It is soon going to be time to get those roses covered for winter. Many of us like to wait until November and we always cross our fingers that the weather will be cooperative so that we can wait that long. Never know about Nebraska weather.

          So on to winterizing tips. Be sure all rose leaves are removed from the garden and that they do not go into the compost pile. 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 that bloom on old wood 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 if you can. I know climbers get too big to do that easily. Be sure that you spray all sides of the canes, not only what you can see! I usually do not do this because climbers are pretty tough, especially those like “Blaze”, that big red one that you often see on older homes. For a special one or a new one that you would hate to lose, this may be a good idea

          Most shrub roses are also too big to pick off all of the leaves. If you have some black spot, do get rid of those leaves. The “Knock Out” shrub roses, and many of the newer shrub roses, are quite black spot resistant, so I don’t even spray them regularly 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, soil or leaves around the bud union, especially if the bud union, that knob where the canes come up, is not at least two inches underground. The bud union is the grafted part of the rose that contains the essentials of the new rose that you bought, and it must be protected, or the rose may revert to the rootstock. If you get long, lanky canes in the spring with 7 leaflets instead of 5, it has probably reverted and will need to be removed Own root roses that are grown on their own roots, will not need to be covered as much, since those roots will always send up the plants you bought and these roots go deep.

          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, Use oak leaves, which will not pack down as maple and other softer leaves do The many stems of minis seem to do a pretty good job of holding the leaves, but if there is an area which get wind that whips around a corner, you will need to provide some cover to keep the leaves from blowing away.

          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.

          Has it occurred to you to list good gardening tools on your wish list for Christmas gifts? So many people want ideas for giving. How about new pruners, or those long gloves that protect your arms from thorns, and there are many good books on growing Roses.

 (Revised by the author from “The Rose Leaf”, Lincoln Rose Society monthly newsletter, November 2009 and reprinted with permission. Copyright 2011




          Regular readers to this column know that I do not like the styrofoam Rose cones. Notice that Jane did not mention their use. They are convenient but may cause more harm than good. On a warm winter day the heat can build up inside a cone that still has the top on it. This heat can build up to the point where the Rose bush breaks dormancy, especially if their is no mulch under the Rose cone. With the next hard freeze the plant then freezes and dies. The Rose cones are easy and convenient to use, but they do not work. If you do want to use one, cut the top off and fill the inside with mulch, compost, or garden soil taken from another part of the garden. 

          A convenient alternative is to purchase a “rose collar” and fill it with mulch, soil, or compost. A “rose collar” is a plastic collar about 12 inches tall that goes around a bush or shrub and then snaps together. They work fine, are easy to use, does a neat job holding your mulch in place, and takes very little storage space in the summer. Finish your pruning in the spring after the leaves start to come out.

          Remember, mulch in the winter after the night time temperatures are consistently in the mid to low 20’s to keep the ground cold, and to avoid the freezes and thaws. Then mulch in the summer to keep the roots cool and the ground from drying out.

Copyright 2011