Friday, April 28, 2006

Rose Obsession - con't

So I did manage to pick up some more roses. The part that baffles me is that I have spent countless hours researching and making a firm list of the roses I want/need (of course I need them). I had also decided that it was important to check out the roses first thing in the spring so as to be able to get the best specimens, rather than pick up the puny plants that are left at the end of the season and are reduced by 20%. I bought a number of such roses last fall and looking at the weak-looking plants I now realize that the full price plants are in fact a much better deal. Same sort of story for the milk carton roses. Don't you just love that term? It means the roses in plastic bags and little boxes sold at the big box stores. Anyway, I understand that they have had their roots severely trimmed to be able to fit into the little homes.

So what do you think I did? Well I avoided box stores altogether so that helped in that department. However first nursery I went to didn't have any roses that tempted me until I discoved an area devoted to last year's rose, and they were only $7.50 each! So what do you think I did? Yes, I bought three. Two were incredibly healthy - Icebergs - (one was for a friend) and the other was Pensioner's Voice, which was pretty high up on my list and I hadn't been able to find elsewhere. So there I was, back to my old tricks.

About 3 weeks ago I had a friend pick up Brass Band and Eureka from a nursery in Kelowna. They had just been potted so she was able to get me the two very best plants. They have such thick canes it is amazing. It will be interesting to watch them grow this year.

Also picked up Intrigue and Gingersnap. And my order from Pickering finally came in yesterday. They are currently soaking in water with some willow water added. I was surprised to open the 2 year old jar of willow water and find that it didn't smell at all. So I made up some more (I have an enormous armload of willows rods that I pruned from my fedge). Willows contain a natural rooting compound.

I am seriously considering placing another order with Pickering. Am I nuts? I haven't been able to find Molineux potted, so it seems to me I have no choice. So which other ones will I have to order too....

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Heading out of town

My rose order did not arrive yesterday. Since I have to go out of town in a minute, to a much larger city, I just might have to poke my head into a nursery or two....

Here is a really good website with information for growing roses in cold climates: University of Minnesota Extension Services have grown many hardy roses and have reported on them. Click on the colored text to go straight to the website.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Willow Water & Roses - part 8

Thanks to a comment left by Reading Dirt, I explored the links he/she gave me. I have done a lot of research and had already looked at all of those links except for one. And wouldn't you know it, that was the very one that has a great tidbit of info for me.

This link says:
"Step 2: Soak the roots overnight in a bucket of water. If you want, you can add a weak solution of rooting activator which contains synthetic Vitamin B-1 (like SUPERThrive). However, a mild solution of "willow water" will also work - if you have access to willows, that is. This procedure rehydrates the roots. [Hint: If you have added supplements to your soaking water, save the water for use later in the planting process.]"

Not only do I have access to willow, I have some forgotten 2 year old willow water in a sealed jar!! I hear it stinks but I will give it a try.

Today I am expecting my 12 bareroot roses to arrive. I already have water in large buckets, so now I am off to add the willow water. I think I will also make up another batch of willow water and lift some of my roses to soak in it too.

Here are some instructions for making willow water. Oops, it says it keeps for 2 months. Oh well, I will try it anyway.

So thanks Dirty Reading, oops I mean Reading Dirt.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Feeling a Little Down (roses part 7)

I was pretty excited that I had found the reason my roses were under-achieving. So I went to the rose forum, briefly explained my situation and posted this question:

"Besides the obvious regarding fertilizer application, is there anything I could or should do to encourage better roots? I realize that a fertilizer high in phosphorus will help, but what about lifting the plants and soaking in a solution high in phosphorus?

Or sprinkling some rooting hormone powder in the soil?"

I only got 2 replies. One was from a man who seems to know an incredible amount about growing roses. He said:

"I think it's a myth that phosphorous, or any other single fertilizer element, promotes root growth. All the elements are necessary for all growth and if any element is deficient, all growth is eventually affected. If you think fertilizer has burned your plant roots, then the last thing you want to try as a cure is soaking in a fertilizer. I would think that if you really are burning the roots of your roses, you would see an immediate effect in the way of wilting or burned leaf edges. Poor root development might be due to a compacted, heavy soil and your potted plant probably is in a much looser soil."

Well, that was a shock. I was sure I would be offered a suggestion of some sort of solution to soak them in. (However Tabris has what must be burned leaves every year for 3 to 4 yrs. When I first planted it I put some rose fertilizer spikes beside it. I can't believe I have publicly admitted that!!)

The other person misunderstood part of my question.

So I then asked:

"Is it possible that most roses do not have root hairs at this time of the year in Zn 5? I noticed that IHT is also the rose with the least dieback (virtually none). When I move a rose no soil adheres because I have loose soil and also perhaps because the roses don't have enough roots to hold any soil in place. I guess I just don't know what the roots of a healthy rose bush should look like. Has anyone moved one that can tell me?"

