The blooming season for roses comes to a close in autumn, but there are plenty of important gardening tasks to do in the winter to ensure your spring blooms are as breathtaking as you always dreamed!
1. Plants should be reduced in height to waist high to prevent breakage from winter winds. Climbers can remain tall, but should be secured to the trellis or fence. Cut leggy branches from Tree roses to produce a rounded shape.
2. This is a good time to check the conditions of your soil for organic makeup, fertilizer depletion/buildup and pH level. Your local Agricultural Extension agency is a great resource for soil testing & evaluation.
3. Mulch should be mounded around the base of rose plants to protect from winter freezes.
4. Timed irrigation systems should be shut down for the winter.
5. Container grown plants should be moved closer to the house to protect against winter winds. Extreme climates would require more drastic measures.
6. Check the health of your plants and place an order for fresh bareroot roses to arrive February through mid-April. Replace plants that are spindly or reduced to less than 3 healthy canes (pencil diameter).
7. In January, dilute lime-sulfur with water and spray over entire rose bed including the ground. This is very important to rid your garden of pests and black spot spores that would harbor over the winter.
8. Transplanting roses can be done successfully during this dormant stage. Carefully prepare the new spot 16 inches deep and enrich with cow manure and soil conditioner. Placing the spade 10 inches from the base of plant dig straight down into the bed in a circle around the plant, trying not to cut roots. Lift the plant with the shovel and carry it directly to the new spot. Fill in with soil and cover the plant with a mound of mulch. Water plant with 3-5 gallons.
9. Make plans for new rose beds or additions. Now is the perfect time to prepare the soil for winter or spring plantings as the soil will have time to set and stabilize. Turn soil over to the depth of 16 inches and apply proper soil amendments to produce a light loamy mixture.
10. Clean, sharpen and oil shears and pruners to prepare for spring pruning in February.
Rhonda and David Pike are owners of Witherspoon Rose Culture in Durham. You may reach them at (919) 489-4446, (800) 643-0315 or visit www.witherspoonrose.com.