Fall for Roses, Even in the Fall

Are your roses looking pretty sad and dreary by now? Here in the Atlanta area, the bushes and climbers are just about finished. Black spot has done its dirty work, making our roses drop their leaves and slowing their flower production. There’s not much we can do to perk them up again. The first cold snap is coming soon, and it’s too late to fertilize. We stop feeding our roses in August around here, because we have to discourage any new growth. They need the next few weeks to harden off for the coming dormant season.

But ahhhh….we went to Statesboro to visit our son, who goes to college there, and found that their roses still in beautiful bud and blooms! Of course, the climate south of Atlanta is much warmer, and there have been some recent rains that encouraged the plants to put out a fresh flush of blossoms. Hope you enjoy these pictures, which we made during out trip. We didn’t see any identifying labels on the plants, but you can oooohhh and ahhhh just the same.

I recently did some research on how to care for roses for a magazine article I’m writing, so I’d like to share some tips with you. If you crave a rose garden for next year, start planning for it now. You’ll need to select a spot that gets nearly full sun all day, although your plants will appreciate a bit of light afternoon shade, when summer temperatures are at their hottest. Otherwise, the sun can scorch your rose leaves and fade the colors of their blooms.

Dig your soil deeply, and add amendments like compost or peat moss to help loosen any heavy clay. You can also add these materials if you have sandy soil, to help the ground hold precious moisture, since sand drains fast. If you can build raised beds and fill them with good organic material, that’s great, too.

From late fall into very early spring, go ahead and buy bare root roses for your new beds. You’ll find the bare root plants sold either in cardboard cartons, or in long, narrow, plastic tubes stuffed with moistened packaging materials. I’ve had good luck with both mail order roses as well as those sold by local garden centers and nurseries.

Before you plant the bare root roses, give them a nice soak for a few hours in a tub or bucket of tepid water. This will help any shriveled canes and roots plump back up again.

Pick a day when the soil isn’t frozen to plant (of course–otherwise, your shovel will bounce off the rock-hard ground!). Refill the hole with a cone-shaped mound of soil, and put the plant on the of the cone so that its roots dangle loosely down the sides. Finish filling the hold and water well.

When the temperatures start to warm up again, and new growth appears as tiny, green leaves, it’s time to add some fertilizer. I like the kind with a systemic insect control mixed in, to help prevent damage from black spot.

Water deeply and regularly, and watch for your beautiful blooms to open as spring progresses. Roses and springtime…how can you beat that combination?