Check roses to see if they survived winter The Compleat Home Gardener Marianne Binetti
March 9, 2009 · 10:32 PM
• Marianne Binetti offers a free rose growing-rose pruning seminar at 9 a.m. Saturday at Windmill Gardens in Sumner, www.windmillgarden.com. Learn how to prune, fertilize and plant all types of roses.
• A free seminar on “Incredible Edibles” to teach growing food in containers and “How to Eat Your Front Yard” is planned for 11:30 a.m. Saturday at the Active Senior Fair at the Westminster Chapel in Bellevue. Call 425-688-5800 or go to www.overlakehospitol.org for more information.
It is not too late to prune your roses or plant new bare-root roses this week and the No. 1 question for this month is: Did my roses survive the winter?
The answer is maybe. Cut into the main cane of any rose that you think might be dead and see if the cut center of the branch has healthy white tissue. If the pith or center of the cane is dark or brown, keep cutting lower to healthy white tissue. No white tissue? Then this is your chance to replace those winter wimps with newer, hardier and more disease-resistant roses.
The hardy shrub roses have turned laid-back gardeners into rose-lovers as these tough varieties are not only disease resistant but require very little pruning and bloom all summer and into the fall. Look for the “Flower Carpet” series with roses that bloom pink, red, yellow or white and this spring a new apricot color has been added to the line.
Another great shrub rose is the “Knock Out” rose with great disease resistance on taller, shrubby plants. The “Flower Carpet” roses make great groundcover roses on a sunny bank and I like the “Knock Out’ roses for beautiful blooming hedges. These shrub roses need lots of room – give them 6 to 8 feet to spread out.
If you love old-fashioned fragrance and large open roses, look for the David Austin roses from English breeder David Austin himself. (We’ll be taking a tour to Scotland and England this September to visit David’s rose garden, along with some castles and show gardens. Go to my Web site at www.binettigarden.com for more information on this dirt-cheap tour.)
Q. I forgot to prune my roses and now I see some new growth. Should I prune now or not? T.P., Longview
A. I say prune now to remove anything dead, diseased or damaged but you don’t have to shorten up the canes if you want more flowers on taller plants. The more branches you leave on your rose plants the more flowers but the smaller the blooms. One good rule of green thumb is to remove any branch thinner than a pencil, and any branch that crosses or rubs against another. Then shorten the tallest canes by at least one third.
Q. Is my hebe dead? The leaves look gray and the plant is now flattened out in the center with the branches spreading out to the sides. It was beautiful for years until this winter when the snow fell so heavy. I really liked this plant as it helped provide shade for the roots of my clematis vine. S.C., Olympia
A. I have hope for your hebe, but wait and don’t cut back hebes, hardy fuchsias, escallonia, lavender or rosemary plants until May. These plants are all marginally hardy so they were damaged by the snow but have roots that could still be alive. If you prune now you may stimulate those weak roots that would then be devastated by a late-spring frost. I am preaching patience this spring with winter-weary plants that you love. Of course if you have damaged plants that are just plain ugly, give them the shovel solution and move on. This winter Mother Nature cleaned out the closets and now you have plenty of room for the hottest fashions in replacement plants.
Q. When should I divide daylilies? E-mail, no town.
A. March on out and dig in now as March is a great month to divide summer-blooming perennials like daylilies, coreopsis, astilbe, mums, daisies and hosta. Mature perennials grow lazy and stop producing as many flowers so it is most gratifying to dig and divide them in the spring as you‘ll see the beautiful results this summer.
Daylilies and hosta have thick, fleshy roots and are hard to kill no matter where you cut the root ball. I give up on the shovel and use a sharp ax to remove slices of the rootmass and then replant the smaller clumps into fresh soil at the same level they were growing before.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of “Easy Answers for Great Gardens” and several other books. For book requests or answers to gardening questions, write to her at: P.O. Box 872, Enumclaw, 98022. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for a personal reply. For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.
Copyright for this column owned by Marianne Binetti.