I’ve asked The Gardener to come back to tell us about work in the rose garden when the first big crop comes in. Need to start at the beginning? How to start a rose garden
What is happening in the rose garden in May? May in Raleigh is when the hybrid tea and floribunda roses bust out in their first bloom. (Raleigh’s growing zone is 7b. Blooming time depends on your zone.) There are lots of blooms to go out cut and put in vases to share with your neighbors and friends. A couple times a week I go out and cut roses. I get 20-30 blooms cut (we have over 40 bushes). This first “crop” lasts for about a month.
What maintenance is important now? I deadhead finished blooms. I cut suckers that are growing up from the rootstock. I cut any branches that are now clearly dead (in the early spring it is hard to tell if they will live or not). This time of year the plants need about an inch of water a week and that can come from rainfall or the hose. I keep rain gauges in the garden and check them and empty them each time it rains. I use this information to decide when I need to water. I use a ¾-inch hose and water for about 60 seconds for each bush. This time of year you check and treat weekly for pests (see Illinois Extension link below). You do not fertilize this time of year.
What is your process for cutting roses? When I’m cutting the roses I’m looking for 12 to 18 inches of stem. I make the cut right above where a leaf comes out of the stem. That’s where the next rosebud will grow. I’m usually looking for a rose that has bloomed out but is still not fully open. If you cut a closed bud it won’t bloom once it’s cut for most of my roses. Usually I try to cut things in pairs of color, like two oranges or two yellows. I’ll use the pair to balance an arrangement. I collect them in an old peach basket but you could use a bucket of water.
How do you make arrangements with the cut roses? I usually use two types of vases, about 9 inches tall. One is thinner and holds up to 5 roses. The other is wider and I can get 6 to 10 blooms in it. I fill up a plastic drinking cup with water and I fill the vases with water about ¾ to the top. With my rose gloves on, I take the leaves off the stems with my hands. I sometimes leave a few on near the bloom. I stick the rose in the vase to see how high above the top it is and determine how much I want to cut. Then I stick the stem in the drinking cup in the sink and cut the bottom under the water with snips. I put the roses in the vase with similar colors opposing each other, until the vase is full.
What do you do if you have too many roses for your house? If you cut this many roses you will want to share them with people. I share mine with our children, our neighbors, and co-workers. When we have a really large crop, I take them to nursing homes or the hospital convalescent center. If you want your vases returned, you can usually just stop by and get yours back plus more. You can also order vases in bulk online. Sometimes we find vases left on our front porch by the neighbors. Not only are the roses pretty to share, but the fragrant ones smell wonderful in this first bloom, like aromatherapy. In May you get a rose smell, very floral, but each cultivar has its own distinct fragrance. My favorites this time of year are Dolly Parton, Fragrant Cloud, and Perfume Delight.
I’ll come back for another chat during the fall big bloom.
The American Rose Society has helpful articles on working with roses: http://www.rose.org/rose-care-articles/
University of Illinois Extension has illustrated information on rose diseases and pests. You can treat with chemicals or use organic or natural methods: http://extension.illinois.edu/roses/disease.cfm
When I met the Gardener, I was very happy that he had a hobby. It’s good for men to have something to be passionate about, that is not his job. And 40+ roses at my house? What could be better? I enjoy that he gets such pleasure out of sharing the bounty of his garden. The spring fragrance is just what you imagine a rose should smell like. A vase-full is the best scent diffusion ever!
What’s your favorite flower? I’ll be looking for your comments!