Bill’s Rose Note Book
by Bill Blevins
ARF Consulting Rosarian Emeritus
Shall we discuss the weather and environment? This past winter was much colder than last winter’s record setter, and a little later than what is (or was) considered normal. I’d say the pattern broke last fall when the projected busy hurricane season failed to come to pass. This past March was the 3rd coldest in 40 years and somewhat dry. Some growers lost roses and other tender plants, no doubt as a result of becoming a follower of the Global Warming phenomenon. This past winter was dry, windy and prone to dehydration – and winter protection was thought to be a thing of the past.
About 10 days ago it was a record 95° here for a high, with the whole week hovering close to 90°. But, this morning (4/22) it was 30° here with a substantial frost. I recall my constant reminder – Global Warming is about extremes. A late spring caught up some, but is still out of whack, as we are in the midst of an extended cool spell at present.
Not a rose bud in sight for the most part. Usually there are a few on climbers, shrubs, rugosas, etc. Last year at this time my rugosa was in bloom and strawberries were turning red. This year the berries just started blooming last week and the rugosa hasn’t even leafed out fully yet But, we still got a ways to go. May I recall a bit – I’ve been predicting a late spring since mid-winter (Mother Nature’s signs were there) and pleaded to not push our show date back (thankfully). I read a few looks and stares then as if to say “What’s with this jerk, doesn’t he know we are in the Global Warming era?” Of course a different reality will prevail when July hits and 95°-100° highs dominate. And they probably will. IN FACT, I KNOW THEY WILL.
At local nurseries plants seem a little smaller than past years in the #1 grade, but consistent. In some parts of the NoVa area, the Aldi Supermarket chain has taken a presence. They are a major force in Europe. They sell some limited nursery stock and florist products. I was very impressed with their #1 grade HT roses sold under the Frontline product name. Grown by Lone Star Nursery out of (surprise!) Tyler, TX. Heavy #1 canes fully rooted in a suitable pot. Dormant, with a light paraffin wax applied to the canes. At $4.99 a bargain and some decent variety selections. Then this past week I see a barrage of online sales offered by J&P, $3.95 each in a 10 plant minimum bundle plus S&H. The catch – #2 grade. Never thought I’d see J&P pushing #2 grade plants. Stick to #1, 1-1/2 grades folks. They are hard enough to come by.
How many prune their bare root plants before potting or planting? “Huh!” – some say. I prune the tops and roots to balance the act. Showed Randy Scott this years ago and he became a believer. I became a believer when the late and great J. Ben Williams ran this by me one day, stating “Bill, you want to gain 3 years on attaining a nearly mature rose plant?” Of course he got my attention. I was at his place in Silver Spring, MD and he was extending a crate of test plants to me to share with ARF/PRS members.
He stated “cut back the tops to about 6”-10”, 3 or 4 canes are plenty. Remove twiggy, broken stuff and all the inbetweens. Then tip or prune all roots back to balance the act. Remove broken roots, check for crown galls and suckers. I became a follower and believer. Had several Queens on first year bare root plants since then and as Ben also stated, “you may never get to hold that plant in your hand and inspect it at such close range again.” When Bobby Cole at Sam’s Farm used to pot up a portion of his roses, it was my job to prepare the plant for the pot. Yeah! Akin to plucking a chicken prior to its final home – a different pot.
And guess what (?), it’s bud and bloom time now for potted roses. What to look for? Start at the bud union, there are usually a few stubs/debris to remove, visualize what will be left after a light cleanup. This is the source of nearly all your future strong canes. Look for a vase shaped plant with little or no scarring along the canes and new growth. Think 30 days in the future, buds and blooms are fine now but the future is not necessarily right now.
When I assist others I state (in so many words) “I’m thinking 3-4 weeks from now when this fine plant you are prepared to purchase has locked its new feeder roots into its new and permanent home and will then flourish the rest of the year and many more.”
There has been considerable commentary in the Mid-Atlantic area regarding the varying dark and sometimes blotchy scars of a mystery disease outbreak among the Knockout family of roses. Recurring and somewhat vigor inhibiting, the primary site of infection is on the canes. Stay tuned.
But meanwhile, we have a rose show the weekend of June 1. Please come and bring your rose entries between the hours of 6:30-9:30 a.m. I have been cleared by the show committee to assist the Novices/less experienced exhibitors. Do not remove the foliage or shorten the stem. There are ample categories (classes) for all. A Novice has won Queen of the Show before; this time it could be YOU! Bring a few roses, or a bucketful, enter, and enjoy.
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