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Read the story of my first rose garden - but if you don't have a few moments this visit

- here are the bare bones


Bare Root or Container Roses,

Grafted Roses or Own-Root Roses,

 ....other links: 


          HOW ROSES GROW


            ROSE GARDENING

         ROSE TREES

Plant roses

(even if the soil is difficult

You'll need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun each day... 

Although there are some

roses that will grow in the shade - 

and in a hedge

Check out my rose hedge !


That depends.  

Some say Spring - after the soil warms up (in our Zone 5 - it could be late May) but it still gives you a full growing season.

Some others say to plant them in early fall - September while the soil is still warm and there is enough time for new little roots to establish before winter.  

I love the spring because I get excited but in the fall many roses are on sale. If I water and mulch them, they will survive winter.

(I have planted in late November with snow falling because I had just moved and couldn't leave my beloved roses behind - I don't recommend it - but most of them lived - so it was worth the risk)


These roses can be either be grafted or own-root roses and are dormant (not actively growing).

Some experts say planting them in this state gives them a better chance as there is less transplant shock.  

Bare root roses are easier and cheaper to ship.

If you buy roses on line, they may come in a cardboard box, wrapped in plastic to keep the roots moist in transit.

Or, in most big-box stores, they come in colourful plastic sleeves or bags surrounded by sawdust or wood shavings.

If you buy them like this in the early spring, keep them moist - and soak them overnight before planting... get them into the ground within the two weeks after the last frost date for your region - they'll have a better chance to thrive... otherwise it takes longer and more of a struggle to establish.

 And, here is how I started:

Many years ago when I decided to plant roses, I knew nothing so I attended a lecture by a rose grower at our local garden show. 

His photos of hundreds of roses were in glorious colour and of course when he handed out a catalogue, I was hooked.

I kept my list to just 10 of my favourites - that was so hard.  

Ten "bushes" sounded like a lot, but he showed us dozens that would grow in our zone 5 - hard to hold back.

What a shock, though when I went to pick them up.  

There was no greenhouse, no rows of roses in pots and worst of all, no blooms to see.  

Yikes...Just a big old warehouse. 

I handed in my money and  my list and what I got in return, was a very large black plastic bag. 


Inside that big bag were 10 dark brown, gnarled roots, each with a white plastic tag.  

I had never seen 'BARE ROOT' Roses (no pot, no soil, no leaves, no buds- just bare roots).


This photo from David Austin Roses shows a bare-root rose.  

Some roses are shipped in a box.  

Mine came in a black plastic bag.


Buy the best rose you can afford and read the tag carefully to see the size when full grown.

No point buying a rose for that gorgeous smell and bloom, for the front of your garden, only to find it is a climber.

Soak them first:

I filled a pail of water and soaked all those poor ugly roots over night to put the moisture back in the roots - its (re-hydration) but it also gives the roots a nudge or wake-up call.



Where to plant: - plan ahead

 I decided to plant them, mostly according to their height.  The taller ones in the centre, and the shorter ones in front. 

Easy - right? 

Except I didn't do my research ahead of time.

I ordered them for the colour. And they grew the way they wanted to, not the way I thought they should.

Digging the Hole:

Don't prune them now.... unless there is a broken or torn root and just gently trim that.

Make the hole twice as deep and twice as wide as the length of the roots. 

Put a small hill of soil in the centre of the hole and splay the roots over it.

Then carefully put the soil you dug out, back in around it and gently pat it down to get rid of air pockets (but not with your foot or so tight you smother it).

You don't need to amend the soil. Use what it there and add compost to the top of the soil after.

The roses need to adapt to their new surroundings.


When I started planting roses, I read that bone meal was essential for getting roses started.

But, I read some research by Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD (Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor, Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State U.) who recently published a paper called-

"The Myth of Phosphate, Part II

(MYTH) 'Roses Need Phosphate Fertilizer for Root and Flower Growth'. 

She stated she could not find any research that supported this any more than any other plant and if you add phosphate to your roses when you plant them, you run the risk of decreasing the ability of the rose to use the beneficial mycorrhizal fungi to get the nutrients it needs. Instead, it creates the need to keep fertilizing the rose as it cannot get it for itself.) 

See also www.theinformedgardener.com (look under Selected Publications and find "Horticultural Myths" and then find Bone Meal)


Always put good compost on top of  the bed so the rain would wash it in - 

However, in my first rose bed, I did only what I knew then. I thought they'd just grow. 

