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Rose rules
What to know before growing your own

04/27/17
By Kelly Sennott ksennott@hippopress.com



 Roses are red. Or pink. Or yellow. Or any color, really, now that we’ve stepped into the 21st century.

There’s a lot to learn before growing your own rose garden, but there’s no better time to do it, with hundreds of varieties to choose from based on what you’re looking for in terms of aesthetic, maintenance and location. For the most part, they require a lot less work than rose gardens of yesteryear.
 
Why roses?
Roses are iconic. They’re what you get your significant other on Valentine’s Day, your mom on Mother’s Day, your grandmother on her birthday. 
“I think many people associate with the romanticism of roses, and that’s part of it for some gardeners,” said Jeremy DeLisle, education center program coordinator with the UNH Cooperative Extension.
Eric Jacobs of Jacques Flower Shop and Garden Center in Manchester has known people to plant rose bushes in memory of loved ones, or just because they’re the same kinds of shrubs they saw in parents’ or grandparents’ gardens. They’re pretty all year long.
“Most people like to grow roses because of the fragrance, colors and the fact that they’re long-lasting blooms,” said Debbie Elliott, who manages annuals, perennials and houseplants at Delahunty Nurseries & Florist. “Once they start flowering, which is usually around June, they last right through to the frost.”
 
Varieties
Before you make the purchase, it’s important to assess what you’re looking for and where you’re looking to plant. How much salt can your roses withstand, and what temperatures?
Hybrid tea roses are the most traditional roses, and are probably what you would have seen in older gardens. They’re upright shrubs that grow four to five feet tall, with flowers supported by long, upright stems. Generally, these rose bushes contain fewer flowers than other varieties, but each flower is big. These are the kinds of roses bouquets are cut from, and they require a great deal of care.
Climbing roses are high-maintenance, too, crawling up trellises and the sides of buildings. Rosa rugosas, beach roses, are heartier plants that are less needy and more salt-tolerant, perfect for homes near salty roads or ocean air. Polyantha roses are short shrubs featuring small, clustered flowers. 
But the most common roses sold in New Hampshire are Knock Outs, whose bushes are hearty enough for New England weather and are popping with flowers.
“The reason people like Knock Out roses is because of their disease-resistance and the fact they’re fairly prolific bloomers,” DeLisle said. “They’re really grown as a means to avoid having to use a lot of fungicides for some of the foliage diseases roses get.”
 
Pick your plot
A rookie mistake is choosing the wrong location. The ideal spot gets at least six to eight hours of uninterrupted sunlight, is protected from salty roads or strong winds and is perched on a plot of soil with good drainage. 
Good sunlight ensures rain and dew evaporate quickly from petals, discouraging fungal diseases, and proper drainage will prevent “wet feet,” which roses won’t tolerate, said Nettie Rynearson, recently retired owner of the former Uncanoonuc Mt. Perennials in Goffstown. She also advised planting roses far from plants they’d be competing against for root space.
Soil with organic matter (compost, mulch) is best, which will help plants conserve moisture without becoming soggy. The ideal pH level is between 6 and 7; you can get yours tested through UNH Cooperative Extension.
 
Maintenance
If you’re going to grow roses, the time to shop around and get planting is now through mid-May. Newer varieties are easier to care for than the older ones, but roses in general still require more work than other flowers. It’s going to be an active experience.
“A true gardener wants to be out in the garden with the plants — if you don’t want to do that, I wouldn’t suggest getting a rose bush,” Jacobs said. “You should tend to it at least once a week if not more often.”
Maintenance also involves monthly fertilizing (using soil test results or a special rose fertilizer), mulching, watering, pest control (Japanese beetles, rose beetles and aphids) and pruning. (Though, different kinds of rose plants require different kinds of pruning, so it’s best to check with an expert before making any major snips; in general, you should prune more in the spring, when plants are less susceptible to injuries, said DeLisle.) 
Many need to be winterized — like climbing roses, which should be taken off trellises, placed on the ground and covered with shredded leaves or evergreens. 
“The rose family is such a big family,” DeLisle said. “For someone who’s just starting out, it’s a good idea to look at rose catalogs or at online resources. Spend time studying those to figure out what type of rose will work best for your situation.” 





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