by Bill George

Recently while reading an article in the American Rose Magazine I was appalled to see that an author suggested that summer rose blooms be cut off, in making the plant ready to produce championship fall blooms. The gentleman who suggested this technique was writing a column for beginners and resides in California. That maybe an accepted technique on the west coast where their growing season is almost as long as the year but here in the Great Lakes State, we only get about five bloom producing months if we are lucky and Mother Nature sees fit. My response is that because our growing season is as short as it is, we must encourage our roses to produce as many blooms as possible in a very limited period of time. After all, the first purpose of growing roses is to enjoy the fruits of the plant, mainly the blooms.

So how do we go about doing this? First of all, I like to provide the plant with as much food and nutrients as possible without causing damage to the plant. Well composted manure mixed into the soil is a good start in the spring at the beginning of the growing season. Composted manure should be allowed to age at least nine months outside before being applied to your garden. During the following summer months, I will keep my plants on a steady diet of water soluble fertilizers on a regular two week cycle program. Sometimes I will substitue by adding buckets of manure tea. This product does not smell the greatest but if your nose can endure, your plants will love you for it.

Many of our roses will perform the best when given the most amount of sunlite they can get here in Michigan. This means we must plan the locations of our gardens very carefully. Have you ever noticed how well rose plants seem to grow when they are planted against a wall with a southern exposure? Some of my healthiest plants are found against such walls. Climbers, especially, like these locations. Remember, ROSES THRIVE ON SUNLITE!

Another way to encourage plants to produce an abundance of blooms is to grow them in containers. Containers must provide a minimum of six gallons of soil for good root development. Containers will allow the soil and water to warm up quicker than your garden and encourage more growth and blooms. If you opt to winter the plants in these containers, bring them into a garage or shed and the following year they will get a jump start on your garden by at least a few weeks to a month. I normally store all my winter tender roses this way, such as Cary Grant, Las Vegas and Color Magic. I have several plants growing in containers and they seem to flouish in this environment. You must keep in mind however that container grown roses require closer diligence for keeping the plant well watered, which brings us to our next subject, water

I saved this subject for last because it is, without a doubt, the most important aspect of encouraging a rose plant to produce blooms. Water is the essence of bloom production. I can not overstate the importance of water and healthy roses. Never allow your roses to dry out or go unwatered. In dry weather, watering three to four times a week will keep your plants healthy and happy. I like to plant my roses slightly below ground level which forms a bowl to keep the water encompassed about the plant. If you can develop a system for allowing your water to warm up somewhat before you apply it to your garden, again your roses will reward you for your efforts. This could be a rain barrell or holding tank that would allow the sun to warm it first before applying to your plants. Have you ever been sprayed with cold water. Your roses feel the same way about the experience. Cold water is not something they look forward to.

Keeping our plants happy is the name of this game to encourage lots of blooms. We rose growers stuck in this climate are not afforded the luxury of pruning blooms for better and bigger fall displays. We must coax our roses to produce all they can in the short span of time they are allotted in this zone. Keeping them healthy and happy can go a long way in getting them to produce blooms we can enjoy for our somewhat abbreviated growing season..

Let me say here that I understand that there are two types of roses growers in this world. The ones whose main interests are exhibiting their accomplishments in the garden and the ones who save their accomplishments for personal satisfaction. Oblviously I fall into the second group. It just seems to me that when a national rose publication prints an article, for beginners, stating a technique for growing good roses, it should indicate which group might want to prune blooms back during the summer heat. Hope this season has brought good results to whichever group you may be in. (end of article)

About the author. Bill George recently moved from Redford to South Lyon in August of 1995. He has grown roses for about eight years. He now maintains about 100 plants in his new garden and is looking forward to many more additions.

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