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GARDEN FANATIC:Tips to enjoying the roses of winter

“Thy moon-kissed roses seem: better than love or sleep … " -- Ernest Christopher Dowson

“And I will make thee beds of roses.” -- Christopher Marlowe

In “Love’s Labour Lost,” Shakespeare noted that everything has a season … and perhaps a rose was more appropriate during the month of May.

He could not have anticipated that his species roses would evolve into hybrids some 300 years later, and that many new introductions made their debut during this week’s Tournament of Roses Parade.


Roses require a period of winter dormancy and during this time are sold without roots or “bareroot.” Because these plants require less care and space, nurseries offer their largest rose selection of the year. In addition, you will save money on bareroot roses, and they are easier to plant.

Purchase bareroot plants from a reputable nursery. Cheap roses from mass merchandisers are rarely a bargain and require as much, if not more, care than good ones.

Plants are rated according to standards established by the American Assn. of Nurserymen, with each grade designated by a number — 1, 1½ and 2. Number 1 grade are the best, generally the only grade you will find at a nursery. Number 1½ grade are inferior in quality, and number 2 grade are strictly a gamble. Take the Plant Man’s advice and stick with the number 1 grade.

Before you buy, you’ll need to consider more than just flower color. Your nurseryperson can introduce you to new roses judged by the AARS (All American Rose Selections), older favorites (which cost less because their patents have expired), fragrant roses, roses which will tolerate some shade, roses that will grow with perennials and, most importantly, roses that will grow well in Laguna.


Although nurseries provide bare root plants “close” to being properly pruned for planting, it is advisable to cut the canes back to about 6 to 8 inches above the bud union. Remove any new or small twiggy growth before planting. This helps the rose develop its root system. All heavily damaged or broken roots should be removed. Soak the roots in a solution of vitamin B1 for a few hours, as it is important that your rose is well hydrated prior to planting.

Dig a hole sufficiently large to accommodate the roots without crowding, about 12 to 18 inches wide and deep. Work into the soil one part organic material — planter’s mix, leaf mold or redwood compost — to one part soil you removed from the hole. Build a mound of prepared soil in the hole to support roots and hold the plant at the proper height. The cone should be just high enough so the bud union is at ground level.

Hold the rose steady and fill the pre-dug hole half-full of soil mixture. Tamp down lightly, and then fill the hole with water. This will settle the soil around the roots of the plant and remove any air pockets. After the water has drained away, fill the hole completely with soil mixture, leaving just a slight saucer-shaped depression to form a basin to hold water. Add water again to ensure the soil is completely saturated.

Water your rose daily until first growth appears, then use a normal watering schedule. Your rose will leaf out faster if you mist the canes often with water. Roses require water both above and below the soil to fully develop in their new home.

This year’s winning roses from the AARS were selected for their beauty, color, fragrance, disease resistance and flower production.

They include the shrub rose, Rainbow Knock; Strike It, a grandiflora; and finally the floribunda, Moondance. All three are destined to be Laguna classics, either in your garden or in a vase.

See you next time.



  • Steve Kawaratani is happily married to award-winning writer, Catharine Cooper, and has two cats and five dogs. He can be reached at (949) 497-2438, or e-mail to