December Rose Care FUNdamentals

The recent sprinkles or light drizzle was so sparse that gardeners should discount it as having any benefit to gardens. The accompanying cool weather will help to hydrate the thirsty soil. Roses could still be seen actively growing and blooming in many area gardens during the Thanksgiving holiday, but believe it or not, roses need a four to six week’s rest or “dormancy” period during the winter months.

During dormancy, the plants go through natural hormonal changes that prepare them for the next growing season. Dormancy is triggered by a variety of factors. Cold temperatures, including frost, slow the plant’s metabolism. The current mild temperatures will likely delay setting dormancy this year; some rose gardens are coming into a full bloom cycle this very day. Not all blooms are exhibition quality; however, it is nice to see them so late in the year.

Gardeners can help trigger dormancy by not deadheading or pruning this month. Allow the rose “hips” to mature so they can send signals to the plant that it’s time to rest and marshal its energy for a vigorous growth spurt in the spring. Just the same, be sure to monitor the plants when daytime temperatures are warm. They still need to be kept hydrated. Also, do not fertilize until after the major pruning in January or February, and then only after a couple inches of new growth.

On the topic of pruning, some gardeners in the Temecula Valley are anxious to prune their roses in December. That’s understandable because we haven’t had a hard frost yet, even though the average date for first frost in this area is Nov. 17. Pruning now not only prevents dormancy, but it also produces tender new shoots that will most likely be killed by the next hard frost. So, the bottom line is to please wait four to six weeks after the first frost to do any major “spring” pruning. Watch the Temecula Valley Rose Society website or local newspapers for the dates for free spring pruning workshops.

The Asian chili thrip is spreading rapidly in the southwest and is becoming a global threat. This pest is extremely successful and particularly resistant to conventional control methods. I’m sorry that I haven’t any new information regarding this pest. Scientists are still working on a treatment that will help control it, and I will provide more information as I receive it.

There is still time to order that new rose plant for the garden. Garden stores may still be adding to their list of orders, or go to a favorite online nursery and make an order. There are many fine new roses that are simply must haves. Many are more disease resistant than in the past. Most nurseries or wholesalers no longer print catalogs, so for a list of current roses available from each, visit their online stores.

A few new varieties I find of interest are: At Last – floribunda, good apricot color, fragrance and disease-resistant; Bordeaux – floribunda and wine red, large blooms, heat tolerant and disease resistant; Easy Spirit – floribunda and white, Hybrid T form, fragrance, hybridizer Tom Carruth, disease resistant and lasting form; Frida Kahlo – floribunda and scarlet red-striped gold, small clusters, mild fragrance, disease resistant, compact and hybridizers Christian Bedard and Tom Carruth; Gaye Hammond – bright yellow with touches of orange, slight fragrance, disease resistant and a bloom-making machine; Parade Day – grandiflora and fuchsia pink-striped white, strong fragrance, hybridizer Christian Bedard and holds color; Flowerland – shrubby, pink, low 1.5-foot growing habit, 60-65 petals, fragrant and great for small spaces or enmass; Golden Iceberg – mild spicy fragrance.

For more ideas, visit TVRS’ Rose Haven garden at 30592 Jedediah Smith Road, in Temecula, as well as their website at Spread the joy of roses!

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