Valentine’s Day has become synonymous with roses, Champagne and chocolate. But there are better reasons that roses come to mind when February arrives. First, it’s an excellent month for planting roses, especially during the first two weeks. Second, it is the ideal time to prune roses established in the garden.
Some gardeners resist the idea of adding roses to their home landscape because of the shrub’s reputation for being tricky to grow successfully. Most of the bad press, however, comes from trying to grow cultivars ill-suited to a moist climate and therefore excessively prone to blackspot. Many other roses are not finicky in the least, even in the garden of a rose novice.
Most old garden roses fit this description. They bloom frequently from April through November, require little or nothing in the way of black spot control, and they aren’t demanding about being fed. Most require only adequate water and full sun to produce a continuous display of color and fragrance.
Some local nurseries stock old roses, but another place to find them is at Pelican Greenhouse sales in City Park or at the spring garden show at the New Orleans Botanical Garden. Make sure to allow enough space in the garden for the old garden rose to grow, as they can become very large.
Although some rose aficionados may turn up their noses at the Knock Out varieties, they make a great first rose to help a timid gardener gain confidence.
Since their introduction 15 years ago, Knock Out roses have diversified and are now available in a variety of colors and forms. Gardeners can choose pink, red, yellow, blush or bicolor. Blooms can be either single or double, so it is possible to knit a Knock Out into almost any design scheme. And because they can be kept fairly compact, they can fit in a space that may be too small for an antique rose.
The LSU AgCenter includes two wonderful roses — the Drift Rose and Belinda’s Dream — for local gardens on its list of Louisiana Super Plants. Either would make a fine addition to the garden, especially for a beginner.
The Drift Rose was developed by the breeder who first introduced Knock Out roses. Drift is similar to Knock Outs in that they are ever blooming and easy to maintain, but instead of growing straight up, the Drift spreads out and grows low to the ground, displaying small blooms in clusters.
Colors include pink, red, peach, pale yellow and coral.
A second Super Plant rose, Belinda’s Dream, grows up to five feet tall and displays large pink blooms against dark green foliage. Ever-blooming and low-maintenance, Belinda’s Dream should assuage the fears of any anxious gardener or novice rose grower.
February is not only the month for planting a new rose in the garden, but also for pruning what roses are already there. Doing so not only stimulates the growth of new flowering wood, thereby encouraging blooms, but also provides an opportunity to shape the shrub. Landscape roses, including old garden roses and Knock Out roses, can be cut back by a third to a half of their height (depending on existing size) when pruned properly.
First, remove dead canes and those that cross over and rub against one another. Then, remove spindly canes less than a half-inch in diameter.
Finally, make a cut at a 45 degree angle about 1/4 of an inch above an outward facing bud on the remaining canes. These steps will ensure excellent air circulation, conserve energy for new growth, and ensure vigorous blooming on remaining canes.
The LSU AgCenter website, lsuagcenter.com, provides abundant information on how to choose a rose for the home landscape and how to properly prune roses. For additional opportunities to learn, check the garden calendar and plan to attend one or more of the rose conferences and workshops taking place in the month of February.
R. Stephanie Bruno writes about homes and gardens. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.