Getting your roses ready for winter is like putting them to bed.
Perhaps the most diverse opinion about getting roses ready for winter is whether or not to cut them back, when to prune and when to hill them up.
Above are my roses, hit by an early frost, turning the leaves white around the edges. It is a romantic and gorgeous time of year and makes for great photos. BUT... it is still not time to hill up your roses.
The leaves need to fall and the stems need to begin to lose their bright colour.
BUT FIRST, LET' TALK ABOUT PRUNING - I know many of you like clean and tidy gardens in the fall, and you cannot wait to cut down your roses too....PLEASE DON'T....
Read on ...
FIRST, leave flowers on after the 1st of October - this lets the rose harden off for winter and leaves the hips -not only for colour, but it lets the rose know it is ready to go dormant.
When you continue to cut flowers off, the rose thinks you want it to produce more flowers... this sends energy to the tips instead of back to the root which protects it over the winter. (I confess to cutting some roses to bring indoors to place by my bed, but I cut only the odd one, leaving the rest, tempting though it may be to cut them all.
PRUNING ROSES should be done in the Spring-when the Forsythia blooms... .
You can cut back some of the very long canes - any that could break in winter winds - this will prevent breaking which leaves an opening for disease and a place for orphaned insects to hide.
Remove any fallen leaves that might still harbour insects or disease.
After the first FROST - when the leaves have fallen and the stems are losing their bright green - this is the time to hill up your roses.
BUT BEFORE YOU ADD DO....remove all the dead rose leaves underneath that may have Black Spot, or some other fungal disease. If not, the spores will happily stay in the soil and be there, under the compost, ready to reappear in the Spring.
Hilling up roses for winter means taking soil and mounding it up over the bud union. Better still, when you were planting those roses, if you live in an area with cold winters, unless you buried that bud union 3 to 4 inches below the surface ... when you hill up the roses, you are piling on another 6 to 8 inches of soil. Otherwise, 4 to 5 inches would do.
Remember the soil you tipped out of the pots before you put them away? Use that. Or compost, or even triple mix. The key is to make sure the root is protected from that annoying freezing-thawing-freezing that goes on in late fall and early spring.
Below you can see the stems are still green but not the brilliant green of summer and the leaves have fallen.
Because the bud union on these roses was buried a few inches below the surface when planted, they are hilled up about 4 to 6 inches with sea compost.
Ice can get into the smallest places and split the tender stems and roots. If these branches were left too long, they could easily have split or broken under the weight of the ice.
Mulch over top of your hilled up soil.
When I get my rose garden ready for winter, I pound tall wooden stakes along the edge of the garden, attach burlap with either staples or tie with twine to the stakes, surrounding the garden. As the roses have already been hilled up, I then fill up the space with leaves.
My neighbours have sugar maples whose leaves break down easily and I offer to take their leaves - I collect bags of them and dump them all on the rose garden.
Here are the roses below; buried in leaves and snow - between the hedge and a barricade of burlap. So far, I have not yet lost a rose.
I am still keeping my fingers crossed.
At last, tucked in and cozy - ready for a long winter's nap.
Here they are below, the next summer....