Ready For Roses
Written By Holly Clark
In Our Gardens
Ready to welcome spring and summer with a garden full of glorious roses? Let’s start by preparing a new bed for your beautiful blooms, with great tips and helpful insight from Paul Zimmerman, exclusive Biltmore Rose Consultant:
Preparing a new rose bed
Raising great roses starts with great soil. The better the soil is, the healthier the plants will be. February and March (and even April, depending on your location) are good months to get new garden beds ready.
According to Zimmerman, the “life” of a soil is found in its microorganisms. Some microorganisms break up fallen debris like trees and leaves, others break it down even further, and some then help the plants take up the nutrients from the broken down material. Nutrients like fertilizer that you add to the soil get taken up, as well.
When preparing a new garden bed, Zimmerman follows these steps: compost.
- First, till or break up the existing soil of the bed until it’s loosened.
- Spread about 3–5 inches of compost across the bed and work it into the soil. (Many types of compost are suitable, such as compost you make yourself, last year’s leaf pile, horse manure, or mushroom compost.)
- Add compost a few months before you plant roses so it can “stew” for a while. You won’t need to keep turning it—just let nature do its job.
TIP: If the area you are preparing has been part of a lawn or has never been worked at all, consider introducing some of those microorganisms in the form of a drench.
Preparing a site for the new rose
“Do I need to dig a 2 x 2 foot hole when planting roses?”
That’s one of the questions that Paul Zimmerman hears all the time.
“If you prepare the entire bed, you only need dig a hole big enough to fit the rose into. In the beginning, I followed the ‘2 x 2 foot hole’ rule, but after nearly 20 years of planting roses, I’ve stopped worrying about it because I can’t see any difference. By taking the time to prepare the entire bed and then following a regular regime of mulching and amending the soil, you will never have to dig a 2 x 2-foot hole to plant a rose again. Your back will thank you!
The most reliable indicator to know when to prune roses
For gardeners who live in an area with a true winter, pruning roses can be tricky due to the freeze/thaw cycles experienced during the coldest season. Prune too early, and a sudden warm spell may stimulate new growth that could be harmed in the next freeze. Prune too late and you run the risk of cutting off the spring flowering.
To prune roses at the right time for your region, books and articles often advise you to find out when your area receives its last frost of winter, count back a certain number of days, and prune then.
“There’s nothing wrong with this method except that lately it seems there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to weather,” said Lucas Jack, Biltmore’s rosarian. Last year, our roses reached peak spring flowering at least three weeks early.”
The most reliable indicator? Forsythia
No scientific instruments, no estimated frost date, and there isn’t even an app for it– just nature sensing the elements and doing what it does best, with perfect timing.
The forsythia knows when winter is coming to a close and spring is just around the corner. If it’s a long winter, forsythia blooms later. During a short winter, it blooms sooner. Keep an eye on the forsythia and when its cheerful yellow blooms begin to appear, get ready to prune your roses.