In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
November, 2013
Regional Report

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Champlain is a very hardy shrub rose that performs well in cold climates and has striking, red, double flowers.

Getting Roses Ready for Winter

As the winter season approaches, it's time to start thinking about getting your rose garden ready for its long winter's nap. Our climate can be tough on the queen of flowers. Many a rose bush has met its doom from the roller coaster fluctuations in temperatures and lack of moisture that occur during our winters. But with some fall preparations, your roses will be able to deal much better with whatever Mother Nature dishes out.

Start with Clean-up
Start by doing a thorough garden clean-up, removing all leaves and plant debris from the ground around your plants. This will help to prevent disease spores from overwintering.

Give 'Em a Drink
Next, make sure your plants go into the cold with a well-hydrated root system. Water them regularly throughout the fall months. When your rose bushes are dormant, the foliage has ripened, current season's wood is hardened off, and many of the leaves have fallen, be sure to give them a last good, deep drink. Moisture is often lacking in late fall and early winter, so this watering is essential to charge the soil supporting their root systems.

Mulch the Crowns
Later, as the ground begins to freeze and night temperatures drop into the twenties, it's time to apply a winter mulch around tender varieties that are grafted, such as hybrid teas. A grafted rose has a swollen knob at the base of the bush where the flowering variety was budded onto a rootstock. This part of the plant is most vulnerable to winter damage from temperature swings and wind exposure.

You want to make sure to wait until late fall when plants are completely dormant -- usually late November or early December -- before mulching your roses. They need exposure to the shortening days and falling temperatures to develop as much of their natural winter hardiness as possible.

An easy and inexpensive way to mulch is to simply throw a couple of shovelfuls of loose, compost-enriched soil around the base of the bush. Pile this "mulching soil" 8 to 12 inches deep over the crown. Be sure to bring in this soil from another part of the garden; don't dig it up from the soil around the roses or you'll disturb the roots.

Some gardeners make collars from bubble wrap or cardboard pieces and place them around each bush. Then they fill each collar with soil or compost. The entails a bit more work, but it keeps the mulch from washing away if that should be a concern in your area.

Take advantage of the nice days and stockpile some loose soil and compost mix close at hand. Cover it with a tarp to keep it from eroding away and to keep out weed seeds. It will be ready to use when winter mulching time arrives.

Hardy Roses
Winter is often a long and tedious stretch for gardeners throughout our region. One way of keeping in touch with your gardens during the cold winter months is to plan next year's landscape. If you'd like to add some dependable varieties to your landscape, here are some suggestions for your wish list.

The Canadian-bred Explorer and Parkland series of shrub roses include very hardy choices that do well in our challenging climate. Consider 'Morden Amorette', with semi-double, dark pink blooms; 'Cuthbert Grant', with double, dark red, fragrant blooms; and 'Champlain', with eye-catching, double red blooms. All of these are compact plants reaching 2-3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.


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