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The Perfect Rose Hole

by Satish Prabhu, Master Rosarian, Carolina District Rose Society

There are many formulae for creating a rose bed and rose soil. Some are very simple and some very complex, suggesting using many different kinds of amendments. A large range of width, length, and depth of individual planting holes and beds are recommended. What is a beginner to do? Often we feel that a new rosarian seeking some advice and info is discouraged and driven away by the complexities of what we might recommend with the best of intentions. Is all of it really necessary? We were on a tour in Denmark not too long ago and were touring an old coastal fishing village. The tour guide was explaining how all the roads (three to be exact ) were totally paved with locally sourced paver stones about three hundred years ago and the original pavement was still intact, only getting stronger and compacted, and more durable each year. The pavement extended from front wall to front wall of residences and shops lining up either side of the road. Just then a lady came out of her front door.

In her hand she had a small bag of compost, a small rose bush (what is known here as liners, and they come with their roots bundled in a small cylindrical root ball wrapped in plastic), and a very narrow digging hand trowel. Certainly, it caught my attention as she started to slowly dig up one paver stone, I stayed behind and started watching, while my group proceeded towards the only ice cream shop in the village. She slowly dug a cylindrical hole about five inches in width and ten inches in depth, removed the plastic bag wrapping the root ball, carefully eased the plant in the hole and back-filled remaining space with compost, leveled the ground, and picked up her tool and the single paver stone, and stood up admiring her handy work.

She was very aware of me watching her with interest and she looked at me and smiled. "And that will grow?" I asked. "Of course, it will, just like all these other roses you see here”, she said, pointing at many roses growing on the sides of the road, presumably planted very similarly! I have been thinking for a very long time, "There must be an easier and simpler way to do this" and my experience and seeing this demo convinced me that there must be one! In the last few years, I have started recommending and to some extent doing in my own garden, that we simply dig a hole about 18" x 18" x 12 " deep. Then simply add one cubic ft. of a good grade potting soil such as Miracle-Gro, Vigoro, Fertilome, or any other brand or a quality compost of any kind and mix it with the soil dug from the planting hole. (Only one, any one of all of the above). It will be exactly about a third in volume. Then proceed to plant your rose in it. The resultant soil level will be about three inches higher than the surrounding ground surface and this will help the rose from getting drowned from excess water. Then add a three-inch layer of mulch, available in big box stores, and you are done. And it does work!

This applies to both container-grown roses and bare root roses. In a way, planting roses, simplified. I am in no way discouraging anyone from going the traditional route of extensive soil and rose bed preparations and sending a soil sample and prepping the soil in fall for spring planting and....! Go for it, if you are so inclined!

All photos by Satish Prahbu


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