Give your blooms some TLC this winter

BY Armstrong Garden Centers

As 2019 gets under way, start off right by pruning your roses and planting new ones—out with the old and in with the new!

We are so lucky to be living in a climate that affords us the luxury to garden in the winter months. Pruning doesn’t have to be a chore, but rather a form of therapy and meditation. All it involves is some mild activity in a peaceful, warm setting.

Before you get started, make sure you have the right tools. Leather or heavy-duty gauntlet rose gloves will protect your hands and arms from thorns. You’ll also want high-quality hand pruners. Long-handled pruners may be needed for the large branches of old, long-established rose bushes.

The purpose of pruning roses is simple: roses bloom on new growth, so you want to cut back the old wood (last spring and summer’s growth) to encourage lots of new, flower-producing stems.

Additionally, roses are shrubs that grow rather unevenly, so January is the time to reduce the shrub size and balance the shape. Small, twiggy growth should be removed; it will never produce flowers. Damaged or diseased branches should also be removed. Reducing the shrub by 30 to 50 percent is the goal. At the same time, remove all the leaves. This will help bugs and diseases from overwintering.

What many people don’t realize is established rose bushes are quite indestructible—they can be pruned to within six inches of the ground and be just fine. But there is one critical rule of success: make all cuts just above a leaf or leaf node—ideally one that faces away from the center of the shrub. If cuts are made below the node, then you’ll likely get dieback. The stem begins to turn black and die—often all the way to the ground.

The selection of roses at nurseries is largest at the beginning of the year, and they are easily planted while dormant. Dormant roses planted during January and February begin to send out new roots into the surrounding soil and will burst forth with new growth and flowers come spring.

You can find a wide variety of roses in Southern California. All My Loving is a stunning rose that gives one large flower per stem. It comes in light red to dark pink color. The color will stay true until the petals drop. Violet’s Pride is part of the Downton Abbey rose series. Its pointed buds swirl open to blooms of rich lavender-purple, revealing a magenta-colored heart on the inner petals. Heavily flowering Julia Child has buttery bold blooms and a licorice-clove fragrance. Another in hot demand is the Ketchup and Mustard rose. It has striking red flowers and an intense yellow reverse.

Roses live a long time in the garden, so prepare the soil well. Dig a hole twice the width of the container and one-and-a-half times the depth. Amend the soil with an organic rose planting mix and fertilizer, following the directions on the bags. Remove the container and set the rose so that the soil level of the container matches the garden soil level. Fill in around the root ball, firming the soil. Make a trough of dirt around the rose to hold a couple of inches of water, and water thoroughly.

Now you can enjoy your roses all year long!

Visit armstronggarden.com to get your hands on some new blooms.

Ketchup & Mustard™ Floribunda Rose
Ketchup & Mustard™ Floribunda Rose
Rose Julia Child™
Rose Julia Child™