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Fall in the Rose Garden

Usually the first thing to do in the garden in September is to enjoy it. The temperatures normally are back to a reasonable level and your rose bushes should be responding to the break from the heat stress of summer. September usually brings plenty of new growth and deep vibrant colors to the rose blooms. The bloom colors, size and production also start to improve as the temperatures drop. This summer has been an unusually hot, rainy and humid one for us, perfect conditions for black spot to thrive. We may have to wait a little longer for the cool down, as we are in a heat wave this week, and after a few day break, will have another next week. With rose shows and a garden visit coming up in a couple weeks, not ideal weather for us, but the beautiful fall garden will return at some point.

Another thing to do with those gorgeous autumn blooms is to share them. Take some roses to friends, relatives, your doctor, dentist, hairdresser, or nursing home. They are sure to put a smile on someone’s face, and there is no better feeling in world to see that. You may even stir enough interest in someone to bring a new member to the society.


The end of August is the cut off time for granular fertilizers in our area, as we don’t want the roses pushing new growth late in the year. New late growth will not harden off for winter and will just die off anyway. Sometimes I will apply a bloom booster liquid fertilizer for the September rose shows. Bloom boosters have a higher concentration of phosphorus which helps produce larger healthier blooms, without too much nitrogen that would push new green growth.


It’s also a good time to make a garden map. When you forget what went where, or lose the tags, the map will still know. It doesn’t need to be fancy or neat; it’s just a record of what is where. Mine has lots of white out, different color inks, and dirt all over it, but I wouldn’t want to be without it. Mine is done on an 11 x 14 spiral bound artist sketch pad. I have 8 pages and 17 different garden sections for my 1,000 plus roses. After about 8 years, I usually start a fresh page and replace a really dirty or torn one. Other rose friends have done garden maps on their computer. Do whatever is comfortable for you. While you are creating or editing your map, it is a good time to evaluate your roses.


I have been ridding the garden of the worst black spot prone roses, some susceptible, despite a regular spray program. These are shovel pruned unless they are excellent show roses. Other candidates for replacement are ones that get too large for my crowded garden, stingy bloomers, barely surviving, or I’m just not love with the bloom or growth habit. You would think would be easy with 1,000 roses to choose from, but every year I struggle with making these cuts. New additions to the garden are ones that I think will show very well, will give a great display in the garden with few problems, are recommended by a rose friend, or ones that Kathy or I fall in love with when I see the bloom or the bush in a garden setting. I also order favorites to have multiples in the garden, or to try one on multiflora rootstock Own root roses are ordered from Heirloom Roses, Roses Unlimited and For Love of Roses in the spring so they have time to get established before our winter comes.


As summer ends, it also becomes decision time on what roses to add to the garden the following year and which go up for adoption or get shovel pruned. Palatine Roses and Wisconsin Roses start taking orders around the beginning of September and to get the best selection, you must order early. Both graft on multiflora rootstock which is the best for my area, southeastern Pennsylvania, zone 7a. Wisconsin has some of the newest exhibition varieties and they come as maidens, newly grafted buds healed into the rootstock. They take some time to develop into large bushes, as opposed to the 2 year old field grown bushes sold by Palatine. Palatine is my favorite supplier because of the rootstock, excellent quality and service, and they carry a large number of the newer Kordes roses which are very disease resistant and winter hardy for me, and many do well on the show tables.

I’m not sure which new varieties I’ll be ordering yet, since the web sites have not yet been updated, but some that may be on my list are- Sonnenwelt, Märchenzauber (Bliss Parfuma), Frida Kahlo, Eyeconic Mango Lemonade, St. Tropez, Rose der Hoffnung (Rose of Hope), Fire Opal, Oh Happy Day. Other that I got as own root or maidens this spring, and can’t wait to see how they do next year are- Babies Blush, Bold Ruler, Chessie’s Favorite, Meghan Dawn, Olivia’s Rose, Sunny Sundays, Toots, and Tangerine Skies. Some roses I got in the spring that grew in pots this year and will find homes in the ground this fall are- Highwire Flyer, Lady in Red, Parade Day, Pinkerbellle, Princess Anne and Cloud 10.


If you exhibit roses, Horizon Roses is a publication in which the newer exhibition roses are rated by growers from across the country. Nothing is sugar coated and most comments are very blunt, not like reading a rose catalog. The new edition is available in a Kindle electronic version or as a pdf; the profits are donated to the ARS and ordering details are listed on


It’s a good time to check the ph in your garden. You can buy a ph tester for as little as $15 or as much as $75. A soil test form Rutgers in N.J. or Penn State in PA is another way to check it. The soil test will also tell you about what is lacking or surplus in soil. The ph for roses should be between 6.0 and 6.5 If this is low, which is usually the case in this part of the country, you need to add lime to the soil to bring the number up. This takes a while so the fall is a good time to do it. Fertilizing heavily usually also pushes the number down. The first time I checked mine, some parts of the garden were down to 4.0, which explained way they weren’t doing so well. Too low or too high ph makes certain minerals unavailable to the roses; they can’t take them up through the roots.


If you are planning on a new rose bed next year, this is a good time to get it ready. Digging and amending the soil now will make planting easy next spring when your new roses arrive. It will also give the ingredients time to blend and the bed time to settle.


September is a good time to arrange garden visits. It’s nice to visit other rose grower’s gardens to get ideas for your own. We all do a lot of work in our gardens so it’s nice to share them.

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