No one has replied and my post is now on about the 3rd page. Not likely that anyone will answer. Why is it that if someone puts out a question about everyone's favorite floribunda, that the thread goes on for weeks (actually I found that thread to be incredibly helpful), while my question gets so little help. Sigh...

Monday, April 17, 2006

I Think I Know What I Did Wrong! Roses - part 6

Perhaps I have burned the root hairs!! I read this on the Maine Rose Society's website:
Burning Root Hairs

"The growing tips of root hairs can be “burned” by fertilizer unless you wet the soil well before applying fertilizer. To both understand and avoid “burned” root hairs a bit of understanding of the process by which plant take up fertilizer is in order. First nutrients are absorbed at the growing tips of root hairs by a process that includes that of osmosis. If the soil is dry when fertilizers are applied there is a heavy concentration of the nutrient inside the plant and a lesser concentration outside the plant. This will draw both water and nutrients out of the plant and starve the rose. By watering the plant before applying the fertilizer you create a more balanced situation between the plant and soil. Then when you apply fertilizer you create enrichment in the soil, followed by movement into the plant where the plant puts the ingredient to work in the process of growing."

If I fertilized with a chemical fertilizer 3 times a year for the past two years, it is quite likely that I did it at least once, if not all 6 times, when the soil was dry.

On my roses and rhododendrons is the only place I use chemical fertilizers. Everywhere else I have just used manure and leaf mulch and the growth is positively lush. The Explorer roses get a slow release fertilizer. So it looks like their roots have not been burned by it. This is a major breakthrough!! Now I need to understand how to promote the growth of root hairs.

How do you like this fun bit of info:

"Root hairs are formed by two separate processes: initiation and subsequent tip growth. Root hair initiation is always accompanied by a highly localized increase in xyloglucan endotransglycosylase (XET) action at the site of future bulge formation, where the trichoblast locally loosens its cell wall....The ethylene precursor 1-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid shifts both root hair initiation and the local increase in XET action toward the root tip. On the other hand, roots treated with the ethylene inhibitor aminoethoxyvinyl-glycine, as well as roots of mutants affected in root hair initiation (rhl1, rhd6-1, and axr2-1) revealed no localized increases of XET action at all and consequently did not initiate root hairs. Disruption of actin and microtubules did not prevent the localized increase in XET action."

Got that? (it is from a Plant Physiology website)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I Have Discovered a Problem (part 5)

The last couple of day I have been moving roses. Digging holes in the beautiful earth, putting some upside down turf in the bottom of the hole and backfilling with the beautiful earth, leaf mold, about half a cup of the delicious mix, a cup of alfalfa pellets and an ice cream bucket of the transplanting solution. NOW they should be happy.

After moving a few roses I suddenly realized something. None of the roots had root hairs! Are rose roots different? Do they not need the tiny roots? Or could this be why I do not have nice lush rose bushes?? Could the roots die and that is why roses seemed to go downhill the year after I planted them?

International Herald Tribune was a rose that very happily lived all last summer in its pot. It bloomed like crazy. I popped it out of its pot and into the ground for the winter. When I dug it up to move it there were zillions of lovely little white root hairs! Shouldn’t the others have some too?

Next research mission – why don’t the roses have root hairs? Hmm, seems that can be a problem if the drainage isn’t good. How could I not have good drainage? Its gravel underneath. Wait a minute, I remember hitting an area that had something like hardpan when I was digging the trench. So I went to that area, dug down to the gravel and poured a bucket of water in it. In about an hour it was gone. My research indicated that bad drainage was when it stayed for many hours. Ok, can’t blame bad drainage.

Could my upside down turf be causing slow drainage? Can’t believe that. Its just a single layer.

So its back to researching.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rose Frustration - part 4

Visiting the rose forum a couple of weeks ago, looking for fertilizer suggestions, I started to think that my soil is probably missing some micronutrient. I have heard that around here the sheep must be vaccinated with zinc because our soil is deficient in it. So luckily we have a store in this tiny town that I live in (population 4500) that sells all kinds of bulk goodies. So I bought the following ingredients which I expect/hope will be irresistible to roses:

rock phosphate – for phosphorus
kelp meal – for micronutrients and potash (1-0-2)
Epsom salts – for magnesium
blood meal – for nitrogen
bone meal – for phosphorus
gypsum - a combination of sulphur, and calcium; sulphur for lowering pH, calcium is an important macronutrient
greensand – for micronutrients and potash

Made up a bucket of 1 part of each plus a tiny bit of fritted trace elements. Unfortunately my store did not have fish meal but I also bought a big bag of alfalfa pellets, which is good for nitrogen and something that helps with basal branching on roses. Also added some some compost activator (I had noted that it is in the mix sold by a famous rosarian). Mice were getting into it so I might as well use it.

