In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
October, 2005
Regional Report

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1923

This Chicago Peace Rose continues to show off its beauty until the first hard frost.

Preparing the Rose Garden For Winter

Within the past few weeks, we've been hit by fall snowstorms and cold temperatures that signal it's time to make preparations for the rose garden's winter rest. However, it's not unusual for warm temperatures to return, so take some time to smell the last of the rose blooms while you get them ready to weather the cold.

I usually recommend refraining from pruning roses in the autumn, unless absolutely necessary. And with that recommendation, there's a warning: don't prune your roses back hard in the fall. Rose bushes need to utilize their green foliage to manufacture food energy in the stems for their long winter's nap. It is not unusual for normal pruning in the fall to stimulate many roses to sprout new growth. This new growth is vulnerable to frost damage, which ultimately stresses the plant. A cold, dry winter is the norm in the Rocky Mountain region, and rose bushes are often killed back to half their size, or more.

Pruning back roses to within a few inches from the ground also removes the green stems that store energy to assist the rose plant with winter survival.

Eventually, roses will become dormant as nature intends. A succession of hard freezes will make the plants drop their leaves. Foliage that may have been diseased with leaf spot or rust should be collected and disposed.

Tall hybrid tea and shrub roses that are exposed to high winds can be safely pruned back by one-third to keep the canes from whipping in the wind and loosening the plants at the base. Bushes that were covered by a heavy, wet snow may have suffered some cane damage and will need pruning to remove broken branches and canes.

Remember to send all diseased stems and foliage to the dump, or if allowed in your area, burn them to ashes. This will also get rid of any hiding insects and their eggs.

Place a blanket of winter mulch around the base of your rose plants, covering the graft union if the graft is exposed. This mulch should be applied only when the ground is consistently cold and will remain frozen. A 3- to 4-inch layer of coarse compost, shredded bark, aspen mulch, or shredded cedar mulch will work very nicely. The purpose of winter mulching is to protect the crown from the alternate thawing and freezing that can heave the plant and its roots out of the ground. In this way way can reduce winter kill next spring.


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