The annual task of preparing your roses for winter is upon us.
As colder weather settles in the rose bushes naturally continue to shut down. Some of you will find that the roses are still pushing new buds, and if the frost does not burn them, you’ll still have some roses to cut and enjoy. Certainly folks in warmer areas will see this taking place. It definitely makes you want to enjoy the last of the color that the roses have to offer. You’ll take every last bit you can get from them, right?!
That being said we still want to aid the dormancy process by cutting the roses back and providing a protective covering over the graft. In this natural state of things the bushes go in to a resting period as a result of shorter days and a decrease in temperatures. Our North Carolina climate affords us the opportunity to enjoy roses longer in the growing season and beyond, often until December. By then the cold has done enough damage that it’s simply time to cut them back.
This process can be done now for areas with colder climates than North Carolina. In fact our customers in the mountains tend to do theirs sooner rather than later as compared to the Piedmont regions or regions on the coast.
The great thing about the December cutback is that no special pruning skills are required. You can simply cut any canes that are higher than the height of your waist as your standing next to the rose bush. How simple is that? By doing this we are only looking to remove any tall growth that might be weighed down and subsequently damaged by heavy snow or ice. The real pruning comes much later and we’ll get to that early next year.
This waist high cutback can be done to any of your hybrid teas, grandifloras or floribundas. We are often asked what to do if the roses to be cut back are already waist high or shorter, in which case they can be left alone. We do, however, give climbing roses that bloom on new wood a heavier treatment.
|Cut back roses waist high|
We start by cutting the height down to the level of the structure on which it is growing. Then, we remove all but 5 or 6 of the strongest vertical canes. Finally, remove the laterals (side canes) from those 5 or 6. It will look quite skeletonized, but that is the desired effect.
|All your roses should look like the bush on the left after cutback|
The next thing we do to the roses as part of the overall winterization is to cover the graft with mulch, known around here as mounding up. We prefer mulch as opposed to pine straw since mulch is a heavier insulator; pine straw is too loose and does not pack well. Mounding protects the rose bush from winter wind and cold. Having adequate protection will keep the rose bush, and more specifically the graft, from drying out. You can simply pull up the existing mulch that is already on the bed with a rake. No need to buy more mulch unless there’s not enough to mound up!
|Mounding mulch up over the graft.|
If you’re concerned about any fungal spores that may be lingering on the mulch from black spot you may want to consider removing all of the mulch and starting with fresh. Applying a dormant spray in January will help with lingering fungal spores, but if you’re black spot troubles were pretty severe, then replacing the mulch is suggested.
|The bush on the left is completely winterized|
The act of winterization is such a simple process. Cutting back the bushes could not be easier and mounding them takes mere minutes to do.