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How to Prepare Your Roses for Winter
by Jerry Yoneda

This Series of 'Jerry and June' articles was written to show that there is more than one way to perform each and every task in rose growing. The format is a humorous dialogue between two members of the Utah Rose Society, who have VERY differing views on rose growing. With a bit of experience, The novice will eventually develop his or her own unique way of growing roses. As the old adage says: "There is more than one way to skin a cat". And from the point of view of the long term rose grower "...if it ain't broke don't fix it."

Jerry: June I'm surprised that you showed up after your comments on the phone!

June: I don't know what you mean, you said you wanted to discuss winterizing of roses this month, so here I am.

Jerry: I know, but just before you hung up you said you didn't have much to say on the subject because quote: "you know nothing."

June: As usual you misunderstood me, what I said was that I use nothing but snow.

Jerry: You're not trying to give me a snow job now are you?

June: Nope even though most of us live in USDA zone 5 and a few in zone 6, most of us rely on our early and prolonged snow cover to protect our roses over the coldest part of the winter.

Jerry: I know I am one of the few who has to cover their roses to protect them.I live by the lake where the moderation of temperature reduces the amount of snow in my yard. In fact the moderation of temperatures where I live limits snowfall to around 2 feet total. Last year I only had to shovel the snow once.

June: But before we start discussing how to winter protect roses we should probably talk about how we prepare the roses for winter. As you have said in a previous article we should have quit using nitrogenous fertilizers between mid August and the first of September. The next thing we need to control is water, but that must be done on an individual basis.

Jerry: Are you just going to blow everyone off by saying this is water under the bridge.

June: No, what I am saying is that the control of water is very crucial. First off, the amount of water we give to our roses must be cut back to help induce them to go dormant, but we must make sure they have sufficient water to make it through the winter. Since I live on sandy soil I am forced to water my roses until they go dormant, and I usually have to water periodically during the winter months. Whereas, you who have a more claylike soil usually don't have to water after they shut the secondary water off in mid October.

Jerry: Actually until a hard frost makes the roses go dormant I still try to water once a week even after the water has been shut off . I just don't do the long slow prolonged watering that I do during the year. It is especially crucial that you get water on your roses this year, since we have had no precipitation lately. Also I spray my roses and will continue to spray them for mildew until the hard killing frost that puts my roses into hard dormancy. The longer I can keep the disease off the more energy my roses will have in reserve to make it through winter.

June: What do you do after the roses have gone completely dormant.

Jerry: I cut back my hybrid teas and floribundas back to about 2 feet. In this way I remove the large candelabras that will catch the snow and/or the wind causing the cane to break near the ground. If I have any shrubs that look particularly unruly or have grown in such a way they will catch the wind and snow I tie them together to again try to prevent breakage. I guess you can say they are fit to be tied. Now don't have a fit because I got off track.

June: I don't get mad when you get off track.

Jerry: Oh come on, if the shoe fits!

June: I see you are still giving advice in fits and spurts.

Jerry: Touche! Well lets get back to work so we can fit our article into the available space.

June: So what do you do after you cut back the HTs and floribundas to eye level.

Jerry: I have no eyedea what you're talking about. Around Thaksgiving is a good time to cover your roses if you are going to. When I first started I covered my roses with soil, but after two years when I had gotten to about 200 roses I needed to find something easier. I started to use my reserved grass clippings. Now I cover all my rose except for miniatures, shrub, and ogrs. The only shrubs I cover are recently planted own root plants because they suffer dieback during the spring especially from late frosts. Since these plants are usually smaller than budded plants, I cannot take a chance that they will suffer winter kill.

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