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Featured Article: Rose Care 101

Most of us love roses, but besides the Knock Out varieties, we are not completely sure how to provide proper care. If you ever wanted to try a hybrid tea rose or plant a 'David Austin' in your garden, here a few basic pointers.

Location: Roses need a site that receives 6-8 hours of sun a day, preferably morning. The location should have good drainage and an area with good air circulation. Spacing roses 2 1/2 - 3 feet on center will prevent overcrowding and give enough space for air circulation.

Roses like a loamy soil with good drainage. We are lucky to have nice soil here on the Shore, but adding cow manure or compost would be a benefit.

Roses are available either bare root or in containers. Container roses are usually leafed out so they can be planted as you would any shrub. Planting a bare root rose is a bit different, since they usually arrive as canes with no leaves. When your bare root rose arrives, you will need to soak the roots in water 2 hours prior to planting. While the rose(s) are soaking, dig your hole wide enough to spread the roots out naturally (approximately 1 foot deep and 2 feet in diameter). Use the soil removed from the hole and mix with compost. Form an inverted cone in the bottom, and set the plant on the cone so the roots rest down the sides. Make sure the graft knob (base of plant) is slightly above ground level and not buried. Add any remaining soil and pack around the roots to eliminate any air pockets. Water well and add mulch to protect roots. Usually bare root roses arrive in late winter or early spring when the temperature is still cold. In this case you can pile your mulch higher up on the canes to protect from freezing and drying. Just be sure to pull mulch back once spring arrives.

How to Plant and Care for Roses

Now that you have your roses planted, how do you take care of them? The main elements in rose care are fertilization, watering, insects and disease prevention and weed control.

Watering: Roses prefer to have a drip watering system because overhead watering will encourage black spot and mildew. During the blooming season, water weekly with approximately 5 gallons of water per bush (or enough to get water into soil 8 inches).

How to Plant and Care for Roses

Fertilizer: Roses need to be fed starting in March. Roses are heavy feeders, so using a time-release fertilizer will keep your roses fed for a longer period during the growing season. If you do not use a time release formula, a monthly application of a Quick release will give you similar results. Roses should be fertilized throughout the season up to 6 weeks prior to the first frost. Prevention of insects and disease: Roses need a regular spray routine during the growing season (April-October) for success. There are several all- in- one (insecticide, fungicide) sprays available. In general, you need an application of fungicide to control powdery mildew and black spot and an insecticide to control thrips, aphids and bud worms, these chemicals can be applied every 7-10 days. When spraying, don't forget the underside of the leaves where insects could be hiding. Seven dusts can be used to help control Japanese beetles. With all chemicals, make sure to read the label and do not apply in heat of the day.

Weed Prevention: A layer of mulch is beneficial to roses and dusting a pre-emergent in the beds (not on the foliage) will help reduce weeds. Roundup can be sprayed around beds, but be careful! It will severely injure the plants if a drift touches any green part.

Pruning: The purpose of pruning is to remove dead, diseased and unhealthy canes as well as maintain the desired shape of the bush. The best time to prune is when new growth on previously dormant canes reaches 1/4 inch- 1/2 inch (known as bud break). This marks when "dormancy breaks" -usually the beginning of March. When cutting, cut above an outside bud at a 45 degree angle. As mentioned above, the goal is to remove dead, diseased and unhealthy canes. In addition, remove any branches that cross or rub against each other, selecting the newest, healthiest cane. The severity of pruning is determined by climate and personal preference, but 12"-14" is a good guideline. During the growing season frequent pruning of flowers encourages more profuse blooming. When cutting, follow the "5 leaflet" rule: look down the stem and locate the second leaf that has "5 leaflets" and cut just above this growth. As the plant develops and stems get longer, it will be necessary to cut just above the third or fourth "5 leaflet". New growth forms at the place of the cut.

Roses are not maintenance free, but with a little knowledge and care the rewards are worth the effort.