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Skaggs: With care, everything will come up roses

POSTED: April 24, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Even novice gardeners can appreciate the beauty of roses. There are more than 6,000 varieties, offering a wide range of forms, colors and fragrances from spring until fall.

Roses can be used in the landscape as single-specimen plants or in masses for an impressive color display.

Among the best flowers for use as color accents in the landscape are the floribundas, hybrid teas and grandifloras. They may be used in mass plantings, such as in shrubbery borders and at the base of hedges. Roses are rarely used as foundation plants since the beauty lies in the flowers rather than the plants, which are bare in winter.

Roses should be purchased from reputable sources. Local nurseries and garden centers are a good place to start. Reputable mail-order nurseries will send you colorful catalogs, listing the plants they sell. Generally, the varieties listed in these catalogs are favorites with rose growers.

Get the best-quality plants you can find - cheap, inferior rose plants will not be worth the trouble and expense of planting and caring for them. Roses are graded by the number of canes the plant begins with; the more canes, the higher the grade and the bigger the bush.

Every rose grower has his or her own ideas for bringing a rose into the peak of flowering perfection. However, the basic techniques for rose growing are rather simple, and if you apply them correctly you will be rewarded with lovely blooms year after year.

Care taken in planting will be many times rewarded. The best rose plants on the market will give disappointing results if planted improperly.

Roses can perform well in clay soil that is slightly acidic (pH 5.5 to 6.5). It is important to have a soil test on the rose bed before you prepare it.

Poorly drained soils should be avoided, since roses do not like "wet feet." Prepare the bed at least 6 inches deeper than the depth you plant the roses. Place roses at least 2 feet apart. This will provide access to sunlight and free circulation of air as the roses grow. To prevent spread of disease through poor air movement and impaired sunlight, avoid crowding roses.

Where full sun exposure is not possible, morning sun is better than afternoon sun. Tea roses in particular should be placed in an open area away from competition from roots of trees and landscape shrubs.

Mulches aid in controlling weeds, conserving moisture and adding fertility. Some effective mulching materials are pine bark, pine straw and hardwood mulch. Apply a 3- to 4-inch layer of mulch soon after planting. Reapply organic mulches each year to maintain a 3-inch layer.

A landscape fabric may be used under the organic mulches to improve weed control. Placing two to three sheets of newspaper underneath the mulch also works quite well - especially if it's from The Times' Home & Garden section!

Roses do require regular watering, and watering should be done in early morning. Avoid wetting the foliage as this will promote disease problems. Soak the soil to a depth of 8 to 10 inches, directing a small, slow-moving stream of water around the bases of the plants.

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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