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How many is too many? – A Somewhat Sensible Approach

by Rita Perwich, Consulting Rosarian, San Diego Rose Society,

All photos by Rita Perwich

Good gardeners grow a diverse palette of plants to minimize disease and encourage beneficials. So several years ago when I had 75 roses growing in my garden, I promised myself I would definitely stop at 100 roses. Very quickly I reached and exceeded my self-imposed number. The problem is I am constantly wooed by roses and continue to want more. The expression “my eyes are bigger than my stomach” applies very aptly to the length of my present list of ‘must-have’ roses and the little-available space in my small garden. I need to revisit the issue of numbers and ask myself, “ Really, how many is too many?” I strongly suspect that many rose lovers are asking themselves the exact same question.

Only plant what you can take care of

Some plants require more care than others. It is said that when you grow roses, you will never be bored as there is always something to do in a rose garden! The reward for all the dedication is that nothing beats a well-tended rose garden for beauty. On the other hand, a neglected rose garden can be pretty awful. So, be realistic. Only plant the number of roses you can take care of. Otherwise gardening, which should feel like fun, will start to feel like it is a chore. Sometimes being realistic about how many roses we can manage will motivate us to finally dig out and replace the underperforming roses in our garden instead of just continuing to add more roses.

Stop and smell the roses

All gardeners know that our pruners and spades are never put down for long. A garden is a living project, and as we give our time and love to our roses and our gardens, our roses and gardens return joy and satisfaction to us. Or do they? Are you always working in your yard? When was the last time you really enjoyed and appreciated your garden and took the expression, ‘stop and smell the roses' to heart? Sometimes we get so caught up in pruning and fertilizing and picking off diseased leaves and pests that we don’t take the time to stop and enjoy our gardens. But our gardens invite us every day to come outside and be nourished by them. Take the invitation to heart. There is nothing quite like a garden to stimulate and satisfy each of our senses. If you never stop and experience calming moments of harmony, peace and gratitude in your garden, consider whether it is because you have too many plants that you are taking care of.

Is your garden over-stuffed?

It is so tempting when we are out of space to plant roses too close together. And then, when we are out of sunny spots, we kid ourselves by believing that some roses will be okay growing in the shade or under trees. Roses are sun lovers. Roses planted in the shade will not bloom as much. Fungal diseases and pests will be constant companions to roses planted in inappropriate locations. Roses need six to eight hours of sun and need to be spaced in order to maintain air circulation which is crucial to preventing disease. Roses vary hugely in size, so space them based on their size at maturity.

Should it stay or should it go?

Why not make every November the month of evaluation and reckoning for each rose growing in your garden? Should it hold on to its coveted space or make way for a new rose? If you intend to add roses this January, November is also a good time to mark out your planting location, dig a hole, clear out all old roots and dig in a good organic planting mix.

A book entitled, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was recently all the rage. The method the author, Marie Kondo, uses to tidy up a home is very simple. If an item in your home does not “spark joy”, Kondo says it has to go, but in return, she promises that “your life will change dramatically” and “the effects are stupendous.” In the garden, the performance of each rose matters. I can’t promise that swapping out a non-performing rose for a super-bloomer will make a dramatic change in your life, but it will make a stupendous difference in your garden. To help make your decision easier, try this simple 3-prong query:

  1. Start with an examination of conscience. Could the rose’s non-performance be my fault? If the answer is ‘yes’ or ‘maybe’, give the rose a one-year reprieve and resolve to take better care of it;

  2. Did the rose ‘spark joy?’ Did it give me lots of blooms, or at a minimum were the scant blooms ‘knock-out gorgeous’? If the answer is no, the rose has to go. A rose should never be dull!

  3. Was it more trouble than it was worth? The blooms on a rose that is a disease- or pest-magnet need to be ‘super joy-sparkers’. If they are not, there is no excuse and the rose definitely has to go.

Getting back to the question of numbers. I have done some serious evaluation and believe that because of my space and time limitations there is great wisdom in my self-imposed limit of 100 roses. Presently, I can still meet my cap when I count each of my miniature and miniflora roses as half a rose. I hope to be sensible and purchase only the same number of roses I dig out. If I can’t be sensible, I will need another creative mathematical solution.

(ABOVE, TOP TO BOTTOM: Roses that spark joy, 'Secret', 'Desdemona', 'Easy Going', 'Lyda Rose', 'Sally Holmes', 'Sheila's Perfume'.)


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