In one way, this is true. They need to grow in the soil  already there unless that soil is so hard and full of gravel that roots can't push through.

If this is true, mix in a little compost with the existing soil to give the new roots a head start. Otherwise, use what is there.


Although bagged composts like sea compost add a lot of nutrients to our gardens, think about this:  if you live on a coast where seaweed, kelp and other sea-based materials are easily available to you, then by all means use them on your garden.  

The same with peat (an non-renewable resource) Peatlands take centuries to regenerate - and we don't want to be part of their destruction.

Coir - the hairy part of coconuts, is a great alternative, does the same thing as peat and is a renewable resource.

Let's reduce our carbon footprint, and use compost sourced locally whenever possible.


We want the roots to spread in their new environment and seek the nutrients they need. It's about making them find their own... sort of tough love.


If you live in a fairly new subdivision, the original soil is taken away and then the building is complete, new soil from "who-knows-where" is brought back and a scant 3 or 4 inches is not enough to cover buried construction debris.

Your soil may need some help - mix the existing soil with compost, and add some beneficial mycorrhizal liquid or use a powder form and coat the hole with it.  This beneficial fungi will help the roots to spread beyond the hole ... seeking the nutrients your rose will need. 

But don't do this unless you are sure you need to.


A GRAFTED ROSE is the addition of a less-hardy rose to a hardy root (or rootstock)... it is also called a bud-union. 

It means that a more delicate rose that might not survive in some zones, will live and bloom well, when grafted to a hardy root.

A single bud union, or graft, on the top

of a hardy rootstock.


The bud union, or graft, is on the side of this rootstock.

And, on some more "hybridized or advanced" roses,

the bud union(s) could look like this above.

To complicate matters further, a rose tree has the graft(s) or bud-union(s) at the top of the rootstock or trunk of the rose-tree. 

See more on Rose-Trees here.


Our Zone 5 can have some pretty brutal winters, so I  bury the bud union on grafted roses at least 3 - 4 inches below the soil level. 

Except for Rose trees

Plant the bud union deeply (where the graft meets the stem) or the original graft (or scion) will eventually form its own roots, therefore supporting itself instead of supporting the new rose which depends on the strength of that rootstock.


If you plant your rose with the bud union above the surface of the soil, winter winds can rock the tall canes and move the rose at the soil level, rocking it back and forth, creating a pocket around it, allowing in small creatures or water, which can turn to ice and freeze the root.


Bringing a potted rose home and leaving it sit for weeks before planting, is like inviting you to my home, and making you sit on the doorstep while I am busy doing other things before letting you in… you'd most likely leave… which is most likely what the rose would do if it could

…. instead, it pouts and if you still ignore it, it checks out - it dies.

However, buying a rose in a pot gives you a few advantages;

   - you can see how healthy the leaves are,

   - how many buds or blooms

   - you don't have to plant it right away.

Place the pot in different spots to see how it will look, how much space it needs and its height.

However, still keep it sheltered, out of the blazing sun and well-watered until you plant it.  

Plastic pots heat up and get too hot especially when wet.... rather like cooking the roots.

Some roses will do well as patio roses, but if your zone is below 6 (cold and freezing winters) you will have to plant it in the garden in the late fall to save it.


Place the rose, pot and all in a bucket of water for about an hour before you plant it. 

Then before putting it in the hole, gently tease or fluff out the larger roots so they are not tangled around, inside the pot.

If the roots are circled or tangled, take a sharp knife and slit the sides all around and gently pull the roots apart.

Once planted, the rose will produce new little roots that will reach out into the new soil instead of staying in a round circle in the hole.

Fluff out the roots to give them space to breathe... don't worry about hurting it, you won't.  

Just be careful not to damage all the wee tiny roots ..... then plant it with lots of water.  


When the hole is the right height, fill it with water - and let the water drain away.  If you plant the rose in the water and the soil does not fill in all the gaps, those gaps could be holes later for water to freeze and kill the root.  

Plant and then water it well. 


Put a 3 to 4 layer of natural Mulch around the rose but not close enough to touch the stem...

Don't use synthetic, plastic, stones or landscape fabric. These hold the heat and water runs off instead of soaking in.

POT BOUND means the rose has been in the pot - usually for more than a season. The roots cannot grow down as they wish, so they keep encircling the pot, becoming tangled and matted.

This is what happens to roots that are left to encircle the hole if they have not been untangled when planted.... they keep growing in circles instead of reaching out into the soil for nutrients. They eventually starve or suffocate and give up.

