In the Garden:
Mid-Atlantic
May, 2001
Regional Report

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My heirloom roses bloom only once a season, but the show is magnificent when it happens.

Old-Fashioned Rose Care

Among my favorite spring-blooming shrubs are my old- fashioned or heritage shrub roses. They're blooming up a storm this year because of last summer's mild cool and wet weather. They bloom only once a year, but they're loaded with flowers, producing enough for a fabulous garden display and generous bouquets for cutting.

Easy-to-Grow Roses

I am especially fond of these roses because they're relatively easy to grow. By selecting varieties known to be disease resistant and planting them in sunny spots with good air circulation, good soil, and a reasonable amount of soil moisture, you can have roses that stay healthy and bloom reliably year after year. Some varieties will even bloom repeatedly during the summer, but in my garden they attract the dreaded Japanese beetles, so I am happy planting the spring-only bloomers.

Pruning Old Roses

Unlike the fussier hybrid tea roses, these old reliables need only minimum pruning. Early every spring I remove any dead wood and any rubbing or crossing branches. After bloom, I remove a small number of the oldest branches or canes, pruning them off right at the base. This keeps the plants opened for good air circulation and encourages strong new shoots from the ground.

Some of the heirloom shrub roses can be grafted. On these I trim away any growth coming from the root stock below the graft. For roses growing on their own roots, this isn't a concern.

Fertilizing Old Roses

After pruning, I give each rose bush several generous shovels of compost and check to make sure the mulch is still several inches thick over the root zone. During the summer the shrubs lessen in importance in my border, but I know they are happily building strength and biding their time to bloom again next year.


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