Roses are known as the "Queen of Flowers". They have a reputation for being prima donnas, but roses are actually hardy plants that do well in various types of soil and different climates. They were first cultivated in Mesopotamia almost 5,000 years ago, and were spread by the Egyptians, Romans, and Chinese. These early rose cultivars are known as Species Roses, and you can still grow the type of roses that Confucius, Julius Caesar, and Henry the VII of England enjoyed.
Roses are genetically similar to plums, apples, almonds, and other members of the family Rosaceae. They have colorful five-petaled flowers, and usually bloom once in the summer. The diameter of rose blossoms ranges from the size of a quarter to the size of a small plate. Wild roses come in several different colors and sizes - these natural roses are called "Species Roses".
In addition to Species Roses, there are two other important categories - Modern Roses and Old Roses. Modern roses are cultivars that were developed after 1867 (the first hybrid tea rose was created around 1867). Old Roses are roses that existed before 1867. There are 10 categories of Modern Roses and 15 categories of Old Roses.
When choosing the type or rose bush to plant, many gardeners choose based on the colors that they like most. Some gardeners prefer roses that are adapted to cold climates or roses that resist certain diseases. Generally, old varieties of roses are the hardiest. Try to pick roses that havenít been grafted onto a different root stock. Bare-root roses are less expensive than potted roses, but potted roses are easier to plant and more likely to survive. Roses will do best if you plant flowers from the onion family nearby
. The important thing is to choose a rose bush that you will enjoy, and one that complements your existing landscaping and exterior decor.
The more you know about roses, the better you can take care of them. For starters, roses store carbohydrates in their branches and stems. These carbohydrates are just like the fat reserves that get bears through winter, and excessive trimming can cause major problems. The stored carbohydrates may be needed if a crisis occurs. For example, rose carbs supply the energy needed to repair a broken stem or recover from a pathogenic attack. Carbohydrates are also used in the spring to create new stems and foliage, so the biggest flowers will result from roses with plenty of carb reserves.
Roses also need the help of soil bacteria. A natural soil environment teems with bacteria, fungi, nematodes, earthworms, and other soil organisms. Many of these soil organisms break down dead leaves and other materials into humus, which enriches the soil. Other soil organisms form symbiotic relationships with roses and other plants. A symbiotic relationship is a partnership that benefits all of the organisms involved. One of the most useful soil organisms is Mycorrhizal fungus
. Mycorrhiza attaches itself to the roots of your roses and other plants. It borrows some energy from the roses, but returns that energy with interest by making minerals more available. In a healthy soil environment, the mycorrhizae attached to one of your roses will grow and become interconnected to the mycorrhizae of other roses and plants. In effect, it provides a secondary root system for your garden plants.
Roses and other plants also release attractive chemicals from their roots that attract beneficial organisms. These are known as exudates, and they attract friendly bacterium that ward off pathogenic fungi. Exudates are like bird feeders - they bring helpful animals and encourage them to stay around. Unfortunately, the invitations are often disrupted by chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. Adding chemicals is like pouring diesel fuel on the bird feeder. These artificial treatments kill helpful organisms in the soil and should be avoided.
Soil is the key to healthy and beautiful roses. Dig into your rose plot in several places to see what the soil it is like, and test it. It's worth springing for a good quality pH test kit
because cheap ones are often inaccurate. Most roses grow well with a soil pH of 5.5 to 7, although a pH of 6.5 is ideal. Arid regions tend to have alkaline soils (pH numbers higher than 7) and regions with heavy rainfall tend to have acidic soils (lower pH numbers).
If the soil in your yard is out of balance, adding compost is one of the best ways to fix the problem. Compost has a neutral pH from 6.5 to 7, and it contains many helpful soil organisms. Mixing compost into the soil fights compaction and also increases the water holding capacity of the ground, and compost is easy to make
from "worthless" kitchen scraps.
When watering roses, make sure to soak the ground deeply. A basic rule of thumb is to use four or five gallons of water per rose bush. Depending on how much rain your garden gets, a deep watering once a week is usually enough. If it is extremely hot and dry, you may need to reduce the interval. Too much water can kill roses just as easily as too little water, and the symptoms look very similar. When in doubt, test the ground's moisture levels
There are several other ways to help your roses without using chemicals. Mulching helps create a living community around the roots. Covering the ground with dead plant material replicates the natural environment, where leaves fall to the ground and stay there. Pruning can also help concentrate the rose's energy on a few blossoms, but it should be done just before the first spring growths appear. Pruning can do more damage than harm - it's important to study rose pruning technique
before trying it out the first time. For some rose species, deadheading works wonders. If you carefully remove wilted flowers, this will cause the remaining buds to really burst out.
These organic gardening tips complement each other and multiply the effects that each step achieves alone. But, there's no need to adapt them all at once. Taking even a small step towards a healthy garden will be repaid with roses that are even more beautiful and healthy!