Roses are so beautiful that it's difficult to begrudge them the extra attention they require over the growing season. As cool fall weather brings on their dormant period, one final job remains for you: preparing them for winter. As a group, hybrid tea roses are the most vulnerable to winter cold and need the most preparation. The complexity of this job depends on how severe the winters typically are in your part of the country.
It's important to stop fertilizing in late summer in most areas. Make the last feeding of the season two months before you expect the first frost. Also refrain from major pruning, and stop cutting blossoms. This avoids stimulating any more new, tender growth, which will be killed by the first frost anyway.
Remove all old mulch from under and around the roses; it might harbor insect eggs or disease spores from infected fallen leaves. Just before the first hard, or killing, frost of the season, spread fresh mulch of wood chips, shredded bark, or chopped leaves around the base of the plant, extending as far out as the branch tips. Wait until after the ground freezes to spread the mulch if rodents are a problem in the yard. Mice, especially, like to build their nests in mulch. Water the rose well, especially if it's been through a dry summer.
Once the ground freezes, it's time to add more mulch. If you live in an area with relatively mild winters, simply mound the mulch over the plant crown 6 to 12 inches up the canes. This insulates the soil to maintain an even temperature in spite of the normal alternating winter freezes and thaws. This thick mulch is especially important when there is no reliable snow cover to protect plants. If winter temperatures often drop well below zero, build the mount of mulch, then add more material after every freeze to make the mound higher. Eventually the mulch should virtually cover the bush. Sometimes it's easier to enclose the shrub in a cylinder and fill it with mulch.
- Organic mulch
1. Tree roses, or standards, are vulnerable to the cold, so you'll want to help them cope with winter. Begin by setting four stakes in the ground around and just beyond the mulched root zone.
2. Wrap a protective barrier of burlap around the stakes and tie it in place with string. Then fill in the middle with an insulating layer of shredded dry leaves. The rose is now shielded from harsh winds.
- 'Chicago Peach' -- pinkish double flowers turning apricot at their base
- 'Chrysler Imperial' -- deep red double flowers and spicy fragrance
- 'Double Delight' -- cream tinged with red, becoming redder with maturity; extremely fragrant
- 'Garden Party' -- double-flowered with pink-tinged white petals
- 'Mister Lincoln' -- velvety, dark red double flowers; highly fragrant
- 'Pascali' -- scented white flowers
- 'Perfect Moment' -- double flowers, red with yellow bases
- 'Tiffany' -- scented, pink double flowers
- 'Tropicana' -- brilliant orange flowers and fruity fragrance; also a climbing form
- 'White Delight' -- double flowers, ivory with pink centers
Enclose shrubs in cylinders of cardboard, metal, or plastic or in commercially made foam rose cones for maximum protection. Fill them with shredded bark, paper, or leaves for added insulation.
Protect the graft (or bud union) and crown of roses by mulching with loose soil, wood chips, shredded bark, or shredded leaves. Mound the mulch to a foot high over the base of the plant.
The canes of climbing roses are vulnerable to winter wind and sun. They need special attention in regions where winter temperatures typically drop below zero. Either wrap the canes with burlap or detach them from their supporting trellis and lay them horizontally on the ground. Cover them with a mulch of leaves, wood chips, or soil.
Continued on page 3: Making Leaf Mold