blooms sometime in May.

You can begin sooner, but it’s tricky: you don’t want your roses bursting out with tender new growth if they’re likely to suffer frost damage.

Frank Brines is a Consulting Rosarian with the Temecula Valley Rose Society.

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