So armed with a bucket of alfalfa pellets, a bucket of the delicious mix, and a bucket of transplanting solution (10-52-10) I headed out to start moving roses around. One other thing I had learned in my research was that roses could be planted a little closer together than I had done mine. So I am rearranging my beds to allow for lots more roses, planted about 24” apart. NOW I should have a colorful display.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Struggling With Roses (part 3)

Two summers ago I started to fastidiously fertilize my roses. Previously I had used the slow-release fertilizer but since I understand it requires heat to release the nutrients, I figured there might be a problem with the plant not getting nutrients first thing in the spring and so last spring I scattered a handful of rose food around each plant (admittedly it was cheap rose food) and scratched it in. Fed them in mid-April, late May and mid July. I now reserve the slow release only for the Explorer roses (cause evidently they don’t like the fast-acting fertilizers).

So last year I figured I may have solved my problem by fertilizing early. Did it work? NO. But to be fair, there were a couple that looked pretty good.

I also read that roses like slightly acid soil. Mine is 7.0, so I scattered a little sulphur around each plant. Note to self: Do not add manure. It is alkaline.

I also scratched in coffee grounds and mulched with shredded leaves (love my mulching lawn mower!). I set up a nice system with soaker hoses.

So the plants had water, nutrients, mulch and sunshine. Were they happy? NO. What elusive element was/is missing?

I love the internet and I love to research, so I visited the GardenWeb forum on roses. I lurked for hours. The result was that I decided I must have the wrong plants. The pictures displayed there by rose fanatics left me breathless (though I hate it when they post gorgeous pictures of roses blooming in their gardens when there is still snow on the ground here!). I must have some of those plants!! And if people in colder climates than mine could rant and rave about their grand displays of roses, why can’t I!!!!

So I planned for many hours (I hate to admit how many) which roses would work best, and what to plant them next to and how to incorporate more of these beauties. Last fall I placed an order for 12 roses with Pickering, feeling confident that it was just a matter of choosing the right plants.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Why Can't I Grow Wonderful Roses? (con't)

In all fairness to myself, I do have a few roses that work well. Of the Explorer roses John Franklin gets hacked down to a manageable size every couple of years, while John Cabot, Henry Kelsey and William Baffin are happily reaching for the sky while growing on supports. Capt Samuel Holland is coming along. We took down a large fir tree two years ago and it landed on De Montarville. I hear is is a lovely rose. I hope it recovers fully this year.

But the floribundas (and a couple of HT's that I was given) are just not working.

Successful Roses
Double Delight
Rio Samba looks very pretty good in the fall
Climbing Iceberg - mediocre(not a climber in my climate)
Gertrude Jeykll - mediocre
Chuckles - just so-so

Sad-Looking Roses
Outta the Blue (I guess its kinda mediocre)
Lavaglut (a milk carton rose that looked great the first year, then I moved it and its not near as nice anymore)
Royal Bonica (very sad)
Sunsprite (this is supposed to be a wonderful rose???)
Playboy 2
Europeana (kinda mediocre)

SSOS (single stem on steroids) Roses
Sheila's Perfume
All That Jazz

(I believe this is Gemini, a plant that was given to me by someone who had deer problems and had never even seen it bloom)

New Ones Bought Last Summer
About Face (sure didn't look happy last year)
Sexy Rexy (same)
Perfume Perfection
Honey Perfume
Heart 'n Soul
International Herald Tribune
Dream Orange

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Why Can't I Succeed With Roses?

Its time to leave Costa Rica behind and concentrate on this year’s garden, cause things are starting to become colorful here, with crocuses nearing the end of their bloom and the daffs just starting (spring is late this year).

This year I am determined to have nice roses. Last summer I was absolutely disgusted with them, or at least with most of the floribundas in my backyard. So last summer I began my quest to understand why I cannot grow roses with the same success that I have with all the other plants in my yard.

I am going to run through all my thoughts and practices, just in case something suddenly looks wrong, either to myself or a reader.

I believe the soil is very good. About 4 or 5 years ago I dug an 18” deep by 3-5’ wide trench in the sandy subsoil (yes, the lawn is growing in subsoil). I placed turf that had been removed from a friend’s yard (wonderful silty soil) upside down in the trench. Then I filled the trench with organic material, silty and sandy topsoil.

Full of expectations of a wonderful display, the next spring I moved roses into place and bought some additional plants. The results were only so-so, but it was the first year.

The next year was actually even less successful. My favorite rose Tabris sent up a couple of shoots, bloomed and then the branches sort of died. Not a blackspot problem, but the leaves got tan-colored patches that dried and dropped. Very little growth after that. The next year the plant started out with some blooms and then did the same thing again. Last summer it looked a tiny bit better.

That's it for today...

Sunday, April 09, 2006

And More Tropical Flowers

I have no idea what this flower is either. There were a number of these racemes on a shrub about 5 or 6' tall. The plant was stunning!!

This is quite a common flower in Costa Rica. I am guessing that it is a ginger.