It is time to get those roses covered for winter. Many of us like to wait until November or after we have had a couple of hard freezes (temperatures at or below 25 degrees F.) We have had above average temps in October and most of November so now is time.

          Be sure all rose leaves are removed from the garden and do not put them into the compost pile. If left in the garden or put into the compost pile, the canes and leaves will carry fungus spores over into the spring just waiting to pounce on those first new leaves. I usually prune the canes down to about two feet so most of the leaves are taken off that way and not as many are left to be picked off. By cutting them back to two feet they do not blow in the cold winter wind and break. Then in the spring they can be pruned to the desired size and any winter kill removed.

          Climbers bloom on old wood should not be pruned in the fall and may be laid down if possible and covered with leaves to protect them. If the canes are too big to do that without breaking them then it would pay to spray them with Wilt-stop or Wilt-pruf, to keep moisture in the canes. You will need to remove the leaves too. Be sure that you spray all sides of the canes, not only what you can see!

          Most shrub roses are too big to pick off all of the leaves. If you have some black spot, do get rid of those leaves. If canes are left long they will whip in the wind. You can prune them back as far as you wish. As with the other roses, in the spring they can be pruned to the desired size and older canes cut out to leave room for new canes.

          Another thing you may wish to do is spray the ground now, and then spray again in the spring, with Mancozeb, available at garden centers. This chemical kills blackspot and other fungus spores that lurk in the soil.

          You will need to mound compost or leaves around the bud union, especially if the bud union is not at least two inches underground. Roses on their own root that are not grafted will not need to be covered as much, since those roots will always send up the plants you bought and these roots go deep. On grafted roses, which are most of the ones we buy, if that graft freezes the plant will revert to the rootstock and will need to be removed.

          Compost makes excellent cover as does garden soil, but be sure the garden soil is taken from another part of the garden. If grass or leaves are used, they will need to have something to hold them in place or the wind will soon blow any cover away. I have used chicken wire or small tree branches. Christmas trees make good cover and you can avoid having to haul those away. The ground should be well frozen by then so that is a good time to cover. The whole point of covering is to keep the ground frozen, not to keep the roots warm!!!

          Miniatures are very hardy little plants and most will do well with a covering of leaves. It is best if they are ground up. Just run over them with your mower a couple times. Leaves not ground up tend to mat down and shed the water. .

          While most roses need to be protected and covered in the winter, the most cold hardy varieties often have features that make them very good winter plants. Many of them are shrubs and Old Garden Roses that produce colorful hips, making them a good color addition to your winter landscape. Hips vary from plump and round to long and slender. They range in color from bright orange to red and deep purple. They are great food for wildlife and birds, the fruit and seed eating juncos, cardinals and chickadees.

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