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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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May 14

A Rose is a Rose

Posted on May 14, 2018 at 9:09 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

We will be celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday. For some reason, this day of the year reminds me of roses. Is it because roses are known as the love flower? Or their fragrance covers a range from sweet to spicy – much like we experienced in the kitchen as we grew up? Or is it the beauty found in a vase adorning a table with the perfect hue of Mom’s favorite color?

Admittedly, roses can be a source of joy, or cause for consternation when we see aphids or black spot appear on their rich green foliage. Sometimes it presents itself as a quandary of not knowing how much to feed it, where to prune it or when and how much to water it.

Roses are, in my opinion, the most misunderstood plant that many of us attempt to grow. Gardeners often believe they need a lot of water. Books proclaim you cannot give them too much water if there is good drainage. Despite what roses need, want for optimum growth and how they are irrigated will determine the health of that plant.

As with any plant, to get the best performance from them you must give them attention before putting it into the ground. First, find the right location in the garden. For a rose, they love sunlight. The sun helps produce the bounty of beautiful flowers they yield. While they may grow in the shade, minimally, their flower growth will be sacrificed.

Roses also like fast-draining soil which may require adding soil amendments to the clay soils found in Marin. When a rose’s roots sit in water, it can cause root rot, or open the plant up to insect damage or fungus and diseases such as mildew or black spot. 

Roses also do not like overhead water on their foliage – especially if the summer sun is beating down on their leaves. Water early in the morning and keep the water at the base of the plant using drip emitters or bubblers. Water deeply once a week according to the evapo-transpiration loss found on the Weekly Watering Schedule. Use the classification of the rose as a low water using plant in Marin. Remember to mulch, mulch, mulch! Remember to keep the mulch an inch away from the base of the canes.

Roses like to be fertilized. There are a host of ready-made fertilizers on the market. There are also homemade recipes using Epsom salts and alfalfa pellets. Read the directions before applying fertilizer. Often it is thought if a quarter cup of fertilizer is recommended, then a half cup will be that much better. This common misconception can lead to a very unhappy rose bush with burnt leaves!

Pruning a rose is rather simple during the spring, summer and fall. When cutting the flowers, prune them back to the second set of five leaves. Typically, a rose will sport three leaves on a single stem just below the flower. Underneath that leaf cluster is another stem of leaves with five leaves on it and so on down the cane. Make your cut just above the third set of leaves and always snip a quarter of an inch above the set of leaves that is growing to the outside of the plant. This will keep the plant open for sunlight to enter into the center. 
During the winter months, keep five of the strongest canes, including one of the youngest canes and remove one of the oldest canes for continued longevity. The rose bush can be pruned down to within five latent buds from the graph. Latent buds can be found on a rose by looking at a slight semicircular ridge of a lighter color than the bark of the cane. Make your pruning cut about 3/8 inch from that bud.
I won’t even begin to share the different types of roses available. A search on the internet can fill you in with enough details on that subject. Better yet, they can be seen at your local nursery in living color! What a nice way to spend your Sunday!

Have a great weekend.

Rose Pro            

 Photo by: Rick Tegeler
 Glimpse of Spring


Scott Stokes
May 11, 2018 at 2:41 PM
Best rose care summary I’ve ever read, and some things I did no. Happy Mother’s Day! Too bad they forgot to list the author... Charlene Burgi
Anonymous User
May 14, 2018 at 9:25 AM
Thanks for the compliment Scott. As for the forgotten author, Ann was on a well deserved vacation and since corrected that minor oversight now that she is back. Garden on, my friend! Charlene
Scott Stokes
May 15, 2018 at 6:50 AM
Thanks for adding her name. :-)

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