Do this to a pot-bound rose when you plant to prevent encircling roots.


Those gorgeous little masses of blooms are sold in most grocery or big box stores add a sweet bit of colour along the edge of a bed or in a patio pot or container.

But please READ THE TAG

The tags are small and hard to read, but sometimes, the tags say the plant was treated with NEONICOTINOIDS - a pesticide.

If you are going to plant these mini roses in your garden, you MUST wash all the soil from the roots and soak them overnight before planting them in your garden. These little roses will often come back for a couple of years, but treat them as annuals and be thrilled when they reappear the following year.(zone 5)

Some other plants that are also treated with Neonics  are the potted Hydrangeas that are popular at Easter.

"You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses".

Pablo Picasso


.... keep the tag and make a drawing or map so you will know what you planted and where. 

You could even take a photo, print it and mark the names on the photo. Keep the tags in plastic sleeves meant for business cards.

You may want to know its name. 

“To be sure, an ordinary passerby would think that my rose looked just like you

–the rose that belongs to me. But in herself alone she's more important

than all the hundreds of you other roses:

because it is she that I have watered;

because it is she that I have put under the glass globe;

because it is for her that I've killed the caterpillars

(except the two or three we saved to become butterflies);

because it is she that I have listened to, when she grumbled,

or boasted, or even sometimes when she said nothing.

Because she is MY rose.” 

Antoine de St. Exupery from ‘The Little Prince’

Or, take a photo of each new rose, and with its tag, put it into a garden journal. There may come a time when you will have so many roses, you won't remember where you planted each one, or their names.

I like to put mine into a garden journal with notes so the next year I'll know what is where.

...And then, wait:

Give your rose a few days or even weeks to get settled before you look for buds..they spend their first energy putting down roots before they bloom...

If you have the courage, and the rose you bought has blooms, cut them off so the energy will go to the roots... Personally, I don't have that kind of courage..

 .... before long, your roses will look like this.






Boy- so much controversy over doing it or not.

I used to do it once a week -  a nice Sunday morning activity with an organic fertilizer for roses.  Some say  coffee grounds and tea leaves around your roses will make them better..

But the more research I do, and the more experimenting I do, the more I realize that instead of fertilizing my roses, I needed to fertilize the soil.

Healthy soil grows healthy roots which grow healthy plants.  I was looking for quick fixes and finding my roses were not lasting more than a year or two.

So, for the past 3 years, we have gone 'cold turkey' and no longer fertilize any of my roses or other perennials.

Instead, we are working to make the soil more nutrient-rich with lots of compost so the soil will work its magic with the mycorrhizal fungi to create its own fertilizer.

I still save my organic coffee grounds and mix them in with my compost (not because the soil needs them, but because I don't want to waste them and if I mix them with compost, they will blend into the nutrient mix.

I have no research to prove it makes any difference, but I love coffee, hate to see the grounds go to waste and love how my garden smells. 

I have to say, it sure was hard not to keep fertilizing - the first summer, it took longer for the roses to have as many blooms as the previous year. But we kept adding compost and mulch, and the second season, they were almost back to the way they were when I was adding that blue juice.

if you are still fertilizing - stop in mid-August because the rose is now getting ready for winter by concentrating its energy on strengthening the roots - and blooms use a lot.

Add compost  and mulch - spring and fall.

This is how my first rose bed looked a few weeks after I planted it.

But alas, my LACK of experience with 

 over-wintering killed 8 out of  my 10 roses.

I was devastated.  I didn’t plant them deep enough and they froze at the bud union.

Let's Review THE BASICS....


-  shipped dormant; maybe in sawdust & plastic sleeve

- less shock when transplanted

-  plant within 2 weeks after the last frost date 

- soak in water overnight

Put a small hill of soil in centre  and splay the roots pat down to get rid of air pockets 


- water before planting

- trim dead, or broken branches 


- use the soil you removed from the holel.

- dig twice as wide and deep as pot or bare root

- deep enough to cover the bud union by 4 inches

- loosen soil on the edges of the hole 

- if pot-bound slice the sides to stimulate new growth

- gently tamp down soil.

- leave a small berm  around  rose to hold water


- winter winds can rock the tall canes creating a pocket around it for ice


- water well until established

- water the roots - not the leaves


- Add compost instead.


- up to the rose,  not touching the stem 


- keep the tag and make a map.

Put all this in your journal.

Take heart dear gardener; if I can do it, you can too. 

See also :







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