The Krasberg Rose Garden is naturally romantic. As with fine wines, the descriptive words for roses are rich and varied. Among the 5,000-plus rose bushes planted are some that speak the language of love through their names.
In Victorian times, red roses said “love,” pink roses said “like,” and yellow roses said “friend me”—or close enough.
Some roses speak of love through scent. American historian Alice Morse Earle writes the following in “Old Time Garden”: “The fragrance of the sweetest rose is beyond any other flower scent, it is irresistible, enthralling; you cannot leave it.” Breathe deeply, and perhaps you’ll detect myrrh, musk, apple, cinnamon, grape, damask, lemon, vanilla, pepper, pine…and, of course, tea, one of the richest of rose scents.
Is there a more beautiful background than the Rose Garden? Two-thirds of visitors take photos here.
Finally, some roses have romantic stories to tell. The Portland rose (Rosa ‘Comte de Chambord’) was a gift to the Empress Josephine, who established the greatest rose garden of its time at Malmaison. The cabbage rose (Rosa x centifolia), known as the “100-petaled rose,” is a beloved subject and symbol in Dutch still-life paintings. Autumn Damask rose (Rosa ‘Autumn Damask’), is an Old Garden Rose with a 3,000-year-old connection to the cult of Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Who doesn’t love a warm winter blanket? With unseasonably cold temperatures continuing into early April, that blanket has been especially welcome this year. If you are like me, though, you just can’t wait for that first day when you lose the covers and open the windows. It is that breath of fresh air that tells us summer is just around the corner.
Our Krasberg Rose Garden is ready for its breath of fresh air, too. All winter, many of our roses have been under their warm blanket of composted horse manure. Compost protects roses from the harsh winter winds and freeze and thaw cycles that can be deadly to many cultivars.
As the hours of sunlight increase and daytime temperatures get warmer, however, we need to start inspecting our roses for signs that it is time to remove the compost and prepare the roses for the beauty yet to come.
The process is fairly straightforward. In late March, or whenever we have had several warm days with limited risk of a killing frost, we use our hands to carefully remove the thawed compost from around a rose bush. We need to inspect several bushes because some areas of our Garden thaw and start actively growing earlier than others.
We look for yellow, bright green or reddish growth around the base of the plant — these are new rose canes. If we do not see any new growth or if new growth is still very small, we may cover the roses for a few more days. The warm compost encourages rose bushes to break dormancy.
However, if we see new growth and it is an inch or longer, then is it time to completely remove the compost and let the canes grow freely. The sooner this new growth begins to photosynthesize in the sun, the healthier and stronger your plant will be the rest of season. Remember that this new growth is very fragile, so we use gentle care when removing the compost.
Once we remove the compost, our team then prunes the canes for optimum health. We first remove any cane that is black or brown — these are dead or dying — and anything that looks diseased.
From there, we prune the shrub until it has five or six healthy, large canes that are at least the diameter of a pencil. The pruning should result in an open center, with the top bud on each remaining cane facing away from the center of the plant. The open center maximizes the amount of sunshine and air circulation within the plant — important components to plant growth and disease prevention.
We also take time to frequently disinfect our pruning tools as we work through this late-winter chore. Tools can easily transfer diseases from one rose shrub to another, so sanitation is very important. Mix a solution of 10 percent rubbing alcohol or bleach and 90 percent water in a spray bottle to spray on your tools.
By taking a few simple steps like these right now, the rose bushes will be on their way to beautiful blooms in June. Now that’s a breath of fresh air.
Heather Sherwood shows you how to prune climbing roses so you have a glorious display this summer. We covered our climbing roses in 18 inches of mulch and wrapped them in burlap for the winter. It’s important to uncover them and remove dead material when the temperatures get warm in spring.
Heather Sherwood shows you how to prune your roses in spring. We cover our roses with 18 inches of mulch in winter to protect them from the harsh weather. It’s important to uncover them when the temperatures warm and do some spring pruning to get them ready for a glorious summer!